‘Disappointing, verging on ignorance’
GYMPIE Chamber of Commerce president Tony Goodman has joined the chorus of criticism directed at Labor candidates from Gympie and the Sunshine Coast who blamed “family stuff’ and personal matters for dodging local election debates this week.
One Labor candidate on the coast said he was not willing to go against his party’s wishes, indicating Labor head office had instructed he at least to not attend the local debate.
The sole opportunity for Gympie voters to see and hear each of the candidates vying for the seat currently held by the LNP took place in Gympie on Wednesday night. The forum was also livestreamed for free and viewed by more than 300 people.
But only six of Gympie’s eight candidates bothered to attend.
Missing was Independent Donna Reardon and Labor candidate Geoff Williams.
Ms Reardon cited medical reasons and Mr Williams said “nothing political, just a family matter”.
Mr Goodman said Mr Williams failed to even reply to the multiple invitations the Chamber of Commerce sent him to be a part of the forum.
“We endeavoured to contact (Gympie Labor candidate) Geoff Williams several times before the event, but we had no reply,” Mr Goodman said.
“He was emailed twice and Facebooked.
“This is disappointing, verging on ignorance, when you can’t communicate back to the Chamber, hosting the Meet the Candidates night.
“He may have had a very valid reason for not attending, however it would have been appreciated to communicate that directly to the Chamber.”
Mr Williams said yesterday his “reason for not attending the debate is still the same as the one I gave Scott Kovacevic when he emailed me prior to the debate, and that is I had a previous family engagement”.
“At this stage I am just a candidate and family comes first. I have made myself readily available by attending markets and having mobile offices as well as distributing my email/phone/facebook contact details to all of the electorate, many people have contacted me through all of these methods already and continue to do so.”
Just south of Gympie, the Noosa Chamber of Commerce president Rob Neely told the crowd at its local debate on Wednesday night: “If you can’t turn up to meet the candidates, why on earth would you expect any of us to vote for you?”
The crowd loudly applauded the comments.
Mr Neely added on Thursday it was vital candidates who wanted to represent their community turned up to talk to them, and those who failed to do so “don’t deserve to represent the community”.
“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.”
Mr Williams has been contacted via email for further response.