It has been 26 years since anyone other than former Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss has held the seat of Wide Bay. For over 40 years, Wide Bay has been well and truly secured by politicians tied to the Liberal National or National parties.
In her second attempt to win the seat, Labor’s Lucy Stanton will again try to break through the conservative barrier. Mr Truss is retiring and the new LNP candidate is Kilkivan policeman Llew O’Brien. Despite earning 20.7% of the primary vote in 2013, compared to Mr Truss’s 48.9%, Ms Stanton says she learnt “heaps” from her previous attempt.
Far from being a full-time politician, Ms Stanton works as a software developer, and her interest in technology is reflected in some of her main policies. But she’s not one to spend all her time inside her Boreen Point home with computers or reading. The 59-year-old also likes yoga, and using her weekends as a chance to spend time with her partner motor biking on Wide Bay’s many different trails, which she believes to be some of the best around.
She doesn’t speak in the typical calculated and prepared manner the more veteran politicians do, but says the decision to pursue a political career has been an obvious one.
“I care,” she said. “I want to ensure the youth in this region get the very best education to see them through a changing world. I care about the environment and the future of our region.”
Ms Stanton is aware of Wide Bay’s historical trend of conservative voting. “It’s a challenge, but not insurmountable,” she says. At the very least, she knows she will have the support of her family: her partner, her son, and his partner.
The reasons why she lives in Boreen Point are the same as the ones she’s running for election on. Ms Stanton says Wide Bay needs someone who will stand up and champion the region.
“Wide Bay includes some of the most unique and special places like the World Heritage listed Fraser Island, the Great Sandy Strait, the Mary River, and Noosa’s rivers and lakes,” she says. “Clean green farming land, wineries, and beef and dairy too… What a region!”
Wide Bay is a large, diverse electorate that’s both coastal and rural. It is a mix of regions that Ms Stanton feels more than suitable representing.
“I’m a small business person, and I’ve been a farmer,” she said, “I’ve lived half my life in the city, and half in the country. I know how important technology is, and I appreciate the environment and understand the need to protect it.”
Ms Stanton hopes to focus her campaign on five areas of importance. “Education, the internet, the environment, healthcare, and affordable housing,” she said. “A main priority would be hard to say, because they’re all important.”
One of the key issues for Wide Bay is a particularly high unemployment rate, which is currently at 8.9%. This is something Ms Stanton believes can be solved by investment into the internet.
“It’s important to us to get that NBN rollout, we need to have full fibre optic technology so we can receive the benefits of lightning fast internet access,” she said, “What we don’t want is Turnbull’s outdated copper cabling. That means our region is going to get left behind. Getting a job for the future will mean getting involved in that digital economy, and our region has to be able to compete with Brisbane for those opportunities.”
Ms Stanton also said that the Wide Bay region was being left behind, and change needed to come for the sake of the future. “I think there has been neglect of regional areas by federal members, and that has to stop if we are to see the change that we need,” she said. “Tourism is something we do well but we also need to broaden what we do well and encourage more people to our region to have a go, whether it be in the creative industries and through innovation.”
Ms Stanton says the people of Wide Bay need a federal member with their heart in the region like hers is. “I’m a small business person, I’m a mum, I’m a partner, and I have life experience,” she said. “I believe in lifelong learning, and I love this area.”