Police will probe whether Whitsundays MP Jason Costigan's trip to a locked-down town last week was essential travel, after it angered residents.
Police will probe whether Whitsundays MP Jason Costigan's trip to a locked-down town last week was essential travel, after it angered residents.

MP investigated over trip during COVID-19 lockdown

EMBATTLED Whitsundays MP Jason Costigan is under investigation amid allegations he entered a remote community to spruik a candidate for his fledgling political party during stringent COVID-19 restrictions.

The former LNP member sparked outrage after travelling to Cooktown, which has been in lockdown since March to protect the region's indigenous communities, to announce the new candidate for his party NQ First in the seat of Cook.

A video posted to Mr Costigan's Facebook account on Friday shows him on the banks of the Endeavour River at Cooktown with new candidate, former long-serving Wujal Wujal mayor, Desmond Tayley.

Jason Costigan with Desmond Tayley.
Jason Costigan with Desmond Tayley.

In the video, Costigan acknowledged the traditional owners of the land, but his presence in the town angered locals who questioned the risks associated with him being there.

Only returning residents - who are required to self-isolate for two weeks at designated hotels - essential workers and individuals who are granted exemptions are able to visit the remote community.

The first shots have been fired in the Battle for Cook!

Posted by Jason Costigan MP, Leader, NQ First & Member for Whitsunday on Friday, 15 May 2020

A Queensland Police Service spokeswoman confirmed an investigation had been launched this week.

"The Queensland Police Service is aware Mr Costigan travelled to Cooktown, and confirms an investigation is currently underway," she said.

"As this matter remains under investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment any further."

He is the second MP to come under scrutiny in relation to COVID-19 regulations after opposition police minister Trevor Watts was fined for attending a street party last month.

Jason Costigan just north of the Cooktown check point last week.
Jason Costigan just north of the Cooktown check point last week.

Mr Costigan told The Courier-Mail yesterday he had not been contacted by police since entering the remote community.

He also said he took appropriate measures before travelling in Cooktown, including having his temperature checked.

"We went through the appropriate paperwork and checks and balances," he said.

"I haven't had a phone call from the cops."

In a statement, Mr Costigan said he spoke to a high-ranking north Queensland police officer prior to his trip, who informed him that his work as a politician was essential.

Commenters on Mr Costigan's Facebook page have widely condemned his actions

"People are not accessing cancer treatments, essential medical procedures are being put off, not to mention no-one can visit their loved ones - yet you're 'Man About Town' the day before publicly flaunting your disregard for Cook Shire residents," one woman said.

"Not too sure what, if any, thought went into this stunt, but I feel sorry for Desmond."

Wujal Wujal Mayor Desmond Tayley. Picture: Stewart McLean
Wujal Wujal Mayor Desmond Tayley. Picture: Stewart McLean

A man who also commented said he wasn't able to get into Cooktown to see his dying father.

"Jason, a question for you, how do you get essential travel out of playing politics? … I can't come and see my father in cooktown who is dying of cancer? How can you get there for political bulls**t?" The man wrote.

Mr Costigan was expelled by the Liberal National Party amid unfounded allegations of sexual harassment in February 2019.

He started his own political party soon after and received an apology over the false allegations earlier this year.

Originally published as MP investigated over trip during COVID-19 lockdown


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