George Christensen 'takes gloves off' over job cut claims

THE TRUCE is over.

That's what Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen has told Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert in an email with the subject line "The gloves are off?" dated March 31, 2016.

The email followed The Daily Mercury's front page story, also on March 31, headlined 'Hospital Jobs in Firing Line', detailing Mrs Gilbert's concern about the Federal Government's funding to hospitals.

In it, Mrs Gilbert called on Mr Christensen to "explain to our community why he thinks we deserve sub-standard health care".

But in Mr Christensen's opinion the comment flew in the face of an "understanding" the two politicians had come to, which he had proposed following debate last year about whether or not the region should provide a home to Syrian refugees.

Yesterday he released a series of emails detailing how he believed the agreement had been formed.

On July 21, 2015 Mr Christensen had written to Mrs Gilbert and said: "After this week's skirmish, I propose the same thing - a truce. That we hold back from criticising each other's action or criticising each other publicly by name. We would still be free to attack each others' respective governments and parties and also to help campaign for our side but we steer clear of attacking each other by name or action".

The next day, Mrs Gilbert replied: "Thanks for your message. I agree. I think we are both here to do the same thing - to work hard for the good of our communities. This week has been an unwanted and unnecessary distraction."

But Mrs Gilbert said she agreed to the notion they each needed to hold the communities best interests at heart, not to a formal agreement.

And she said her comments about hospital funding did not fall into the category of "squabbling" Mr Christensen mentioned in his email a fortnight ago.

The latest "Gloves off then?" email from Mr Christensen read: "I thought there was an understanding not to drag each other into federal-state political squabbling locally? I have religiously kept to this agreement we had. The front page today obviously means you're not to be taken at your word. I'm very disappointed. From here on in I will be calling you out personally for the many failures of the State govt (sic) locally".

Yesterday, Mr Christensen reiterated he was "very disappointed" and said he would be standing by his promise to highlight "the long list" of local government failings in the region.

"There's plenty," he said.

"When it comes to the State Government there's been a lot of issues I've been very muted on.

"She (Mrs Gilbert) has just got the job and she needs to learn there's more to it than having tea and scones and jam."

He also suggested Mrs Gilbert's recent comments may have stemmed from a desire to aid her husband Frank Gilbert's campaign, as Mr Gilbert will be running against Mr Christensen at the next federal election.

Mrs Gilbert fervently denied that claim.

"I have a job to do. My husband and I have always had separate careers," she said.

"In my role, I need to advocate for my region.

"I think I have been standing up for Mackay and if I don't agree with federal budget matters I'm going to say so."

Mrs Gilbert said she would call Mr Christensen on several matters, including Federal Government funding for health and education, the lack of federal politician consensus on a $100 million rescue package for the north and details surrounding his proposal for a North Queensland state.

Mr Christensen equally said he would be calling Mrs Gilbert on what he claimed was a lack of support for the ring road, the State Government's refusal to grant Adani dredging approvals at Abbot Point before financial assurances were given and a lack of support for the Bowen Basin service link.



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