ELECTION: The tragic background to Labor's Wide Bay campaign
PERSONAL tragedy will be part of what motivates Wide Bay Labor candidate Jason Scanes during his federal election campaign to unseat sitting LNP member Llew O'Brien.
The suicide death of his nephew Christopher, only last week, sadly underlined his speech about the need for Australians to care more about each other and to act on that politically.
And his election campaign launch, at Gympie RSL Club, was held on what would have been the birthday of his sister, killed in a car crash.
"Llew's in a bit of trouble here," Queensland Police and Corrective Services Minister Mark Ryan told more than 70 campaign supporters at Mr Scanes' Gympie RSL campaign launch yesterday.
Mr Ryan said that was what occurred to him when he saw Mr Scanes' biographical notes.
"It's been 45 years since Labor held Wide Bay," Mr Ryan said.
"We're going to change that at the election," he said.
Before that, Wide Bay had been represented by local hero Andrew Fisher, a pioneering Prime Minister noted for his contribution to contemporary Australian entitlements like the Age and Invalid Pensions and Workers Compensation.
Mr Fisher's home is one of the exhibits at Gympie's mining and historical museum at Alford Park.
Mr Fisher had earlier been a state Minister in a Queensland government which, in 1899, was the first Labor Government in the world.
"Maryborough has some claim on Andrew Fisher too," Mr Ryan said, acknowledging Mr Fisher's industrial background in the city that is Gympie's northern neighbour.
Dr Chalmers told his audience: "You have found an outstanding candidate."
He described Mr Scanes as "one of the best credentialed federal candidates anywhere in Australia."
Mr Chalmers predicted an election "in 41 days time."
"But it doesn't matter if it's the 11th (of May), the 18th or the 25th, because we've got the team together and we've got a good story to tell and we've been telling it for six years," he said.
Mr Scanes touched briefly on personal tragedy as one of the motivators of his belief in what he said was a Labor Party ethic of helping others.
"As it is our official launch, I feel you should all know a little about me and my experiences," Mr Scanes said.
"Today would have been my big sister's 43rd birthday.
"Sadly, 20 years ago, my sister was killed in a car accident, a beautiful mother of three beautiful boys taken too early from her family.
"I have also seen, very recently, Australia robbed of one of my sister's three boys.
"My nephew Christopher was a gentle and loving young man with a beautiful heart.
"Lacking in the confidence and independence that employment provides and suffering the loss of his mother, this young man took his own life just one week ago today.
"Unfortunately, for us his family and for Australia, we will not bear witness to his full potential.
"Like many, I have lost loved ones to cancer, including both my grandfathers, and I have had those close to me fight and overcome it as well, with my younger brother diagnosed only two years ago.
"The father of twin boys and twin girls, he was not going to be defeated.
"It was a fight he could not afford to lose. He faced it square on and he came out on top.
"I have also witnessed the devastation of war, an experience you wish on no-one.
"As a veteran serving 19 years in the Australian Army with deployments across the Middle East, including Afghanistan, I have seen and learnt many things, both about myself and the world.
"My career has been diverse and full of opportunities, for which I am both grateful and proud."
He said his qualities and values included things "within us all."
"My advantage is my wife. I sincerely mean that," he said.
"I remember her courage during the difficult birth of our first-born son, Kingston and her strength to manage the home front with two small children while I was in Afghanistan.
"Her faith, support and confidence in me and everything that I do... I would not be where I am today without her."
He said he had seen "some poor examples of leaders" and "some great ones."
He said his belief in a "fair go" meant he felt a need to make sure the less fortunate were not exploited.
These values, hard earned throughout history, were deeply entrenched in our society, but were at risk.He said he would work for "an Australia where a person's level of education and wealth does not necessarily earn them status or respect, an Australia where compassion for others is considered a strength not a weakness.
"Australians deserve great leadership," he said.
"When you place a person in a position of great responsibility that lacks the qualities of genuine leadership, the result is exactly what we have in Australia today - confusion, chaos and division.
"The only tool readily available for a Government that lacks leadership or a sustainable plan for the future is fear and smear campaigns.
"These tactics are deliberately employed to distract and mislead the public," he said.
"You see character assassinations rather than action, fighting among teams, squabbles over leadership and you receive promises without conviction.
"Australians want more than words, they want action, stability and cohesion.
"As we sit at record national debt, our regional areas are struggling, wages are stagnant, job opportunities in region areas continue to decline while our hospitals and schools continue to have their funding cut, our pensioners are made to feel like a burden and our farmers are put last behind the profits of big banks and multinationals..
"The difference (with a Labor Government) was made very clear in Bill Shorten's Budget reply - bigger tax relief for low-middle earners, closing tax loopholes and re-investing in health and education, a plan to tackle unemployment and support small businesses while ensuring that primary producers are a priority," he said.
"Apart from leadership, the people of Wide Bay are missing opportunity, for good health, a good education and a secure job," he said.