• The four Indigenous candidates who will contest for the seat of Cook. (NITV. )Source: NITV.
Queensland heads to the polls this weekend and in the seat of Cook in the north of the sunshine state, the incumbent is running alongside several more Indigenous candidates.
Douglas Smith

30 Oct 2020 - 10:45 AM  UPDATED 30 Oct 2020 - 10:45 AM

The seat of Cook in Far North Queensland, an electoral division currently held by Australia's first Torres Strait Islander parliamentarian Cynthia Lui, will be contested by three other Indigenous candidates on Saturday. 

Iamalaig woman Cynthia Lui, who made history in 2017 when she was elected to the Queensland parliament, will be fighting to hold onto her seat.

The seat takes in the Cape York area north of Cairns, including Port Douglas, Mareeba, the Atherton Tablelands, Cooktown and the Torres Strait.

Ms Lui is aiming to return for a second term, but is facing a challenge by seven contenders, including three other Indigenous candidates. 

Indigenous nurse wants better healthcare and more support for youth

Katter's Australian Party (KAP) candidate, registered trauma nurse and Guguu Yimithirr Bama, Tanika Parker grew up in the Aboriginal Shire of Hope Vale just north of Cooktown. 

Ms Parker told NITV News that she knew from an early age that she wanted to work in health, after noticing “huge disparities” in the level of healthcare treatment for people in remote areas and regional cities in Far North Queensland. 

“I didn't actually know 100 per cent and it's sort of just coming together now, but I want to change the healthcare system straight up,” said Ms Parker.

“Healthcare has a very broad umbrella, but the sort of things specifically we're looking at here is to upgrade Mareeba hospital, to upgrade Mosman maternity, to put more dialysis facilities in Cooktown Hospital, to upskill the Cape communities."

Up until a “couple of months ago”, Ms Parker said she had no idea she was going to get into politics but said she was impressed by Bob Katter’s demonstration at Yarrabah during the coronavirus lockdown period. 

“I knew that I definitely wanted to be instrumental in healthcare change up this way, but after watching Uncle Bob [Katter] demonstrate on TV while I was living in Canberra, I was thinking, ‘who’s this fulla demonstrating at Yarrabah?’,” she said. 

Ms Parker said she has a “one size does not fit all” type of approach to representing the people of Cook. 

“Cook is very diverse, I mean, we’ve got people from Mareeba all the way up to the Torres Straits and what the Torres Strait people need is going to be quite different to what people need in Mareeba,” she said. 

“The things that we’re looking at that have been highlighted as non-existent and under-resourced is….there’s no water in the electorate and that's something we’ll be pushing for.

“Title deeds specifically for mob to own their own land, to produce on it, to be able to do what they want on their own land and at the moment as it stands, they can’t.”

Another major issue Ms Parker said her party wants to address in the Cape, is youth crime, by implementing more programs and creating more opportunities to deter criminal activity.  

“We need to support communities and look at the actual problem and it needs to be case by case, I mean, you can’t just say policing is going to fix all of it, our communities don’t need that.”

Police to have high-speed pursuit powers and 500 extra police in FNQ

In a different approach, the former mayor of Wujal Wujal, Kuku Yalanji man, Desmond Tayley said the North Queensland First party is keen to crack down on crime in Far North Queensland.

He wants police to be given increased powers including the go-ahead to conduct high-speed pursuits as part of a suite of crime-busting measures.

Mr Tayley said the plan also promises tougher penalties for repeat offenders, a dedicated police helicopter for the North, more police stations and an extra 500 police officers from Rockhampton to Cape York.

Mr Tayley told NITV News he is keen to work with his party to implement a different approach for various communities in Cape York. 

"What I said to our party, it's not going to be...one size does not fit all, you have to make it tailor-made within our communities, regardless of where you are in the Cook electorate," said Mr Tayley. 

“Talking to a lot of our constituents within the Cook electorate, crime is one of the bigger issues in a lot of our communities."

Mr Tayley said he was keen to continue support for the Community Justice Group Program in Cape York, which operates in over 40 communities across Queensland. 

"Something that is really working for us is the Community Justice Group," he said. 

"They're getting funding in regards to doing social programs in our communities."

The program, run by local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in various communities, assists people with issues from working cooperatively with magistrates, police, corrective services personnel and staff from other government agencies and community organisations.

Affordable housing in the Torres Strait Islands 

Independent candidate, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman, Yodie Batzke, told NITV News that she was serious about addressing the housing crisis in the Torres Strait.

"We have an issue in the Torres Strait, where the state government is driving the land market and that is something that I am really, really passionate about addressing," said Ms Batzke. 

"I can't see any political party wanting to address that because they are the perpetrators that are driving the demand and supply of land value on Thursday Island itself.

"I know that there has been a cry and a call for many, many years for greater autonomy in the Torres Strait, and that is a subject that's come up again amongst homeland Torres Strait Islanders.

"Current political parties, whether it be Labor or Liberal or any other party, at the moment it's very hard for them to even enter into any meaningful discussions about greater autonomy, so as an Independent, I firmly believe that it's time to progress that even further."

Ms Batzke, who ran as a federal senate candidate for Clive Palmer's United Australia Party in 2019, said her policies were also based around "health, water security and infrastructure."

"My main area of focus is how current state government legislations are affecting economic development with our agriculture and livestock industry." 

Ms Batzke said she also wants "birthing units" implemented into two of Cape York's main rural hospitals at Mareeba and Mossman. 

"Other issues such as health issues, it's imperative that both our Mareeba and Mossman hospitals current clinical care be elevated from a level three to a level four here in Mareeba, and in Mossman, from a level two to a level three."

Retaining her seat  

The incumbent Labor MP, Iamalaig woman, Cynthia Lui has promised to build stronger communities across Cape York, while acknowledging the coronavirus pandemic is still a serious threat to be dealt with.  

In a debate live-streamed by the Cairns Post, Ms Lui went head-to-head with five of her rivals on the issues and concerns of that are most prevalent in Cook. 

"Right now, I am fighting for the Cook electorate because I think we've got a much bigger risk at hand here, and that is the global pandemic and I don't think we should move away from that," said Ms Lui. 

Other issues that were discussed included Indigenous affairs, agricultural spending, water security, the environment and one of the bog driver's for this year's election in Far North Queensland, youth crime. 

"We've announced a five-point plan back in March, and the whole idea is to engage those vulnerable youth who are out there committing crime and to get them back on track," she said. 

"I'm a firm believer in providing support through intervention, but we need to look at this problem from a holistic perspective, and that is that we also need to work with families and we also need to work with the environment that they're in.

"We need to look at the core of the problem and that is the environment in which they live so it's their homes, it's the communities they come from. I believe we will start seeing changes in the environment."

In 2017, Labor received 40.1 per cent of the vote, followed by One Nation on 18.4 per cent and the Liberal National Party with 17.8 per cent.

This year, a similar result has been predicted, with the electorate of Cook traditionally being a Labor seat. 

Other candidates included in this year's election include the LNP's Nipper Brown, One Nation's Brett Neal, The Greens Deby Ruddell and Clive Palmer's UAP candidate, Stephen Goulmy.

Three Indigenous Queensland MP’s hold seats at the same time in historical milestone
For the first time in Queensland’s history, three Indigenous MP’s hold seats in the state's Parliament, with the arrival of Proud Gubbi Gubbi Man, Lance McCallum.

For our children's children: Torres Strait Islander adoption bill introduced to Queensland parliament
Iamalaig woman Cynthia Lui fought back tears as she introduced the historic bill, which allows relatives or community members to adopt a child in unforeseen circumstances.