“I came here unaware of the candidates, but I’m leaving sure of who will get my vote”.

This was the common feeling at the conclusion of last night’s Meet Your Candidates forum in Gladstone.

With the retirement of popular MP Liz Cunningham, Gladstone is a hotly contested and truly undecided seat. Greens candidate Craig Tomsett attended, along with Michael Duggan from the Liberal National Party, Glenn Butcher from the Australian National Party and Independent Craig Butler. An impressive contingent of 94 locals also attended.

The key area of concern was the future of the Port of Gladstone and the possibility of leasing. Each candidate explained their position with Mike Duggan supporting his party’s platform to lease Queensland’s assets while the other candidates were opposed to the proposed lease. Glenn Butcher stated the ALP had ‘learnt their lesson’ on the sale of assets and blamed their unpopularity at the previous election on this policy.

Independent Craig Butler (backed by outgoing MP Liz Cunningham) was the only strongly pro-life candidate on the panel when quizzed on abortion.

Each candidate spoke on youth unemployment and law and order. Glenn Butcher and Mike Duggan responded with the need for higher quality sporting facilities for the area. Craig Tomsett spoke of his desire to see Gladstone return to the feeling of a small town. Craig Butler focussed on improved family life; to make stay-at-home-mum's a viable choice and for improved family support.

With the election of an independent a strong possibility, Craig Butler was asked who he would support if he held the balance of power. He would wait to see who had the better plan for Gladstone and the State.

Next is the forum at Mackay, see you there!