Safe, sketchy, scratched: Which FNQ seats are up for grabs

ANNASTACIA Palaszczuk has flown home after a three-day Cabinet session in Cairns as pundits predict Far Northern seats will play a critical role in the upcoming state election.

The Premier's final port before returning to Brisbane was the Cairns Convention Centre construction site to turn the sod on a $176 million redevelopment of the facility.

There was a hiccup when Cairns Regional Council Mayor Bob Manning's spade handle snapped - a first for any of the experienced sod-turners present - but then it was down to the nitty gritty.

Only upgrades of existing facilities had been undertaken until Wednesday, but now the expansion phase has begun.

 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk speaks at a press conference after a visit to the $176 million Cairns Convention Centre upgrade. Picture: PETER CARRUTHERS
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk speaks at a press conference after a visit to the $176 million Cairns Convention Centre upgrade. Picture: PETER CARRUTHERS

 

Ms Palaszczuk brushed off criticism that big southern companies were winning too many of the major contracts and subcontracting to locals.

"We've just met local workers on the local project. That's what people want to see," she said.

Former North Queensland Cowboys rugby league player Javid Bowen was among the workers who met the Premier, having landed his first big job in a new apprenticeship.

Ms Palaszczuk has pledged $107.9m in new funding for Far Northern projects over the duration of her three-day Cairns touchdown, with $55m for carbon farming projects and a $52.9m package for the Cairns Hospital.

Only $1.5m was committed towards the Cairns University Hospital, for a preliminary business case, leaving a $163.5m-plus shortfall and a vague promise of "plenty more to come".

Former speaker of the Queensland parliament and QUT Adjunct Associate Professor John Mickel said Far North electorates would play a big role in which major party won the October 31 election.

Former State Speaker and now QUT Associate Professor John Mickel
Former State Speaker and now QUT Associate Professor John Mickel

The Premier's early announcements and very public visit were acknowledgment of the region's importance.

Prof Mickel predicted Cook MP Cynthia Lui would benefit from a "first-term member bounce" but could face a threat from One Nation's Brett Neal, former Wujal Wujal mayor Desmond Tayley for North Queensland First and, particularly, Katter's Australian Party candidate Tanika Parker.

He said Barron River had the region's highest green vote at 12.5 per cent with Labor's Craig Crawford facing a run for his money from the LNP's Linda Cooper, a former Cairns regional councillor.

"It is a must-win seat for both major parties to form government in their own right," he said.

Greens candidate Aaron McDonald will also be one to watch in Barron River.

Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk during a tour of the $176 million Cairns Convention Centre upgrade. Picture: PETER CARRUTHERS
Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk during a tour of the $176 million Cairns Convention Centre upgrade. Picture: PETER CARRUTHERS

Incumbent Cairns MP Michael Healy was tipped at this early stage to perform well, despite a challenge from the LNP's Sam Marino.

"Mr Healy should benefit from a first (term) member bounce and the absence of high profile independent Rob Pyne who snatched 19 per cent of the primary vote three years ago," Prof Mickel said.

"Elsewhere, Speaker Curtis Pitt looks safe in Mulgrave, as does KAP Member in Hinchinbrook, Nick Dametto.

"The major issues on the minds of voters appear to be COVID-19-related economic issues with closures of the international and state borders undermining tourism and the higher education sectors."

Originally published as Safe, sketchy, scratched: Which FNQ seats are up for grabs


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