As voters descend upon pre-polling booths in unprecedented number this week, the race for the Cook electorate is heating up, with eight candidates vying for the seat. The Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) reports a record 100,000+ Queenslanders lodging their ballots at early voting centres yesterday. This is a significant increase on the 70,000 voters for the first day of pre-poll voting for the local government elections in March.
While election day is not until Saturday, October 31, 2020, it is expected that more than half of voters will vote before the day, either at pre-poll booths or by postal vote because of concerns with coronavirus. More voters will make up their minds early in the campaign, and party campaigns have evolved to reflect that, with “big ticket” policies at the forefront to capture the early voters.
What you need to know about voting in the Cook electorate
Cook is a vast northern electorate extending from Cape York inland, and to the northern beaches of Cairns. Cook includes Port Douglas, Mossman, Cooktown, Mareeba, Chillagoe, the Aboriginal, mining and pastoral communities of the Cape, and all of the islands in Torres Strait. Containing the populated Torres Strait islands along with the Cape York Aboriginal communities means that the electorate has the state’s highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voters. The electorate is extraordinary in its diverse geography and culture.
The Cook electorate was established in 1876, with a long tradition of being held by Labor. Cook was won by the National Party’s Eric Deeral, an Indigenous Australian, for a single term at the Bjelke-Petersen government’s 1974 victory. Mr Deeral’s victory can be attributed in part to the Whitlam government’s proposal to re-align the Torres Strait border with Papua New Guinea. Deeral was defeated in 1977 after a single term. The LNP led Cook for a single term at Labor’s 2012 State win. In recent years, Cook has become more marginal.
The Last Election
Cook was won by Labor’s Cynthia Lui at the 2017 election. She polled 40.1% on first preferences, but with the LNP, One Nation and Katter’s Australian Party candidate all polling between 17% and 19%, Lui won easily on preferences. Labor recorded a two-candidate preferred majority in 20 of the 32 polling centres, with more than 80% in 10 booths, and 90% of the votes in another three. More than 80% of most indigenous communities and towns voted for Labor, polling 96.4% out of more than a thousand votes for one of the mobile teams.
Your 2020 Candidates
As diverse as the electorate itself, are this years’ candidates, with four of the eight identifying as Indigenous.
Cynthia Lui, Australian Labor Party (ALP)
Cynthis is the incumbent Labor Member for Cook, making history as the first Torres Strait Islander to be elected to office in 2017. With a background in social and community services, her priority is to build stronger communities throughout Cook.
Cynthia recounts her first term with an emphasis on achievements in investment in schools, healthcare, and essential infrastructure such as roads, including::
- $10.1 million for improvements to Mossman Hospital’s emergency department
- $550,000 to extend the Flagstaff Walking Trail
- $4 million for the Newell Beach Boat Ramp
- Douglas Shire Council has received $1.43 million to support 33 jobs under the Palaszczuk Labor’s $200 million COVID Works for Queensland (W4Q) program
This economic stimulus plan enables Council to roll out smart water, upgrade aerators and diffusers at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, and to facilitate upgrades at Mossman Caravan Park and the Mossman Pool. Labor have already pledged $1.5 million towards a splash park for Port Douglas, although community consultation is underway as to the public’s desire for the facility.
One of Cynthia’s proudest achievements, is fulfillment of her election promise to introduce the Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Bill in Parliament. The Bill gives Torres Strait Island children and adults, who have grown up with traditional adoptive parents, a legal identity that matches their cultural identity.
Edward “Nipper” Brown, Liberal National Party (LNP)
Born in Mossman, raised in Julatten and a former Mossman Sharks player, Nipper spent the last seven years as a Councillor on the Mareeba Shire Council , narrowly missing out on the Mayoral position earlier this year. Nipper is targeting issues of youth crime, health services, including Mossman maternity services, raising employment levels, infrastructure, and water security.
Nipper and the LNP aim to take control of hospital waiting lists, returning Mossman Hospital to a full maternity unit. Wider health concerns include maternity services in Weipa, dialysis in Mareeba, accommodation in Pormpuraaw and a proposed re-build of Cooktown’s hospital.
