Change is in the air for regional Queensland, where at least one electorate is guaranteed a new representative from the federal election after its former MP George Christensen went rogue.

Mr Christensen was a thorn in the Liberal National Party’s side until the end — sensationally quitting the party and parliament last week before pledging his allegiance to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.

He today announced he would run third on its Senate ticket at the May 21 election, with his former constituents left to elect a new Member for Dawson where the futures of coal and coral collides.

Mr Christensen has a reputation for ruffling feathers due to his comments urging adults not to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19, and for controversial views about net-zero emissions and abortion.

But away from Canberra, Mr Christensen’s stubbornness was what many locals liked best.

George Christensen sits among the green benches of the Lower House. He holds a blue surgical mask over his mouth and nose.
George Christensen was condemned for his views on COVID-19 vaccines for children.(ABC News: Mark Moore)

He secured four terms as the local member by advocating for major infrastructure projects and more affordable insurance, as well as for sugar, mining, and resources in the region.

Local cafe owner David Paddon said Mr Christensen was “a rare breed of politician”.

“It is a very diverse electorate; we need someone that understands it.”

a man in a yellow polo shirt makes a coffee at a barista machine in a cafe
David Paddon wants a Dawson MP who will advocate for small businesses.(ABC Tropical North: Angel Parsons)

Coal and coral

The seat of Dawson encompasses more than 350 kilometres of the Queensland coast, including towns such as Bowen, Airlie Beach and Mackay.

The regional centres act as gateways to both the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland’s coal mining areas.

The LNP holds the seat with a 14.6 per cent margin and is pinning its hopes on Whitsunday mayor Andrew Willcox as its candidate, while Labor contender Shane Hamilton is trying to woo voters as well.

With George Christensen aiming for the Senate, One Nation has selected businessperson Julie Hall to contest the seat, which saw a 13.1 per cent swing towards Pauline Hanson’s party in 2019.

a room is full of older people, who entered through a door with stickers on it supporting Adani and Urannah Dam
The electorate of Bowen often displays strong support for mining projects.(ABC North Queensland: Chloe Chomicki)

Some believe it was resource-heavy communities like Dawson that drove the swing away from Labor at the last federal election in 2019.

“That feeling of being ignored at the last election is still there by people,” Bowen publican, and chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Bruce Hedditch said.

“Particularly people in the resources industry.

a man smiles at the camera while standing behind a public bar and holding the lever of a beer tap
Bruce Hedditch from the Chamber of Commerce says resources needs more poltical attention.(ABC Tropical North: Angel Parsons)

Tourism a hot topic

But while the resources sector is a major employer in the electorate, so too is tourism, creating an uneasy marriage.

Lindsay Simpson wanted to ensure her sailing business had a future at Airlie Beach.



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