KEPPEL DEBATE: Incumbent Labor candidate Brittany Lauga, LNP candidate Adrian de Groot and One Nation's Wade Rothery participated in a live streamed debate to convince locals why they should vote for them.
KEPPEL DEBATE: Incumbent Labor candidate Brittany Lauga, LNP candidate Adrian de Groot and One Nation's Wade Rothery participated in a live streamed debate to convince locals why they should vote for them.

DEBATE WRAP: See how Keppel candidates performed

THE 2020 Queensland Election campaign in Keppel shifted today from barbs being traded in billboards and on social media, to a fiery in person debate at The Strand Hotel in Yeppoon.

Hosted by Sky’s Peter Gleeson, Keppel’s three most prominent contenders – LNP’s Adrian de Groot, One Nation’s Wade Rothery and Labor’s Brittany Lauga – were tested on a number of the region’s key talking points identified by our readers in The Morning Bulletin’s online big issues poll.

WATCH THE DEBATE REPLAY: Keppel candidates thrash out key issues

Following introductory comments from each candidate, Mr Gleeson prompted discussions on the future of Great Keppel Island, upgrading Rockhampton-Yeppoon Rd, vegetation management laws, the COVID-19 response, youth crime, the city/regional divide, abortion, voluntary assisted dying and water security before they gave their final pitches.

LNP candidate for Keppel Adrian de Groot
LNP candidate for Keppel Adrian de Groot

Mr de Groot turned in a sturdy performance, strongest when he was talking up LNP party leader Deb Frecklington’s ambitious plans to build the new Bradfield Scheme, four-lane the Bruce Highway and fast-track the business case for the Rockhampton-Yeppoon Rd.

Pledging to work in consultation with GKI’s stakeholders, he said they would use the $25 million committed by Labor to create jobs and support tourism by building common-user infrastructure for the island.

Mr de Groot intended to take decisive action on addressing youth crime, expressing his frustration after having at least three people crying while speaking with him about the issue.

“We have a real problem in our society with this juvenile crime and the Labor Government is in power and the only way we can fix this is to have a change of government,” he said.

He said a Frecklington-led government would continue to be guided by the experts on the COVID-19 issue saying they would take action that was appropriate and fair, using a commonsense approach.

The LNP candidate said the region was missing out on funding from the Labor Government “and that’s because the member (for Keppel) doesn’t stand up for our area”.

“As a candidate, I’ve been able to deliver $36 million for Keppel in infrastructure spending,” he said.

“The LNP will work for this area and get it working again.”

On the issues of abortion and Voluntary Assisted Dying Legislation, Mr de Groot said he would be guided by advice from the community but until he could see the proposed legislation for the VAD, he was saying “no” to it.

There was a small gaffe in his final pitch urging locals to “vote one Adrian de Groot on the first of October”, when the election was taking place at the end of the month.

One Nation's Keppel candidate Wade Rothery
One Nation's Keppel candidate Wade Rothery

As expected from his previous candidate debate performances in 2017 and 2019, One Nation’s Wade Rothery was a straight shooter, not pulling any punches as he engaged in some heated clashes with Ms Lauga throughout the debate.

Mr Rothery blasted the Labor government’s handling of the Great Keppel Island revitalisation saying it was one of the biggest tourism projects in Australia that needed to go ahead and his party would commit $100 million towards a breakwater and connecting the island to mainland power and water.

“I’m getting tired of every year, promises are getting made and nothing is getting delivered,” Mr Rothery said.

His promise was disputed by Ms Lauga who said One Nation would not have the numbers to form government to sign a cheque and would have a “slim” chance of getting the balance of power – to which Mr Rothery countered saying they had a stronger chance than her getting voted back in.

He claimed credit for getting results after putting pressure on Labor, with the help of the media, to act on repairing Hedlow Airport and providing rebates for CQ’s marine tourism operators and criticised Ms Lauga for saying she “worked really hard for this”.

“People are seeing through it Brittany, your dishonesty is really showing,” he accused, to which Ms Lauga responded saying he was being “really harsh and so negative” and her government was simply getting on with the job.

The One Nation candidate went on the attack over Labor’s changed laws on vegetation management, saying people on the land were frustrated with only being able to use a certain portion of the land and not being able to backburn or clear appropriately.

Mr Rothery claimed youth crime was up 25 per cent since Labor took government and his party had a 10 point plan to bring it under control.
When Ms Lauga challenged him to list the 10 points, Mr Rothery was able to name five.

Mr Rothery was supportive of water infrastructure projects, opposed full-term abortions unless there was a health risk and supported voluntary assisted dying “as long as it’s done in the right way”.

Incumbent Labor candidate Brittany Lauga
Incumbent Labor candidate Brittany Lauga

Ms Lauga performed confidently in the debate, happy to talk up her government’s success at limiting the threat of the coronavirus pandemic by listening to the experts and making tough decisions which had paved the way for the economic recovery where tourists flocked to the Capricorn Coast instead of flying to Bali.

She contrasted this with Deb Frecklington calling for the border to be reopened 64 times and Pauline Hanson calling for the sick and frail to lock themselves away to get the economy back open.

Speaking about GKI, Rookwood Weir and the Rockhampton-Yeppoon Rd, Ms Lauga said her government was getting on with job, with work already underway or due to start before the end of the year.

“Labor is the only party with $30 million in the Treasury coffers, ready to spend to create jobs and to clean that island up and get it back to being a beautiful place again,” Ms Lauga said.

“We’ve got a roads bonanza happening at the moment between the Ring Road, the Northern Access Road, the Capricorn Highway and the Rockhampton-Yeppoon Rd.”

Ms Lauga dismissed the angst about the vegetation management laws saying agriculture had boomed in Queensland during the pandemic.

Reminding voters of the old scars from the Newman Government’s cuts to the public service, the Labor candidate challenged Mr de Groot to explain how many workers would be sacked this time around to pay for his party’s $23 billion in election promises.

Despite being campaigned against by the Cherish Life group, Labor’s candidate reaffirmed that she was pro-choice when it came to abortions saying “termination of pregnancy does not deserve to be in the criminal code – that’s where it was – this is a choice and discussion that a woman should have with their doctor”.

She believed people deserved the choice to be able to die with dignity.

Unfortunately, The Greens candidate Clancy Mullbrick could not participate in the debate, nor could United Australia Party’s Nicole Smeltz, Legalise Cannabis QLD candidate James Dockery or Informed Medical Options Party candidate Paula Ganfield.

The Morning Bulletin is, however, committed to providing a platform for these candidates to present their arguments in the lead up to the election and will roll out the new candidate profiles over the next week.