By Jeremy Sollars
The race to see who will succeed Lawrence Springborg as the LNP candidate for Southern Downs is hotting up, with the three current contenders facing party members across the region at a series of ‘Meet the Candidate’ forums held last weekend.
Southern Downs deputy mayor Jo McNally, her colleague councillor Cameron Gow and RAAF officer James Lister were put on the spot by the LNP faithful in Warwick last Friday night, 3 February, in Stanthorpe on Saturday morning and in Goondiwindi on Saturday afternoon.
The three hopefuls were grilled about their future plans to represent the state seat if successful at the next election and their past LNP involvement.
Their bids follow the announcement late last year by veteran Southern Downs MP Mr Springborg that he will retire from State politics at the next election.
The next Queensland election is not officially due until January 2018 but widespread speculation continues that ALP Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk could go to the polls early, with some political watchers tipping the second half of the year, although some believe a snap election could be called within weeks.
Both the LNP opposition and the ALP government are nervously watching One Nation support climb in Queensland, with the most recent polls suggesting One Nation could secure up to 25 per cent of the overall vote, if not more.
As reported last week, Cr Gow was reprimanded by Southern Downs Regional Council CEO David Keenan in late 2016 over a complaint relating to what council records state was “inappropriate conduct” but the council has refused to release any details of the complaint.
The Free Times has sought comment directly from Cr Gow but to date he has not responded, although he is understood to have referred to the matter during his addresses to LNP members last weekend.
His fellow LNP pre-selection candidate James Lister has likewise declined to answer questions from the Free Times about his primary place of residence.
On his LNP candidate business cards, Mr Lister lists his address as 6 Lofaros Road, Severnlea, – the address of his father’s property south of Stanthorpe – but it is understood that he owns a residence near the RAAF Amberley air base, where he is presently stationed as a squadron leader.
Local LNP members will soon vote in a postal ballot to determine their candidate, but is believed the party’s state executive could overrule the ballot result and pick their own preferred candidate, and could potentially re-open nominations if the ballot process is inconclusive.
Current Goondiwindi councillor Rob Mackenzie had nominated for the LNP, but withdrew after being told by the party a drink driving conviction from some years back along with speeding fines had disqualified him from seeking pre-selection.
The Free Times can also reveal that One Nation may announce its candidate for Southern Downs within the next fortnight.
A local identity, who has declined to be named publicly at this point, has told the Free Times of their interest in running for One Nation but said they were still in discussions with party officials.
Former Southern Downs deputy mayor Ross Bartley has twice publicly ruled out running for One Nation, despite suggestions he was keen to enter state politics.
OUR SAY – PAGE 10.