Nipper supports tourism and hospitality in the need to re-build the Queensland economy. He believes local marketing should include the green season, and will advocate for events and infrastructure, such as the Mossman Botanical Gardens and Wangetti Trail, to draw visitors back to the Shire. Nipper is also an advocate of the Douglas Shire Co-operative’s concept for a tourism site and accommodation booking platform.
Nipper advocates for dam building, intending to lobby to have the Lakeland Irrigation scheme included in the list of future dams.Locally, in terms of Douglas Shire water security, he supports a second intake and a possible water storage area.
He also supports stripping education back to the basics, employing more teachers and aides.
Deby Ruddell, Queensland Greens
Deby Ruddell lives in the Douglas Shire, off-grid in the Daintree, living sustainably without mains water, electricity, gas or sewerage. Readers may recognise Deby from the Mossman Mill, where she advises in occupational health and safety, environment and human resources, bringing a unique insight to both her profession and her political career.
Deby’s priorities included improved local health care facilities, supporting the Greens plan to establish 200 Community Health Clinics across the state, with bulk billing GPs and specialists to take the pressure off our public hospital system.
Deby strives to create employment opportunities, recognising the Douglas Shire’s unique position as host to two World Heritage areas, particularly supporting businesses in the protection of our waterways, reef and rainforest.
She believes public schools must be fully funded with improved resources and infrastructure, and all fees abolished.
Queensland Greens want to make mining billionaires and property developers pay their fair share in royalties and taxes, so that Australians can have more publicly owned essential services like housing, energy, health and education for all, and create jobs, too.
Specific to Daintree issues, the Queensland Greens have developed a comprehensive plan for renewable energy, including establishing a $2 billion fund to help communities establish cooperatively owned renewable energy projects, and to ensure cheap battery storage for every household by establishing a $1 billion household and small business battery storage rebate scheme. The Greens pledge to create 23,000 jobs and transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Brett (Brettlyn) “Beaver” Neal, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party
Brett is well-equipped to deal with the world of politics, as a cage fighter and a Thai kickboxer, nicknamed “Beaver” while touring in Fred Brophy’s Boxing Tent around regional Queensland. Having lived and worked extensively in Indigenous communities, her passion for disengaged Indigenous youth is what really motivates Brett to step into the political arena.
She has a diverse work history in health and fitness, cattle stations, youth engagement, security, and tourism, and has studied a bachelor of primary education. Brett’s focus is squarely on the issue of juvenile justice, as well as advocating for water security infrastructure, jobs, and farming.
She will support:
- a 24/7 staffed Mossman Police Station
- improving mobile phone coverage by co-contributing to the national black spot program
- repairing neglected roads
- lowering the cost of power living expenses
- infrastructure projects that employ Cook electorate residents as a priority
- using proceeds of crime to fund expanded drug and rehabilitation services and facilities
- building the Hybrid Bradfield Scheme
- drought-proofing Queensland
“My working life over the past seven years has seen me criss-crossing the Cape, working with northern youth, teaching them life skills, respect for community, and instilling discipline through boxing training. And I intend to keep going!”
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party won majorities in 12 polling places within the Cook electorate in the 2017 State election.
Desmond Tayley, North Queensland First
Born and bred in Cook, Desmond is a respected Indigenous leader who has spent 19 years working in local government in the Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire, including three terms as Mayor and two terms as a Councillor. Desmond is experienced in both local and regional politics, working closely with the Far North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils, the Torres Cape Indigenous Council Alliance, and bother state and federal government departments.
For readers unaware, North Queensland First (NQF) is a conservative, pro-North Queensland political party with the belief that Queensland and Australia was founded on traditional Christian values, notwithstanding our respect for people from non-Christian backgrounds.
Desmond is particularly keen to see genuine outcomes in ‘closing the gap’ between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians while driving economic development for all.
Desmond’s party, NQ First, has pledged $100 million towards the establishment of a space station and new space agency near the mining town of Weipa in western Cape York. They also support the culling of crocodiles under a ‘shoot to kill’ plan focusing on public safety and the reputation of Queensland’s tourism industry,
Under NQ First, hospitals from Moranbah to Mossman will be upgraded to provide additional services ranging from maternity to renal dialysis, as part of a $140 million commitment to regional health services and infrastructure.
