'Our hand was forced': LNP begins search for new candidate
THE Liberal National Party has embarked on a quest to find a Whitsunday electorate candidate after sitting MP Jason Costigan was expelled from the party over harassment allegations earlier this month.
Visiting the Whitsundays on Monday and Tuesday, Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mander said he wanted locals to know that despite what had happened with Mr Costigan, the LNP had "not forgotten them” and was looking for a new candidate "sooner rather than later”.
"We're sorry for the upheaval and what's happened over the last few weeks. We wish it didn't happen, but we felt that our hand was forced,” Mr Mander said.
"We are looking to find a candidate for the next election as quickly as possible so those who support us have a contact point and so that we can best represent them in the next state election.
"I am talking to local LNP members to look at that.”
Mr Mander said he, Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington and shadow ministers would visit the Whitsundays regularly in coming months.
Mr Mander also said he did not believe the region had been well represented by Mr Costigan.
"Jason Costigan roared like a lion here in the region about issues, but seriously, he was as quiet as a mouse in Brisbane and in the party room,” Mr Mander said.
"We want somebody that not only speaks loud when they're home but speaks loudly in Brisbane in the party room and in the Parliament.”
Mr Mander's visit to the region this week was part of a bid by the LNP to provide the electorate with an explanation for expelling Mr Costigan.
His visit comes a week after LNP Leader of Opposition Business Jarrod Bleijie used parliamentary privilege to outline five allegations levelled against Mr Costigan on the first day of Parliament for the year.
"We received a complaint from a family about alleged inappropriate behaviour by Mr Costigan,” Mr Mander said.
"We felt on face value that the complaint was serious so the LNP began investigating, which involved interviewing the family, the alleged victim and giving Mr Costigan a chance to come and hear those allegations to give his version of events.
"He was also offered a subsequent follow-up meeting.
"He did take the first one; he didn't take the second one.”
Mr Costigan has denied the allegations in the media.
Mr Mander said Mr Costigan had received natural justice and was given every opportunity to defend himself.
Neither Mr Mander or Ms Frecklington were aware of any previous allegations, he said.
Mr Mander said about five people had resigned from the local LNP following Mr Costigan's expulsion, but more had contacted the party and expressed their desire to rejoin.
Despite his expulsion from the LNP, Mr Costigan retains the Whitsunday seat as an independent, which now leaves the LNP with one less seat in Parliament.
Although losing control of the Whitsunday electorate could place the LNP in a precarious position come election time, Mr Mander said it was a matter of "principle over politics”.
"We realise that we have a lot to lose electorally because we have lost a number which means we have to regain the seat at the next election,” he said.
"It became apparent to the party that this alleged behaviour was totally inappropriate.
"It was behaviour that in any other workplace would not be acceptable and we think even more so for a member of Parliament.
"We think that people have high standards with regards to this and we have high standards.”
Mr Costigan was contacted for comment.