Local Knowledge: Hayden Strooper-Leitch stands in Mary Street. Queensland's Labor candidate for Gympie, Ben Parker, has admitted not knowing where Gympie's main street is.
Local Knowledge: Hayden Strooper-Leitch stands in Mary Street. Queensland's Labor candidate for Gympie, Ben Parker, has admitted not knowing where Gympie's main street is. Renee Pilcher

Where's Gympie?

THE baby of next month's state election dropped out of high school three years ago at the age of 15 and could not place Mary St or discuss any of the region's issues this week when asked by The Gympie Times.

A seasoned campaigner he is not.

But Brisbane teenager Ben Parker - union campaigner, surfer, Labor candidate for Gympie - said he was proud to be chosen by his party to take on David Gibson, Shane Paulger and Kathy Hawke on March 24.

The Labor Party endorsed Ben after its first choice for candidate had to bow out because of "family circumstances". It has denied parachuting a body into Gympie for the election.

ALP's token candidate

THE would-be Labor member for Gympie this week turned down an invitation to comment on any of the issues facing the Gympie region, and appeared to not know what "on the hustings" meant or where Mary St was.

But the youngest candidate in next month's state election says he has visited Gympie "a few times" since his endorsement by the ALP.

During a phone interview with The Gympie Times on Wednesday, the South Brisbane-based Mr Parker couldn't say when he might next be up this way, but said he had been here to see the Mary River, "have a look around" and meet with the six members of the Gympie branch of the Australian Labor Party.

Just who those members were, he would not say.

The 18-year-old union campaign organiser grew up in Newcastle in a Labor household and left school shortly after moving to the Gold Coast three years ago. His mum voted Labor but wasn't a paid-up member of the ALP, he says, but his step-dad is still active in the party.

Mr Parker, who is yet to have his first opportunity to vote in an election, let alone stand for public office, attended the Gold Coast's Banora Point High School briefly and indulged his two hobbies: surfing - something he gets little time for these days - and martial arts.

"I left (school) not much later (after moving to Queensland) and went to work for a food processing factory," he said this week.

He soon became the workplace union delegate and developed an interest in the union movement, taking on a job with trade union United Voice when he was 17.

How did he get to be the Labor candidate for Gympie?

"I found out that Gympie was a seat that was available and I just really thought it would be a great opportunity for myself to get younger people involved in politics. You don't really see younger people involved in politics," he said.

"I am very proud of the fact that my party had the confidence to select me for the seat of Gympie," his ALP website profile says. "Labor is a progressive party that cares about youth so we need to get that out there," he told The Gympie Times.

Mr Parker said he always enjoyed visiting Gympie and meeting with local residents and branch members.

What are his plans if elected to represent Gympie in the Queensland Parliament?

"It's not about what I want. It's about what the local community wants.

"I'm not prepared to comment on any of the big issues at this stage."

According to the United Voice website, the union represents more than 120,000 Australian workers in a range of industries, including property services, hospitality, children's services, health and aged care, manufacturing and mining.

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