The Bloomfield Track will be completely sealed under a $100 million commitment, the last remaining 28-kilometres of gravel on the track would be sealed under its $300m Bitumen for the Bush program, paid for by mining royalties and part of the party’s broader $2 billion Roads to Revival program. The party perceives that this project will open up the Far North to increased tourism opportunities, “there are economic benefits, environmental benefits, social benefits and more and it is my hope that if I become the next Member for Cook, NQ First will have the balance of power to make it a reality,” said Mr Tayley.
“I speak for the traditional owners, the tourism industry and most people in the wider community, especially north of Cape Tribulation, in saying this project needs to happen as it will deliver many benefits to the people of the Far North – whether they are indigenous or non-indigenous….From Mossman to Cooktown and even beyond when you consider how this would pave the way for a loop road experience for many tourists, it would be an economic game-changer for so many communities and that view would be shared by the movers and shakers in our tourism industry.”
Tanika Parker, Katter’s Australia Party (KAP)
Born in Townsville, Tanika grew up in the Indigenous community of Hopevale and Cooktown, before completing her tertiary studies at James Cook University as a registered trauma nurse. Tanika is one of the four Indigenous candidates for the Cook electorate.
Her priorities include:
- better infrastructure in Cook
- improving regional health services, including restoring maternity services at Mossman Hospital
- re-instating youth sexual violence program
- reducing regulations and lowering the cost of production for cane farmers
- supporting education, tourism and employment to boost the region
“I will start tapping into and utilising resources that will upskill and provide support for our youth during and post this pandemic,” she says. “I also plan to move the office back to Mareeba in the electorate.”
Yodie Batzke, independent candidate
Cairns resident, Yodie is a passionate political advocate who is a Traditional Owner from Cape York Peninsula, identifying with the Wuthathi People of Shelbourne Bay in Cape York. She is a former Director of Wuthathi Aboriginal Corporation Prescribe Body Corporate and Bromely Aboriginal Corporation Prescribe Body Corporate, theology teacher, and minister of religion, with experience in native title and land tenure.
Yodie ran as an independent for the seat of Leichhardt in the 2010 Federal election, as a Division 4 candidate in the 2020 Cairns Council elections, and as a Senate candidate for Clive Palmers’ United Australia Party in the 2019 Federal election.
- to advocate and upgrade areas such as health and aged care
- agricultural and livestock infrastructure
- cleaner water ways
- support Local Government Associations achieve their planning aspirations
- secure water supply and storage in LGA’s across Cook
Stephen Goulmy, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP)
Brisbane based candidate, whose aspirations for the Cook electorate, reflect those of the UAP:
- bring in zonal taxation to stimulate economic growth in rural areas
- abolish payroll tax
- reintroduce the Upper House in Queensland to increase scrutiny and oversight
- halt coal seam gas until water table secured
- abolish land tax and stamp duty
- prioritise regional development
- maximise revenue from mineral processing by investing in downstream processing to yield much higher returns and stimulate both economic growth and job creation
- reduce electricity prices
Early voting is available at Mossman Shire Hall, 6 Mill St, Mossman.
The Centre offers assisted access, and is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday – 9am to 6pm, Tuesday and Thursdays – 9am to 9pm, and Saturday, October 24, from 9am to 5pm.
Monday, 19/10/2020 09:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Tuesday, 20/10/2020 09:00 AM – 09:00 PM
Wednesday, 21/10/2020 09:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Thursday, 22/10/2020 09:00 AM – 09:00 PM
Friday, 23/10/2020 09:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Saturday, 24/10/2020 09:00 AM – 05:00 PM
Monday, 26/10/2020 09:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Tuesday, 27/10/2020 09:00 AM – 09:00 PM
Wednesday, 28/10/2020 09:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Thursday, 29/10/2020 09:00 AM – 09:00 PM
Friday, 30/10/2020 09:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Early voting is also available at these Centres throughout the Cook electorate:
- PCYC Cooktown, 3 May Street, Cooktown
- Thursday Island Boat Club, 93 Victoria Parade, Thursday Island
- Heritage Shopping Centre, 6 Commercial Ave, Nanum
- Mareeba Memorial Bowls Club, 41B Anzac Ave, Mareeba