FACING OFF: Belinda Hassan (Labor), George Christensen (LNP), Brendan Bunyan (KAP), Colin Thompson (United Australia Party) and Lachlan Queenan (independent) at Tuesday night's Dawson Candidate Debate in Bowen.
FACING OFF: Belinda Hassan (Labor), George Christensen (LNP), Brendan Bunyan (KAP), Colin Thompson (United Australia Party) and Lachlan Queenan (independent) at Tuesday night's Dawson Candidate Debate in Bowen. Jordan Gilliland

'Reef killer': Candidates sledged at Dawson debate

TENSIONS were high at Tuesday night's Dawson candidate forum in Bowen as five contenders fielded questions regarding small business, development in the Galilee Basin and the region's infrastructure.

The forum, organised by the Bowen Chamber of Commerce, saw the candidates given the chance to explain themselves, and their party's stance on issues in the area, before fielding questions from the large crowd.

There was a police presence on the night with hot topics such as the Adani coal mine being debated.

The event saw people from both pro and anti-mining groups attend, with sledges such as "reef-killer" thrown at Liberal National Party MP George Christensen when discussing the development of the Galilee Basin.

Frustrations continued to mount during the event with persistent heckling from the audience, as well as arguments between groups of audience members about policies regarding mining, environment and industry.

Tensions in the room heated up as Labor candidate for Dawson Belinda Hassan took the podium.

Ms Hassan told listeners she wanted positive outcomes for the community, discussing the need to increase skilled workers, community health programs and wage growth.

"We want positive community outcomes for the community by providing secure jobs, decasualising the workforce and providing better education," Ms Hassan said.

When asked about infrastructure in the area, Ms Hassan talked about a $9.6m pledge to a CT scanner in Bowen, as well as a $1.4m investment in Bowen TAFE. Ms Hassan however could not commit to the Urannah Dam project, saying that "it's in its 18th feasibility project, it certainly has the potential but we need to make sure there is a guaranteed market".

It was Ms Hassan's stance on the development of the Galilee Basin that caused the most talk.

"Once this project meets all it's regulatory requirements, it can go ahead the same as any other mining project," Ms Hassan said.

"Contrary to what the opposition billboards say we are not killing coal or coal jobs, just focusing on the de-casualisation of the workforce in the mining sector".

Mr Christensen talked about supporting mining, farming and fishing believing that these are key to revitalising the area.

The crowd in attendance yelled sledges and support when Mr Christensen was asked on his opinion regarding infrastructure, giving his full support to the Adani mine and calling upon Ms Hassan to pledge her own personal support.

Katter's Australian Party candidate Brendan Bunyan preached his knowledge of the area and the needs of miners and small businesses.

"KAP believes in the little guy and building projects and infrastructure to benefit them," Mr Bunyan said.

"We believe that capital projects are the life-blood of this area. North Queensland have so many resources and we need to be approving development of this, and this includes the development of the Galilee Basin."

When posed a question on small business, Mr Bunyan used his own personal experience as a business owner to propose decreases in rates, power and insurance to aid owners.

The high cost of power and the need for infrastructure was a common theme shared by all candidates on the night, with United Australia Party candidate Colin Thompson focusing on the development of more power stations to bring base load power costs down.

Mr Thompson also talked about the need for zonal taxation, with the hope to help rural communities and small businesses alleviate financial stress as well as create decentralisation of capital cities.

Mr Thompson also called for the development of infrastructure, citing the need to develop areas such as Urannah Dam and the Galilee Basin critical to increasing North Queensland's lacking essential services

Independent Lachlan Queenan was greeted by a fired-up room yelling both support and disagreement at his stance on the Adani mine and coal-fired power.

Mr Queenan said the Adani mine might not be popular "but it's the right thing to do".

"We can look at renewable options but in the meantime we have to burn some coal, because it gets the cost of electricity down and it makes us competitive."


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