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Dawson MP George Christensen.

EXCLUSIVE: By George it's a big year

THE Christmas and New Year periods have been difficult for Dawson MP George Christensen.

In the lead-up to Christmas, a newspaper published reports he was being investigated by the Australian Federal Police and most recently, Christensen has found himself on a list of far-right MPs that political organisation GetUp! wants to oust from parliament.

Coming off the back of a huge year for the Mackay region, this election year is looking strong for the seat of Dawson, despite all the drama.

Get Up! Campaign

CHRISTENSEN wasn't surprised to find himself on the Get Up! 'hit list' ahead of the 2019 Federal Election along side Peter Dutton (who made number one) and Tony Abbott (coming in a close second).

 

Tony Abbott
Tony Abbott Rick Rycroft

In fact, it's not the first time he's found himself in the firing line, with the organisation sending representatives to Mackay ahead of the 2016 election to campaign against him.

Christensen said it was the group's opposition to coal mining that had probably made him a target.

"While there might be people in this region who are members of GetUp!, few and far between I'd suggest, plenty of them from southern capital cities who are opposed and don't have to rely on coal mining jobs for economic prosperity for the region," he said.

"But up here, if it's something that was removed, it would be so detrimental, you can scarcely bear thinking about it really.

 

Peter Dutton
Peter Dutton MICK TSIKAS

"Am I worried about it? Not really because last time round GetUp! campaigned heavily against me. They actually sent people from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to hand out How To Vote Cards at polling booths, it said "if you re-elect George Christensen then the government will shut down the Mackay Base Hospital"... well, we were re-elected and that didn't happen."

Christensen said though he might disagree with Get Up!, he would always stand up for its right to say what it wanted.

"I think it shouldn't be personal," he said.

"They actually put ads in the local media in the past saying I was being investigated for bribery because I was going to give a donation to a turtle research centre, which proved to be untrue.

"They post quite unflattering photos of me on social media and in the press, which isn't hard to do... that goes to the sort of personal attack and I'd prefer we stick to the issues.

"Stick to the truth, nothing personal and I think everyone will be happy."

 

Dawson MP George Christensen and fiancee April Asuncion.
Dawson MP George Christensen and fiancee April Asuncion. Contributed

Love and politics

THERE is no date set for the big day but Christensen will marry his fiancee April Asuncion late this year or early next year.

Last year, The Daily Mercury did an exclusive interview with the MP about his engagement to Asuncion, who lives in the Philippines where he said: "I don't want to get too mushy but she's the one for me. Look, you know, the relationship has changed me, like any relationship does."

Just before Christmas his relationship with Asuncion was caught up in a "smear campaign" against the politician.

Christensen said a senior Labor MP, who he refused to name, made a report to the Australian Federal Police alleging he was travelling and sending money to "seedy" parts of the Philippines.

In late December, Christensen confirmed he sent money to his fiancee, and had visited her and her family members several times since their relationship began in 2017.

"They were alleging some really, really bad things... and they couldn't prove that because it's not true," he said.

"There was an article written by a southern newspaper that didn't mention my name, because if it did, being untrue and unproven it would have been defamation, things they reported in that story to be fact included things like that the AFP did an investigation, but they never did an investigation, the AFP efforts in this alleged investigation, that never happened, were hampered by the fact that they couldn't read my encrypted messages.

"The Federal Police have no problems with any of the messages I've received and I'm not in the habit anything encrypted except Whatsapp, which most people use as a messaging service.

"It really was a low blow, which thankfully the Federal Police were so aggrieved by the fact they had been used as a political weapon that they responded quite firmly that the allegations put against me were unfounded and they had no concern about encryption and there was an allegation that came to them, that's been reported in the press and the allegation was made by someone who admitted they had no knowledge of what they were alleging.

"It was a political hit job that isn't nice to go through, but that's the slings and arrows of politics. I hope between now and the election it doesn't get any dirtier."

Christensen said he believed the public were sick of the "politics" in politics.

"People expect it though, but they're sick of it, and quite frankly I was pretty sick of it at that point too," he said.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged by Liberals senate candidate Susan McDonald and Member for Dawson George Christensen.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged by Liberals senate candidate Susan McDonald and Member for Dawson George Christensen. Emma Murray

The year ahead

IT'S an election year, so every returning member of parliament has their eyes on the prize.

With Christensen expecting the election to occur in May, the next few months he will be focusing on Dawson.

"We've got several months of getting things done and delivered in the electorate," he said.

"I've got some big ideas and things that need to happen in this region and where the Federal Government can play a role."

Christensen said the upgrade of the river and beachfront of Mackay was a priority.

"This idea of creating what Townsville has with The Stand in Mackay... will be enhancing the tourism capacity of Mackay," he said.

"That means more jobs, a diversified economy if we have a better tourist product to provide to the rest of the nation and the rest of the world.

"Ultimately, that means more jobs and more sustainability for our region."

Christensen added Proserpine Entertainment Centre was a top priority due to the damage done by Cyclone Debbie.

"It's been closed since Cyclone Debbie hit. It knocked that place about pretty badly and when they went to do repairs, they found there to be some previous structural problems with the building that meant they couldn't go in and rebuild it and it wasn't covered by insurance," he said.

"I'm looking for avenues in which the Federal Government can assist with that."

The Galilee Basin will also open up this year, bringing in more opportunity for employment in the region.

"It will be very good for Bowen in particular with Bowen earmarked as an employment hub for the railway construction that will need to happen early in the piece and also the port expansion," Christensen said.

"These are just some of the opportunities that are emerging."

Christensen said the Mackay Ring Rd construction would also continue, with the Federal Government committing funding to the second stage.

"We need to get the State Government's feet on the sticky paper for that project because they need to put forward 20 per cent of the funding and commit to a time frame for that project and in the future, it won't be this year... but we've got the Walkerston bypass happening," he said.

"Over the next six years, it may be even longer than that, there is going to be a solid program of infrastructure construction throughout this region which will ensure the economy is lifted and jobs are ongoing."