LNP candidate Ann Leahy and KAP candidate Rick Gurnett
LNP candidate Ann Leahy and KAP candidate Rick Gurnett

ELECTION: Where Warrego candidates stand on big issues

THE Queensland state election is fast approaching and all voters will need to make a decision on who will represent them in the next term of parliament.

News is aware of two candidates that will contest the Warrego electorate on the October 31 election day.

Incumbent MP Ann Leahy is standing again for the Liberal National Party (LNP), while cattle farmer Rick Gurnett is standing for Katter’s Australian Party (KAP).

We asked both candidates what their stances were on hot-button issues facing voters across the Warrego electorate and the state at large.

Daylight savings

The issue of daylight savings is brought up frequently across Queensland each year when the summer months approach.

New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT will set their clocks forward one hour on October 4, but Queensland will continue to use the standard Australian Eastern Standard Time at UTC+10.

A referendum was held in February 1992 as to whether Queensland should permanently adopt daylight savings time, and it was voted down with a 54.5 per cent ‘no’ vote.

The ‘no’ vote was strong in western and northern Queensland, while areas close to the southeast favoured the ‘yes’ vote.

Mr Gurnett said he and the KAP oppose daylight savings.

“The problem is that in the summertime, especially when you get further north, it’s just so hot late in the afternoon,” he said.

“It’s Katter Party policy to not have daylight saving.

“I’m listening to people that don’t want it.”

Ms Leahy also opposes daylight saving time saying there’s no need to introduce it due to the 1992 referendum.

“If you come and live in my electorate, it’s natural daylight saving,” she said.

Youth crime

The issue of youth crime has been raised many times over the past term of state parliament.

The LNP is planning on introducing a ‘three strikes’ policy to ensure repeat offenders face jail time.

“I’ve had contact from constituents here - one of the alleged ringleaders had been caught eight times because there was no breach of bail,” Ms Leahy said.

“We have had an absolute spate of car thefts.

“Families had $50,000 lost.”

She criticised Labor for taking away breach of bail laws and said that being ‘soft on crime’ was their ‘philosophy’.

Mr Gurnett said the Labor government has had ‘no decent policy’ regarding youth crime.

The KAP supports a ‘youth relocation sentencing policy’ to send offenders to camps in remote parts of the state.

“There’s no use of throwing them in prison,” Mr Gurnett said.

“You gotta try and give them a new outlook on life.

“The lower socio-economic families - it’s hard for those kids to break free.”

Voluntary Euthanasia

In 2018, the State Government launched an inquiry into aged care, palliative care, and voluntary euthanasia but the report only briefly touched on the latter.

While no legislation was pushed through this term, they flagged the possibility for next term.

According to the ABC Vote Compass, more than 87 per cent of surveyed Australians were in favour of legalising voluntary euthanasia.

READ MORE: ‘MY CHOICE’: Voluntary euthanasia advocates speak out

Mr Gurnett said it was KAP’s policy to oppose voluntary euthanasia legislation.

On a personal level, he is unsure on whether or not it should be legal, however leans towards being against it.

“I’m against it because of the complications and I don’t see how you can safeguard people’s lives with legislation,” he said.

“I don’t see how you could ever give that responsibility to someone else.”

Ms Leahy said the issue will likely be a conscious vote if it were to come up and she’d have to look ‘very carefully’ at the arguments and the legislation being put forward.

“It’s very emotive for some people on both sides of the argument,” she said.

“Even the current government kicked this onto the long grass onto the law reform commission.

“Let’s just wait and see what the law reform commission comes back with.”

Borders

AS COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the entire country, the Labor Government, on the advice of the Chief Health Officer, has made the decision to close Queensland’s southern border with New South Wales.

There has been much debate as to whether people should be able to travel interstate, particularly to hot spots like Sydney and Melbourne.

Ms Leahy warned about border closures being ‘set and forget’, and they need to be constantly re-evaluated for the current circumstances.

“If you decide on a plan, and the premiers plan was 10 July, you need to stick to that plan,” she said.

“You need to constantly review that.

“NSW is doing a pretty damn good job on their COVID cases.

“What happened in Victoria was not because there were no border restrictions, it was a failure of quarantine.”

The LNP is also proposing a cross-border commissioner should be hired and be based in the border regions to be able to liaise with the government on border decisions.

Mr Gurnett was happy with the initial border closures because transport and travel were easy, but now it’s devolved to the point where people can’t go to funerals.

