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‘Meet the Candidates’

By Matt Owen

from Left Ross Konowalenko - Candidate for One Nation, Fiona Gaske – Candidate for LNP, Roger Ogden Candidate for the Greens and Ali King Candidate for the ALP.

With the COVID-19 cloud hanging over the State since March this election certainly has a different feel to it. The last few days have been a nightmare for the Labor leader with outcry of stringent border controls resulting in heartache and despair, the Premier has also confessed to not being the decision maker in these cases – this has been left to the Chief Medical Officer Jeannette Young (who has explained the economic benefits of these double standards) and of course then the Premier getting into a spat with the PM and calling him out for bullying. Yikes.

In isolation maybe this is great to have strong border control but when you couple it with movie stars, celebrities, millionaires and AFL heavyweights entering the state under different rules it has become clear that there has never been a bigger gap between the haves and have nots. 

It is 6:10pm here at BANG (Beachmere Area Network Group) and there is nervous tension in the air. It is the first time I’ve had my temperature checked in these COVID times – so a funny feeling. I’m feeling glad I had that delicious pie from the Beachmere Bakery to settle my stomach (I will now know if my wife does read my columns..). Current member Simone Wilson says Hi and we have a quick chat. 

I have just been notified by event organisers that the Labor Party and One Nation candidates don’t want to be filmed or recorded even thought this is a public event.  I would have thought that was part and parcel of politics in 2020. What are they worried about? So much for the rights of local media and the age of openness. Unbelievable. Just unbelievable that this happens in 2020. Not sure whether this is a party direction or the individual candidates. Alas, I have a job to do and rules to follow so here we go. 

Karen Harris – President of the BANG Committee is giving us the hello and welcome so it is game on! C’mon Karen, bring out the candidates….I think Karen must know everything and everyone in Beachmere…She is lovely, and not like the Karen’s we have been hearing about in the media lately. Wow, BANG is doing some great things in the local community. Well done to all those involved at BANG. 

(Drum roll) And the candidates are Ali King (Labor), Fiona Gaske (LNP), Richard Ogden (Greens) and Ross Konowalenko (One Nation).

We hear the format of tonight will be 8 minutes for each speaker followed by audience questions. 

Here we go, speaker 1 is Richard from the Greens. First time I have seen this guy. Tall, well dressed, grey hair and glasses, touch of an English accent. “Fairness, transparency, ending corporate donations, plans for regional manufacturing, more hospital beds, problems with development in the local area”. The Greens are standing up for the environment – we have to manage development better. I like this guy. “Big business compromises Government decisions”. Richard is passionate about the environment and I believe him. But what about everything else Richard?….”mining, big banks”, Richard is ticking the Green boxes. We have to put our foot down. 65,000 vehicles per year up the beach is irresponsible Richard and yes jet skis aren’t good for turtles, a Eco-discovery destination positioning for Bribie – liking that Richard (have you been reading my notes?)

“Renewable energy, solar panels and wind turbines in QLD”, I imagine what it would be like if the Greens hold the balance of power. Kind of idealistic. I was just listening to Scott Emerson (now a radio host) on 4BC radio talking about how bad this would be but I’m a romantic at heart. Ironically this is the same Scott Emerson who was the member (LNP) for Maiwar (West Brisbane) at the 2017 State Election that Ali King (Labor) ran for, a seat that the Greens won. That makes me ponder. I don’t think Politicians should simply be able to move to another seat after losing an election. It doesn’t sit right with me for some reason, or maybe there should be some kind of waiting period.

Back to Richard. “We are moving into a decade of hard times and we need to change our habits. The importance and benefits of social housing. Our vote is powerful, and we deserve better from our Government”. I agree Richard, we need more from our Government. Richard is asking for our vote. A humble man with something to offer. Kudos Richard, 1st cab off the rank and well done. 

Speaker 2 is Ross from One Nation. Camera off. C’mon Pauline, since when did you not like a camera?

