24 April, 2021
Lui satisfied she's doing the best job for Cook
BEING a State Member with a responsibility to represent the thousands of constituents within an electorate is no easy task. It’s generally an extremely gruelling and demanding role that comes with undeniable scrutiny and pressure – such is the life of a public servant. Add trying to service an electorate during a global pandemic and you have a one very challenging job. In recent times Member for Cook Cynthia Lui has faced her own critics about her time in the role. Express journalist Michael Warren sat down for an extended interview with the State Member.
BEING a State Member with a responsibility to represent the thousands of constituents within an electorate is no easy task. It’s generally an extremely gruelling and demanding role that comes with undeniable scrutiny and pressure – such is the life of a public servant.
Add trying to service an electorate during a global pandemic and you have a one very
challenging job. In recent times Member for Cook Cynthia Lui has faced her own critics about
her time in the role. Express journalist Michael Warren sat down for an extended interview with
the State Member.
There is a notion by some of your constituents and stakeholders particularly in this side of your electorate that, rightly or wrongly, have dubbed you the 'invisible minister', an inference that over the journey as Member for Cook you haven’t been as readily accessible, available or present as they’d expect you to be. Before we started this interview and purely coincidentally, I observed and overheard from a short distance away a Mareeba constituent at your pop-up desk take issue with you about this very matter. How does the term ‘invisible minister’ sit with you? Is it a fair portrayal or an unbalanced viewpoint and complete misconception?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I’m not going to change the views of every single person. I know myself I try and do the very best I can as the Member of Cook. I advocate for every single person as best I can in this electorate. Generally speaking I have one of three biggest electorates in Queensland; my region obviously covers Mareeba, The Tablelands, Douglas Shire and all the way back to the Torres Strait. Naturally in recent times being in the middle of a global pandemic, I’ve had to ensure all our communities in the Cook electorate are safe and that we are doing all we can to make sure the virus doesn’t get into the communities.
Another perceived view from sections of this side of the electorate is that you generally only visit Mareeba or surrounding towns when you’re chasing votes or it’s near election time. Again, a fair assessment or an inaccurate point of view?
I think it’s very unfair. I know how hard I work for communities to elevate issues right across my electorate. Like I previously mentioned I’ve been working on community issues, as well as (the challenges) a global pandemic (presents) to make sure all my communities in Cook are safe guarded. Most recently we’ve had issues with the rising number of COVID cases in PNG and that is putting a lot of pressure on the Torres Strait, so obviously my attention has been on that because we’ve got three vulnerable islands in that vicinity. If there was a potential (COVID) outbreak in the Torres Strait what would that mean…? I think you’ve really got to weigh things up.
What are your thoughts when you hear conversations about constituents suggesting you spend way more time in the Torres Strait than any other part of your electorate?
That’s always something that’s been thrown around, I think for the obvious reason that I’m from the Torres Strait. Every trip I take to the Torres Strait people see it as me spending too much time in the Torres Strait. I can tell you last year alone I spent very little time in the Torres Strait and a lot more time in Mareeba and this part of the electorate. I have had no one In the Torres Strait suggesting I spend too much time in Mareeba, but a fair few suggesting the opposite, again I can’t change people’s views, and what they think.
But is it a fair assessment though?
Like I said it’s a large electorate; I’ve got 13 Councils that I work across, 13 Mayors and one town authority. I’ve got two other communities in the western Cape and Weipa that I need to look after. I respect and understand people in Mareeba feel they don’t see me enough, but as you can understand people want to see me in other communities as well. There’s only one of me and only so far I can stretch myself. I’d love to say I’ll be regularly able to visit every town in my electorate on a frequent basis, but that simply isn’t possible. I’ve just got to do the best I can.
So COVID aside it sits comfortably with you that you’ve given this side of your electorate enough of a focus over the past few months?
Yes. If you mean have I fairly spread myself right across the region, yes. I’m not just talking about Mareeba, I’m talking about right across the electorate. Crime is always a talking point in your electorate.
What are the themes or types
of issues your constituents
have been raising with you at
your pop-up office?
Besides crime matters, people have asked questions about the Barron river bridge, Government’s stance on supporting future job creation, while the want for a new community hall was also mentioned to me.
Just on the Barron bridge, what’s your own opinion on what should happen to it?
I can’t really tell you what should happen to it. Right now it’s the only access for local residents to Cairns airport. At the end of the day I want a safe bridge that is suitable for everyone to travel on. I don’t feel I’m in a position to make any further comment without a proper report about its future in front of me.
Probably one of the most talked about matters in Mareeba, The Tablelands and this part of your electorate throughout the first four months of this year has been the push to fast-track the construction of a new, dual lane highway that links Cairns with Mareeba. What is your personal opinion about this project turning into reality?
I haven’t heard and don’t know anything about it. More broadly as a State Government we’ve injected $45m into the Kennedy Highway, specifically between Kuranda and Mareeba - the Kuranda Road is safe and a good road to travel on.
Cynthia, what are you most proud of during your tenure in this part of your electorate?
I’m really happy we purchased and installed a CT scanner at Mareeba Hospital and equally proud about the $3.8m endoscopy service.
At Mareeba State school we constructed a new prep learning centre while at Mareeba High we constructed additional classrooms. From a roads perspective and like I mentioned earlier we upgraded 31km of the Kennedy Highway between Kuranda and Mareeba which resulted in 284 jobs being created.
We’ve also committed $30.5m for works on the Burke Developmental Road. From an infrastructure perspective I’m proud about the Mareeba Airport upgrade, the community hub and the other projects we’ve completed in the community.