“Just keep the southeast corner locked up because we’ve got no COVID,” he said.

“You can drive from northern Victoria up to Mount Isa and there’s no cases of COVID.”

He pointed out that people can drive from Cairns to Brisbane while there’s coronavirus cases on that corridor, but it’s not possible to drive to Armidale which is much closer.

“If the government was serious, they would be putting more money into education and less into compliance.

“People living on the border are the people paying the price.”

Bradfield Scheme

While it’s no secret that Labor, LNP and KAP support Bradfield-style projects, there is some disagreement on the time frame which it should be built.

The ambitious proposal will see water from North Queensland rivers being diverted to the south, including into the Warrego River.

READ MORE: The LNP’s $15 billion plan to drought proof Queensland

Mr Gurnett said the KAP will fast-track the project and have it built immediately.

“The Katter party wanted it built years ago,” he said.

“Bob Katter’s been the original fighter for the Bradfield scheme.

“We want shovels in the ground tomorrow, get the money in, get the job done.”

Ms Leahy said it will take a decade to build a scheme the size of Bradfield.

“We put aside an allocation of $20 million,” she said.

“I’m continually fighting for the Nathan dam which is to the north of Roma.

“More dams, more water, we unleash the industry and we grow the economy and drag Queensland out of the recession.”

Vegetation Management

It’s been a hot-button issue that has swung back and forward as parties argue whether to take a pro-environment approach, or allow landholders more freedom to manage their properties.

Scientists agree that deforestation is one of the contributing factors towards climate change and run-off from creeks and rivers is causing damage to the Great Barrier Reef.

But many farmers have been frustrated that they haven’t been able to adequately maintain their properties.

The LNP is concerned about the Mulga lands in Southwest Queensland being locked up for carbon farming.

“First thing we need to do is fixed up vegetation management laws,” Ms Leahy said.

“We want to get back to self-assessable codes.”

She said many farmers rely on Mulga for cattle food and the carbon farming initiatives in the Murweh and Paroo shires could stifle future growth along the Warrego River towns post-Bradfield.

“Is there some way they can have fodder crops that they can grow, they can farm and when they get their dry period?”

The KAP is also concerned about carbon farming, and Mr Gurnett said it has ‘taken away the future for our youth.’

“Some of [the properties] have been locked up and are not being looked after,” he said.

“With the vegetation management, that’s a property rights issue and we need to give the rights back to the landowners.”

Marijuana

As Western societies become more tolerant of cannabis use, public attitudes have been shifting in favour of the drug’s usage.

Medicinal marijuana is currently legal in Queensland after the State Government passed new legislation to legalise medicinal cannabis in 2017.

Shops in Dalby have even had good turnouts for hemp product sales.

However, the debate still remains whether recreational marijuana should be available for Queenslanders to purchase from licenced shops.

Mr Gurnett said that he is ‘totally against marijuana’, although medicinal cannabis has it’s place.

The KAP has sent mixed messages about marijuana in the past, with one MP saying he’d like to see a North Queensland cannabis industry in 2015.

I didn't know that marijuana was legal in Canberra and I can now understand why the country has gone to pot. Instead...

Posted by Bob Katter on Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Ms Leahy said that the LNP will not be moving towards legalising recreational marijuana if they were to take power.

“If you need it for medicinal, you’re able to get it for medicinal,” she said.

“You wouldn’t go any further without proper consultation or review.”

Energy

The energy and resources industries are some of the cornerstones to economies across the Warrego Electorate.

While oil, gas and coal projects have traditionally kept the economy of the Surat Basin strong, scientists overwhelmingly agree that these industries are the main factor driving climate change.

The Western Downs Regional Council has constructed many renewable power stations across Dalby and Tara, however much of the Surat Basin still clings to oil and gas.

Ms Leahy said while the Western Downs have made themselves ‘a bit of a renewable energy hub’, it’s important not to build over prime agricultural land.

“At the end of gas, we have powerlines and we have a lot of water pipelines,” she said.

“Can we repurpose those into solar farming?”

She said the time frame for this will be 30-40 years, although Labor would like to see at least 50 per cent of the state’s grid powered by renewables by 2030.

Mr Gurnett said the region needs to have oil, gas and coal to maintain a baseload grid.

“The green ideology that we’re all subsidising, you get this fed down from the feds,” he said.

“Council’s might advocate to get a wind farm, but that’s a way of getting income, and we’re all paying for that.

“We’ve been trying to drive separating the green subsidies out of our power.”


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