10 May 2023

STATEMENT: Cape York Weekly deserves an apology from Cynthia Lui

| Matt Nicholls
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The unjustified Facebook post from Cynthia Lui on Friday, August 26. It has since been deleted.

Earlier this month, Sea Swift announced it would be putting up its freight costs by 14.5 per cent from September.

It is a massive increase – on top of a fuel levy it already imposes – and will have a major impact on the cost of living in Cape York and the Torres Strait.

After we reported this, Member for Cook Cynthia Lui put this post (with the accompanying Cape York Weekly article) on her Facebook page on August 17:

Cynthia Lui’s Facebook post on August 17.

A Cape York Weekly reporter then reached out directly to Ms Lui with the intention of asking her to elaborate on her statement and share her concerns with a broader audience on what the price increases would have on her communities.

She did not return the phone call.

We then emailed her office with questions and received a response that showed a lack of respect for the issue and the constituents who are facing record cost-of-living pressures.

In the email response, which can be read below, Ms Lui pointed to the Queensland government’s $175 Cost of Living Rebate, a discount on electricity bills throughout the state.

The questions put to Cynthia Lui and the response in blue. The last question went unanswered.

What is concerning is that Ms Lui did not seem to understand that the majority of her constituents in Cape York and the Torres Strait were not eligible for the rebate.

Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities rely on prepaid power. To put it simply, they aren’t allowed to have an account with Ergon Energy and must buy prepaid power cards from their community store.

Weipa also has its power supplied by Rio Tinto’s diesel generators and those residents were also unable to access the rebate.

Disappointed with the response, Cape York Weekly editor Matt Nicholls responded to the email:

Editor Matt Nicholls’ response to the lacklustre answers provided by Ms Lui’s office.

It should also be pointed out that Sea Swift – the largest marine shipping company in Far North Queensland – is owned by the state government’s investment arm, the Queensland Investment Corporation. That means the body specifically purchased Sea Swift with the purpose of making a profit.

Sea Swift’s core business is to provide freight and groceries to remote communities in northern Australia. In Queensland, the majority of those are Indigenous communities.

The original story was not intended to be an attack on Sea Swift – the increase in freight is in line with other increases in the industry.

It was intended to be a story on how our most remote communities, who already pay more than most for goods and services, will struggle to cope with the major price increase.

Cape York Weekly prides itself on standing up for our communities. Our record speaks for itself. We have been able to shine a light on the region’s telecommunications issues, a major shortage of housing, the standard of our unsealed roads, the need for more bridges and many other subjects.

When Cynthia Lui posted this on her Facebook account on Friday evening, we were disappointed:

This is the full post Cynthia Lui put on her Facebook page, which has since been deleted.

To accuse us of bullying when we simply wanted our MP to comment on a major issue in the region is unjustified. And it was hurtful. Cape York Weekly has since received some unsavoury messages since that post, which was eventually deleted.

We are now asking for an apology from Ms Lui and an explanation on why she refuses to engage with the media in her electorate. It’s not just Cape York Weekly that has had a problem getting the MP to speak either on the phone or in person. The Express in Mareeba, the Cairns Post and ABC Far North has also had difficulty getting access to Ms Lui, who is in her fifth year as the Member for Cook.

The people of Cape York and the Torres Strait deserve an MP who is willing to engage with her constituents and be their voice.

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