Ross has lived around the corner for 20 years. A former Police Officer, Ross looks like a hard taskmaster. Quietly spoken. Talking about domestic violence on the increase, each of those incidences take a police officer off the street for 3 hours, did not know that. Ok lets move away from your comfort zone Ross, what about the other key issues? Now working at the Woodford Correctional Centre Ross is a man of the people. He must understand youth crime, domestic violence, was also a school teacher: shows his youth action policy. He is going deep on this issue. It is probably the reason he is running. A work ethic for our youth. I like Ross and I’m thinking he would be a great asset to the region specialising in this area. Why can’t Moreton Bay Regional Council headhunt guys like this. Maybe give him a call after the election. You only have 8 minutes Ross and you have spent most of it on youth. I applaud you, as a Father of 3, but you haven’t addressed the key issues of our electorate. Touching on the environment, I think Ross has a bit of green in him which is good to see. This guy has something to offer our region also in youth crime.

Speaker 3 is Fiona Gaske from the LNP.  She has the full attention of the crowd and has started with a background story to build a connection with the audience. Talking about her working class parents, children, family and Dad loves Slim Dusty. Fiona is ready to fight for the local community. A speech pathologist by trade, experience with working with the elderly and a singer! Sat on government boards at state and federal level. Consultative representation – she is going too fast! I can’t keep up. I feel like I’m doing a job interview and the candidate is too good for the role.  $10,000 for Beachmere to trial a programme for the safety of children, hooning, Beachmere Road and finally a donation to the local men’s shed. Well played.  A strong round of applause and that is it for Fiona. 

Karen says – 3 down and 1 to go! Here we go Ali King from the Labor party. Camera off.

Speaker 4 is Ali King (Labor). Acknowledging BANG to start with. Tells us about herself. An injury to her Father meant that strong public services had helped their family through. And that is why she is here today: free healthcare, she went to university and helped the unemployed get back to work. Sister a nurse, brother a builder. I have heard previously she was a Lawyer but curiously I don’t think she mentions that tonight. 

Ali King focuses on the local resident’s love of Beachmere, just the way it is no high rises, no shopping centres. A place to feel safe. Curveball alert: not wanting COVID-19 to spread and supporting border closures was not expecting that to come up so early. 

“Local businesses are glad that they are open, unlike Victoria. Ali is singing from the Labor hymn sheet – they don’t want to just fling open the borders. Will follow health advice. Now to Beachmere Road where they will start planning, rather than just ‘dangling dollars’” (LNP have committed $7m). Ali will provide more than just a bandaid solution: isn’t that what sitting member Simone Wilson said about Bribie Road and the Labor Government? Ali did say that she will have an announcement soon about Beachmere Road, I would of thought making the announcement last night would have been the perfect timing for her, not down the track.  

Ali fears the future with a LNP Government and questions Fiona joining a party that has made health cuts in the past due to Fiona’s background in health. The gloves are on now. Dirty or fair play? I’m not sure but it catches my eye.

Now It is question time. Ross, Fiona, Richard and Ali. Time to shine! 

Helen (audience question): Fiona to respond to cutting health staff during the previous LNP term. Fiona says we don’t want to run a smear campaign. Fiona is taking the high ground and not returning the jab from Ali. Richard now has a go at that questions: more nurses, more ICU beds, comparing our health system to Germany, yikes, that doesn’t sound good for us. Now back to Ali and then Ross. Ali: Talking about Deb making $23bn in campaign commitments, Campbell Newman references, classic scare tactics happening here. Now Ross. Lost his Mum 2 months ago where his Father was given letters of demand for each tablet his lost-wife had been given. She was 93! What is wrong with our system?

Jason (audience question): Is it fair for rich property developers, AFL players and movie stars to enter the country when normal people can’t attend funerals? Do you think it is fair? Well played Jason. The question the whole country is asking. Ali is looking looking sheepish. Fiona comments about: hypocrisy and double standards, inconsistent application. Richard comments: Not easy to talk about fairness. He is English, talking about his Mother in aged care overseas. They aren’t answering the question. Is it fair!!!!  I think back to Alan Pease body language book and look at my posture. Did he just call Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews a hero? Ali talks about: our Chief Medical Officer is a hero and has saved lives and done a fantastic job. More scare tactics about if things were worse. Yes Jason you are my MVP for the night. 

NO IT ISN’T FAIR. It is the most un-Australian thing since the Trevor Chappell under-arm and if Labor lose it most likely be the game changing moment of the campaign. 

Steve (audience question): to Richard: We currently get 7% royalties from gas and coal and how will renewable energy replace this? Richard handles this question the way you would expect from a Greens candidate. This feels too deep for this forum, and if I’m reading the room right, it is more concerned about local Pumicestone issues. Let’s get local. Ross steps up and explains the One Nation Policy on the Collinsville Power Station. He is taking the middle ground. “We will get to renewable energy, but it will take time.”

