Flynn candidates address key issues at Ag Force's Politics in the Club

Ben Harden
By Ben Harden
Updated May 5 2022 - 7:07am, first published 7:00am
Flynn candidates Duncan Scott, Independent, Paul Bambrick, Greens, Colin Boyce, Liberal, Tanya Wieden, United Australia Party, Matt Burnett, Labor, with MC and Ag Force CEO Michael Guerin at the Calliope Central Bowls club on Wednesday night. Photo: Ben Harden

Four candidates in the highly contested federal seat of Flynn gathered under one roof for Ag Force's Politics in the Club session in Calliope on Wednesday night.

The battle for Flynn is shaping up to be one of the tightest contests in the election, with several well-known local identities vying to fill the void left by retiring Nationals MP Ken O'Dowd.

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Hosted by Ag Force at the Calliope Central Bowls Club, close to 60 guests attended the session to hear each candidate's priorities and the local issues they are focused on.

Regional Australia's top issues

Also in attendance on the night, National Farmers' Federation CEO Tony Mahar and president Fiona Simpson.

Close to 60 primary producers, voters, industry representatives and government officials attended Ag Force's Politics in the Club event.

Ms Simpson told the crowd and candidates that a united and strong voice to government is more important than ever.

"This year, the NFF think there has never been a better time to focus on agriculture and never been a better time to focus on rural and regional Australia," she said.

"During the global pandemic, (farmers) kept the wheels turning, we fed the nation and in terms of GDP we were well and truly delivering above our weight.

"Our election platform is called 'Time to Thrive' and it focuses on things that are important to agriculture, whether it's regionalisation...connectivity...a level playing field in competition policy...sustainability or workforce."

What did the candidates have to say?

United Australia Party's Tanya Wieden, Labor's Matt Burnett, Liberals Colin Boyce and Independent Duncan Scott went head-to-head in the one and half hour session.

The Green's Flynn candidate Paul Bambrick was unavailable on the night, but Mick Jones, who is the Green's Capricornia candidate, attended instead.

Meanwhile, One Nation's candidate Sharon Lohse, who was invited, was no where to be seen.

Ms Lohse acquired 17,531 votes or 19.6pc of the vote at the 2019 federal election.

Candidates were given three minutes to speak to the crowd, with most speaking about their past accomplishments or commitments they're taking to the election.

United Australia Party

United Australia Party's candidate Tanya Wieden was the first in the ring, touching on her experiences growing up on her family's lucerne and watermelon farm near Thangool.

United Australia Party's candidate Tanya Wieden.

Bringing, what seemed to be a bus load of supporters with her to the club, Ms Wieden said she's disgusted in how farming families have been treated.

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"I've grown up in a National Party family and they no longer represent the people of Australia," she told the crowd.

"We intend on giving the farmers back their water rights and when we get money and fix this country, we're going to buy back all the land that the foreigners have bought.

"We're going to get our debt paid back in 20 years to pull this country back into line."

Ms Wieden said she did not support the Coalition government's net zero before 2050 target.

Labor

Invigorated to dethrone the Liberal stronghold, Labor's candidate Matt Burnett brought his 22 years of experience working in local government to the table.

Labor's candidate Matt Burnett.

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Mr Burnett told the crowd he would llike the community to judge him on his track record.

"I've represented our community for 22 years and I love living here," he told the crowd.

Matt brought several accomplishments and projects he successfully brought in whilst on the Gladstone Council.

From the Calliope crossroads, the beef corridors, Entertainment Convention Centre, Kirkwood Road development and an adjustment to the controversial Gates and Grids Policy.

"In local government, our Gates and Grids policy wasn't working for our local primary producers so I worked hand in hand with our local primary producers and developed a policy that worked for them," he said.

Mr Burnett also committed to upgrading the Dryan Drive, a very important intersection in Calliope and the Port Access Road into Gladstone port.

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Mr Burnett concluded his speech with three of his top priorities; aged care, childcare and Medicare.

"That's because we care. We'll fix all three," he said.

The Greens

Representing the Greens on the night was Capricornia candidate Mick Jones.

The Green's Capricornia candidate Mick Jones.

Mr Jones went all in on how both major political parties are 'underfunding' the health sector.

"I got really sick in my early 20s and I owe my life to the hard working nurses and doctors in central Queensland, who do an enormous and vital job despite being massively underfunded by successive governments from both major parties," he said.

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Mr Jones admittedly told the crowd, it was unusual for a Greens representative to address an Ag Force crowd, but soldiered on.

"I understand as a greenie walking into an Ag Force debate, there's a lot of assumptions, there's a lot of myths, but the reality is is that we're all trying to solve the same problem," he said.

"We won't solve that problem unless we deal with the corruption in Canberra."

Independent 

Next to speak to the crowd was long-time independent candidate Duncan Scott.

Independent candidate Duncan Scott.

Like his campaign, Mr Scott had little policies or commitments to bring to the table, besides telling the crowd he'd played Rugby Union for 37 years and was a small dairy farmer before deregulation hit.

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Mr Scott has run every election since 2007, since the electorate was created, collecting the least amount of votes in the 2019 federal election, receiving just 1,384 votes or 1.5pc of the overall vote.

In his finishing line, Mr Scott said he was running to try and bring our different views together.

"I know the LNP and Labor have got they're sort of issues, but if we can find a common cause or goals we can achieve them," he said.

"My opinion is to try and get the different views together and that's the main reason I sort of run."

Liberal

Last but not least, grazier and former Callide LNP MP Colin Boyce addressed the crowd.

Liberal's candidate Colin Boyce.

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Mr Boyce is described as "an old-style Queensland National", who won the seat of Callide with a comfortable 15.8 per cent margin at the October 2020 state election.

Mr Boyce told the crowd he was aware of the pitfalls and the traps of the agricultural industry and the challenges that it has faced.

"I've seen technology take hand, I've seen the huge leaps forward that agriculture has taken, particularly in the last 10 to 15 years," he said.

"It's important that we support agriculture."

Although Flynn is considered a safe LNP seat, the Coalition is taking the threat from Labor seriously, and Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has been spending time and money in the Flynn electorate pre-election.

Mr Boyce spoke of several election commitments the LNP have promised to deliver the electorate and regional Australia.

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These include; the $400m towards the strategic beef roads, and $1.3 billion committed to improving connectivity and telecommunications in rural and regional places,

"As agricultural advances, we need that sort of technology to make that happen," he said.

Addressing mental health was another key issue for Mr Boyce, who is recently announced $3.4 million to mental health in the South Burnett particularly Kingaroy region.

Inland Rail was another key topic, with Mr Boyce telling the crowd his party has committed $10 million to connecting the Inland Rail to the Gladstone Port.

"This will see agriculture in Central Queensland absolutely explode with the opportunities, should that be brought to fruition."

Mr Boyce has vowed to campaign against the 2050 net zero policy if elected, despite his party's begrudging support for it.

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Candidates then participated in a Q&A forum with the crowd, where attendees were able to learn more about their candidates.

The media was asked by Ag Force not to film or record the Q&A sessions, to allow the audience a broader and open conversion.

Ben Harden

Ben Harden

Queensland Country Life Journalist

Based in Rockhampton, Central Queensland. Contact: 0437528907

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