DEBATE: See the full replay here of Gympie's election forum that took place on Wednesday night (October 14).
DEBATE: See the full replay here of Gympie's election forum that took place on Wednesday night (October 14).

Winners, losers from Gympie’s only live election debate

BUSINESS was a popular topic at last night's state election debate in Gympie, but it was passion that ultimately stole the show for the region's Queensland Parliament hopefuls.

Notably absent was ALP candidate Geoff Williams and Independent Donna Reardon, Mr Williams claiming it was "nothing political, just a family matter", and Ms Reardon citing medical reasons.

Worth noting too that Labor candidates on the Sunshine Coast were also a no show at their local debates.

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The six candidates who did show were grilled on topics ranging from jobs, health and infrastructure and, in what was possibly the night's highlight, opining on the simple question of what was the passion that drove each candidate to run for Parliament.

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The Greens' Lauren Granger-Brown and LNP candidate Tony Perrett were strong performers at a forum dominated by questions about the cost of living, jobs and economic security.

Ms Granger-Brown was well researched and articulate as she pushed for a jobs recovery driven by female workers, saying investments in industries dominated by women were proven to inject more into the economy than investment in industries such as construction.

Independent Roland Maertens takes a question from the floor at Wednesday night’s Gympie election forum.
Independent Roland Maertens takes a question from the floor at Wednesday night’s Gympie election forum.

Her performance will further strengthen the Greens, who face an uphill battle after claiming only 5 per cent of the primary vote in 2017.

Unlike the party's last candidate, Ms Granger-Brown has been visible and happy to engage and answer questions throughout the campaign.

Mr Perrett's experience in state and local government gave him a clear advantage.

Claiming "optimism" about Gympie's future, he said this needed to be harnessed by cutting red and green tape to help businesses grow and by getting ahead of the fallout from COVID-19 which he said was the greatest challenge the region was going to face.

A crowd of about 40 turned out for the event, lower than the turnout for council and federal election debates in the past.
A crowd of about 40 turned out for the event, lower than the turnout for council and federal election debates in the past.

Mr Perrett's time in office also made him an easy target.

He came under frequent fire, especially from Independent Tim Jerome whose platform of "don't vote for the major parties" almost saw him torpedo his own campaign.

"I don't care if you don't vote for me; but don't vote for a major party," Mr Jerome said.

One Nation's Michael Blaxland, expected to be the primary challenger for Gympie's seat on the back of One Nation's resurgence in 2017 and history in the Gympie electorate, also lined the LNP candidate up, acknowledging he was stuck in opposition but "maybe he should have pushed back a bit more" against the Labor State Government.

The highlight of Mr Blaxland's night came when the candidates were asked what drove their passion to put themselves forward.

In a firey vent Mr Blaxland took aim at the erosion of freedoms and democracy compounded by "morons" running around ripping candidates' corflutes up.

DEBATE: Candidates had two hours to outline their policies and plans for the region.
DEBATE: Candidates had two hours to outline their policies and plans for the region.

"I don't want this country going down the tubes … like it has in the last 10 years," Mr Blaxland said.

He also took the chance to put the boot into the "Brisbane-centric" State Government, which was unable to defend its record with no representative present.

The Informed Medical Options Party's Nicholas Fairnbairn also presented well.

Mr Fairbairn stressed the region had to clearly distinguish itself from metropolitan areas, pointed to mental health as a huge looming problem, and steered clear of some of the IMOP policies such as removing the "no jab, no play" vaccination laws, which has drawn criticism from groups like the Australian Medical Association.

Independent Roland Maertens had the challenging task of introducing himself during a welcomed but very loud downpour of rain, which somewhat diminished the impact of his first impression at his first election.

Throughout the night he said Gympie needed to reinvigorate its city centre by increasing the population in the CBD through developments like luxury apartments and accommodation for the elderly, and he called for the region to be given a fair go.