Belinda (owner of this publication) (audience question). Local small business. What are their plans to support local businesses and provide jobs? Ross comments: “Small business is the backbone. Seaweed, fisheries, I’m not sure if this is a small local business or a government funded program on Bribie Island. I think he is talking about innovation, ok here we go, “we sell our intellectual property overseas and we shouldn’t”. That sounded like a Bob Katter interview I was editing yesterday. 

Now here is Fiona. “Under Labor we have seen 9 new taxes. LNP have $100,000 committed for a buy local campaign in Pumicestone alone. I have experience in mentoring small business and LNP will support businesses into the future.” Richard comments: “how he has Chamber of Commerce experience and tells us about the Woolworths at Sandgate: we need to find out what services the community needs: oh and he used to write for a local paper elsewhere (he might take my job..): this is what we did in Sandgate”. Sounds like some useful experience. Last up: Ali: “COVID-19 adaption grants, online marketing catches my eye: Labor will pair you with a free volunteer mentor”. That would have been a good gig for a local chap like me, oh well. All candidates missed a golden opportunity here. Tourism and small business go hand in hand. How about seriously supporting our tourism operators and giving them assistance and support? Two birds with the one stone?

Belinda (again) (audience question): Do you think the State Government has been fair to Pumicestone over the last 6 years: Ali: “Interesting question. $440m for the Caboolture Hospital. The best she thinks almost in QLD. Gives Simone Wilson a plug which is interesting. She sees huge big ticket things being delivered every day (would love to know what they are for Pumicestone). Ross: Talks about illicit drug use and programs to help these people. I guess that relates to a failure from the current Government. Fiona: Highlights that the money for Bribie Road has been available for 2 years and it isn’t fair to highlight things that just start to happen before an election. Richard: “Extremely disappointed that the 4WD beach access: birds population”, he has found his paradise to protect. 

Diane (audience question): 4WD access and jet skis, she looks after turtles. How are our candidates going to protect our environment? Visitor Management Strategy being planned by Fiona Gaske that Simone Wilson has been working on. LNP commit to the process in the first 100 days. Richard: It will be gone if we don’t change it now. You would expect that passion from the Greens. But Richard you show your lack of knowledge here. There is no way you can send all the 4WD’s up the centre of the Island through White Patch. It would be like Queen Street for those residents and the safety of wildlife is an issue on that road as well.  Ali: “Day trippers bring their own stuff and not spending locally. Community consultation is required, and it is an urgent matter”. Agreed, but if it is so urgent now why hasn’t it happened in the last 6 years…so frustrating…

I believe this is a big issue for our area. ‘Day trippers’ come for the day, drive up the beach, jam up the roads, pollution, they might visit a café or takeaway and then they head home and jam up the road. The local economy is not supported sufficiently by these visitors. Where does the 4WD permit and camping money go? I have a lot of thoughts on local tourism (stay posted for something on this in the near future). My conclusion is that we are an ‘accidental hero’, a beachside location 1hr north of Brisbane. There is no strategic tourism strategy for Pumicestone, local tourism operators do not get enough Government support. Compare us to similar locations in the other states and you will start to understand what I mean. Where is our tourism funding that I have seen so much of in other areas?

Final thoughts. Richard and Ross. I appreciate your effort and passion and I’m sure that you have something to offer the community but unfortunately the way our political system is I think you are making up the numbers. Your preferences might play a vital role though.  These are the areas that Labor and the LNP appear to struggle in. Well done to you both. 

Ali King, Labor has had 6 years in power and our community has been neglected during this time. I have no doubt about that.  Too many big issues with nothing being done.  Bribie Road, Beachmere Road, the 4WD Beach, our WW2 Fort Bribie being neglected, child safety, crime, local health, domestic violence, drug use, development out of control, no tourism strategy. Too many crosses and not enough ticks and this was before COVID.

Closing borders and scare tactics shouldn’t win you an election in my opinion, however different rules for the rich and famous may lose you one. Smart voters will consider the last 2 terms and Labor has dropped the ball on too many big issues in Queensland and especially in the seat of Pumicestone. 

(Visit to see the videos of Fiona Gaske and Richard Ogden and to listen to our podcast.)


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