TropicNow best of 2016: TNQ politics
TropicNow takes a look back over the past 12 months to select our top 5 local moments in politics, the economy, the arts, food culture and sport.
In the first of our top 5 moments from 2016, we cast our eyes over the political scene.
2016 gave us two elections, a party defection and some much welcomed cooperation on funding.
Here are our top 5 moments in TNQ politics, in no particular order.
CAIRNS BUILDS A BRIDGE
Several years of congested traffic and angry car horns later, the State Government announced in its 2016 budget that the Bill Fulton Bridge would be duplicated.
Both entry points to the bridge are four lane roads which narrow to just two lanes on the bridge, causing bumper-to-bumper traffic during peak periods.
The $34 million project along the Western Arterial Road has been welcomed by more than 25,000 motorists who use the road each day.
Work started on the new bridge in November and is expected to finish late in 2017. The project is just one aspect of the solution required on that stretch, of course. We look forward to seeing what bottleneck is next on the list of fixes.
WARREN’S SEVENTH HEAVEN
Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch achieved a rare feat in politics - winning his seat for the seventh time in July.
Mr Entsch represented Leichhardt from 1996 through to his retirement in 2007. But in 2010 he returned, defeating incumbent Jim Turnour, then winning again in 2013.
In 2016, the former crocodile farmer enjoyed perhaps his sweetest victory, wrestling off eight rival candidates including Labor’s Sharryn Howes and Independent Daniel McCarthy.
The MP’s only chance of winning was to obtain the most primary votes after all other candidates preferenced him last. The region now needs Entschy to deliver on his key election promises, including the marine precinct upgrades and sealing of the Hann Highway among them.
THREE TIMES LUCKY FOR CPAC FUNDING
Cairns’ long and winding journey to get a new performance theatre had plenty of hiccups along the way. But we got there in the end.
The $70 million Cairns Performing Arts Centre will form part of the region’s new arts precinct, complemented by the reinvigorated, amazing Munro Martin Parklands.
After a fair bit of negotiation – and consternation - the theatre ended up being funded by local, state and federal governments.
The new centre replaces the Cairns Civic Theatre on the corner of Sheridan and Florence Street and is due to open its doors in early 2018.
PYNE LEAVES LABOR
Member for Cairns Rob Pyne’s long-rumoured defection from the ALP finally happened in March.
Mr Pyne flirted with the idea of joining Katter’s Australia Party before eventually deciding to join the crossbench as an independent.
Member for Barron River Craig Crawford gave the MP a scathing send-off, calling his former colleague all sorts of unflattering names.
In his first statement to State Parliament as an Independent, Mr Pyne hit back at his critics within the Labor Party by calling party politics “a partisan game based on Neanderthal tribalism.”
He faces a tough re-election fight (at some point) in 2017 against the LNP’s Sam Marino and the expected Labor nominee Michael Healy.
UNITY TEAM LANDSLIDE
It may not have had the vitriol of this year’s US Presidential campaign but Cairns’ local government elections packed plenty of punch.
Connect Cairns, led by mayoral candidate Jim Brooks, were keen to topple the Unity ticket who overwhelmingly swept to power in 2012.
But experience held Unity in good stead with six candidates winning their divisions while three independents - Brett Olds, Linda Cooper and Cathy Zeiger - were also voted in.
Incumbent Mayor Bob Manning held onto the top job very comfortably despite a spirited challenge.
While it’s some time away yet, chatter among political circles is already turning to the question of whether Cr Manning will run again for a third term. Could we see a new leader emerge from within Unity’s ranks in 2020?