War of words erupts over Noosa debate no-show
A war of words has erupted over a long-time Labor candidate's failure to appear at a Noosa election debate.
Mark Denham was unable to attend Wednesday night's event at Sunshine Beach Surf Club, withdrawing due to a personal matter.
His absence didn't prevent a lively debate unfolding, with incumbent independent MP Sandy Bolton and young LNP hopeful James Blevin trading barbs, joined by Greens candidate Rhonda Prescott.
But the absence of several candidates including Mr Denham, One Nation's Tracey Bell-Henselin and Animal Justice Party's Darrell Redford, was noted by Noosa Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Rob Neely, who addressed the large crowd at the end of the debate.
"Most importantly, I want to thank the three candidates that did turn up," Mr Neely said.
"If you can't turn up to a meet the candidates, why on earth would you expect any of us to vote for you?
"I love Queensland, I love Australia, but I love Noosa most of all and if they won't turn up and answer questions then they deserve no credit whatsoever, as far as I'm concerned.
"I don't care what's going on between News Corp and the Australian Labor Party, turn up here and answer the questions."
Mr Neely's comments were met with a huge applause and cheers from the crowd.
Mr Denham on Thursday told the Daily he had been preparing all day for the debate and had been excited about the event, before he'd been forced to withdraw.
"Something personal came up last night," he said.
Mr Denham said the Noosa Chamber of Commerce and Industry was supposed to be "apolitical" and he said Mr Neely's comments had turned political.
"I had prepared all day to go to that event … and then something came up and I couldn't go," Mr Denham said.
"It was not his (Mr Neely) position to make this statement."
The Labor candidate's withdrawal would've come as a blow to at least one attendee, who arrived decked out in a supporter shirt, only to turn around and head off, with no candidate in sight.
Mr Denham said the chamber should be sanctioning Mr Neely for his comments, and apologising to all candidates who had been unable to attend.
When contacted by the Daily on Thursday Mr Neely said he rejected Mr Denham's comments "totally".
"It's up to candidates to get up there and talk to the community," Mr Neely said.
He said in his view, those that couldn't "don't deserve to represent the community".
Mr Neely said "many people" approached him after his closing comments, some who he'd never met, to congratulate him for saying what they'd all been thinking.
He said the candidates shouldn't be missing debates, even News Corp-linked events, as it was doing a disservice to voters.
"They shouldn't be doing that, they should be turning up and arguing their point," Mr Neely said.
"We want to know who is going to represent us."
Labor's Caloundra candidate Jason Hunt failed to appear at an online candidate debate on Tuesday night, while Glass House hopeful Brent Hampstead has told the Daily he will not be attending Thursday night's online debate.