(Left) Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan. Photo: Tony Martin (Right) Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox. Photo: Jordan Gilliland
(Left) Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan. Photo: Tony Martin (Right) Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox. Photo: Jordan Gilliland

All on the table: Mayor speaks out about Costo’s bold claims

A DESIRE to "set the record straight" has prompted Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox to speak out about various claims Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan made on three major issues.

The Whitsunday Times has provided both sides of the arguments, as well as background information, so residents can make up their own minds.

The Mayor's response comes after the Whitsunday Times last week reported Cr Willcox and Dawson MP George Christensen claimed the region had been without "effective state representation" for some time.

Mr Costigan hit back, saying he had been responsible for securing millions for the restoration of Shute Harbour.

He also criticised the council for locking a cyclone shelter up like "Fort Knox" during Cyclone Debbie and for its recent policy on election signage.

But Cr Willcox claims there is more to the story on those issues.

 

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SHUTE HARBOUR FUNDING

The Mayor said Jackie Trad and George Christensen were the key players who secured funding for the Shute Harbour restoration, which is now under way.

Cr Willcox said back in 2017, the Federal Government had not coughed up its half of $220 million in National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements funding for repairs after Cyclone Debbie.

Then-deputy premier Jackie Trad put forward a motion in state parliament, calling on the Federal Government to provide the funds.

Cr Willcox said Mr Costigan, who was a member of the LNP at that time, voted against the motion.

While parliament documents do not break down which MP voted which way, it has previously been reported Mr Costigan was not there when the motion was presented as he had "taken ill".

"The funding was extremely crucial, not just for Shute but for everything that we were doing," Cr Willcox said.

"Our people had suffered enough, it was then time to rebuild."

The Shute Harbour restoration is under way. Photo: Contributed
The Shute Harbour restoration is under way. Photo: Contributed

Parliamentary documents do include a letter Mr Costigan penned to then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, urging him to take action to help the Shute Harbour restoration.

When asked about the vote, Mr Costigan said he could not recall which way he voted but he expected he voted along LNP party lines, meaning against Labor and Ms Trad's motion.

Mr Costigan claimed the motion was irrelevant and a "political game" between two parties.

He said he had instead urged Federal MP Peter Dutton, who was in the Whitsundays for a prostate cancer fundraiser in August 2017, to "stop dragging the chain on fixing Shute Harbour".

He claims Mr Dutton was not aware of the situation on the ground in regards to disaster funding.

"The Shute Harbour restoration reached a flash point when I put a rocket up Dutton off the coast of Cape Gloucester on that Saturday morning as part of that Shaggers prostate cancer fundraiser," Mr Costigan said.

Views over Shute Harbour in the Whitsundays. Picture: Rae Wilson
Views over Shute Harbour in the Whitsundays. Picture: Rae Wilson

"Prime Minister Turnbull issued a statement on (the) Tuesday or Wednesday confirming additional arrangements including that you beaut package that underpinned what I had bitched about for months, to the point that some of my LNP colleagues thought that I was pushing the envelope with Canberra too hard.

"The motion of Jackie Trad had nothing to do with it, it was a smoke screen."

SHELTER 'LOCKED UP'

Mr Costigan claims the Proserpine cyclone shelter was "locked up like Fort Knox" during Cyclone Debbie, but Cr Willcox said structured procedures were followed.

Cr Willcox, who is the chair of the local disaster management committee, said cyclone shelters followed a strict plan and "trigger points" for when they were opened.

He said when Mr Costigan went to the shelter the trigger points had not been reached and the cyclone was about one to two days away.

In the early stages, the priority was to ensure able-bodied people could seek shelter with family and friends or leave the area while the limited places in the cyclone shelter, which acted differently to a place of refuge, was largely for the region's most vulnerable, Cr Willcox said.

Cr Willcox said decisions were a co-ordinated effort between local, district and state representatives and he claimed Mr Costigan's comments were also a dig at them.

"I think it's a slight on not only myself, but all the emergency services involved in the local disaster management group," Cr Willcox said.

"We make those decisions together as a group and they're all professionals and experienced people around that table."

Jason Costigan with two backpackers who showed up to the Proserpine cyclone shelter on the Sunday before Cyclone Debbie hit. Photo: Contributed
Jason Costigan with two backpackers who showed up to the Proserpine cyclone shelter on the Sunday before Cyclone Debbie hit. Photo: Contributed

In response, Mr Costigan said he took two German backpackers to the shelter on the Sunday afternoon, and Debbie hit on Tuesday, because they were told to evacuate Airlie Beach.

"If they (procedures) were followed correctly, it was obvious they needed refining, they needed to do better," Mr Costigan said.

"What the council should have done, ... he had an experienced MP who's not afraid to call it as he sees it, (he should have said) we didn't like the criticism, we have no doubt the Member for Whitsunday cares for our people and our visitors and we will investigate what happened and investigate the procedures.

"That's what the mayor should have done."

Mr Costigan and a local businessman took the backpackers to a Proserpine hotel, where they were given a room.

"They were just scared and glad they had somewhere to stay, rather than standing on the footpath with their backpacks feeling let down," he said.

"The shelter was locked up and in my view, in hindsight, it should have been operational that afternoon."

 

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ELECTION SIGNAGE SAGA

The final point Cr Willcox raised was in relation to new restrictions on election signage, saying Mr Costigan had made the issue "all about him" when it was a policy that all state candidates needed to adhere to.

That included both candidates for the seat of Whitsunday and Burdekin, as the council region covers both electorates.

In response to this, Mr Costigan simply said "bulls---".

NQ First MP Jason Costigan has his campaign posters defaced with a dildo. Twitter,
NQ First MP Jason Costigan has his campaign posters defaced with a dildo. Twitter,

"It's a stitch-up rule," Mr Costigan said.

"(The rule is) undermining democracy, it's undermining property rights and is council actively involved in the state election campaign."

MAKE UP YOUR MIND

The Whitsunday Times has provided both sides of the coin to these points, but it's up to residents to make up their own minds on the issues at hand.

There's no doubt that residents want what is best for our Whitsunday community and representation that will allow the region to grow and thrive.


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