Queensland Election 2015. Retiring Labor Mackay MP and Deputy Leader Tim Mulherin with his wife Erin. Picture: Mark Calleja
Queensland Election 2015. Retiring Labor Mackay MP and Deputy Leader Tim Mulherin with his wife Erin. Picture: Mark Calleja

One of Mackay’s fiercest advocates loses cancer battle

ONE of Mackay's fiercest advocates, Tim Mulherin, passed away early this morning.

The Mackay Hospital and Health Service chairman and board member had been fighting for his life after being diagnosed with lung cancer in late 2019

The former Mackay MP has fought to ensure our city got the infrastructure and services it needed for most of his career.

In recent times, he has also been Harrup Park Country Club Board of Directors deputy chairman lobbying for the proposed Great Barrie Reef Arena precinct expansion.

A true gentleman, great husband to wife Erin and a wonderful father of three, he is a great loss to this city and this state.

Mr Mulherin became the Member for Mackay in the Queensland Parliament in 1995 after Edmund Denis Casey retired because of ill health.

He became a member of the third Goss Labor Government, joining a long line of distinguished Labor politicians fighting for this city.

Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies Tim Mulherin MP with Balonne Shire Mayor Donna Stewart. Picture: Karen Berry
Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies Tim Mulherin MP with Balonne Shire Mayor Donna Stewart. Picture: Karen Berry

His parents Leo and Helen, along with wife Erin and her mother Rose Smith, were present during his maiden speech to parliament on September 12 of that year.

"For over 80 years, the Mackay electorate has had continuous representation by a Labor Party member in the Queensland Parliament," he told the parliamentary chamber.

"That is a unique situation. No other electorate can claim continuous representation by the one political party for such a length of time.

"I am very conscious of this long tradition and the history of support that the Mackay electorate has given to the Labor Party.

Tim Mulherin arriving at Parliament House. Picture: Mark Calleja
Tim Mulherin arriving at Parliament House. Picture: Mark Calleja

"I will certainly do my best to carry on that tradition with the goodwill and support of my workers and supporters and the confidence of the electors of Mackay."

Mr Mulherin said he would focus his energy on "the development of all aspects of the Mackay community".

"This means not only economic and industrial development, which is already so strong in Mackay, but also addressing the important social and cultural needs of our community," he said.

"I will be working to ensure that Mackay continues to be recognised as the important regional centre of Queensland that it is."

Tim Mulherin at a costings announcement at Royal on the Park in Brisbane City during the election campaign. Picture: Tara Croser.
Tim Mulherin at a costings announcement at Royal on the Park in Brisbane City during the election campaign. Picture: Tara Croser.

Mr Mulherin went on to play huge roles in some of Mackay's major developments such as the Mackay Ring Road, opening today, new Mackay Base Hospital and port redevelopment.

He has also been involved in sugar industry reform and the Mackay Safety Action Project.

He served as a backbencher until he was named to the Beattie Ministry to replace the disgraced Gordon Nuttall as Primary Industries and Fisheries Minister in December 2005.

In February 2011, his title was again changed, this time to Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies Minister.

Following the 2012 election that decimated the Labor in Queensland, he was instrumental in rebuilding the party while advocating for regional Queensland.

State opposition deputy leader Tim Mulherin visited Gladstone, describing the region as an economic powerhouse not only for Queensland but Australia. Picture: Tom Huntley
State opposition deputy leader Tim Mulherin visited Gladstone, describing the region as an economic powerhouse not only for Queensland but Australia. Picture: Tom Huntley

Mr Mulherin suffered a 16-point swing against him, reducing his majority from a comfortably safe 16 per cent to an extremely marginal 0.5 per cent, making it the most marginal Labor seat in the Assembly.

He was one of only three Labor members elected from outside South East Queensland.

He was elected as deputy leader of what remained of Labor, often known as the Tarago team for its small number, and hence Deputy Opposition Leader.

When Mr Mulherin retired, he was the longest-serving Labor member of the Legislative Assembly, and the only one to have previously served in Opposition before 2012, having been in Parliament during the 1996-98 Coalition ministry of Rob Borbidge.

Opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk with Tim Mulherin in Mackay on her election campaign. Picture: Tara Croser.
Opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk with Tim Mulherin in Mackay on her election campaign. Picture: Tara Croser.

 

Providing Mackay with a first-class hospital and health care was Tim's passion long before he was appointed Board Chair in 2016.

In his maiden speech, he highlighted the need for a redeveloped hospital and the establishment of medical training in north Queensland saying "I am committed to ensuring that Mackay residents receive the best available medical and nursing care."

Mackay Hospital and Health Service board chairman Tim Mulherin, outside the Mackay Base Hospital.
Mackay Hospital and Health Service board chairman Tim Mulherin, outside the Mackay Base Hospital.

As Mackay MP, he tirelessly lobbied a succession of premiers to improve the hospital and eventually $480 million was committed.

In 2015 at the official opening of the redeveloped hospital he told media: "I recall when we had the floods at Glenella in 2008 and the then Premier Anna Bligh came to town, I took her to the hospital first because we had water coming into the theatres and she was just astonished. She gave me her personal commitment that day that we would build a new hospital."

 

Deputy Mayor Darryl Camilleri and Mackay MP Tim Mulherin pay their respects at the Anzac Day Service. Picture: Lee Constable
Deputy Mayor Darryl Camilleri and Mackay MP Tim Mulherin pay their respects at the Anzac Day Service. Picture: Lee Constable

 

In the early 1880s, Tim Mulherin's great grandparents Patrick and Ellen Mulherin migrated to Mackay from Ireland.

They were some of the earliest pioneers in the sugar industry.

One of their sons, Tom Mulherin, founded the first cooperative sugar mill in Queensland, Farleigh Mill, which became the model for the formation of other cooperative mills in the sugar industry.

Another of their sons, John Martin Mulherin, was one of the instigators in constructing of the present outer harbour in Mackay and, in fact, was the longest-serving member of the Mackay Harbour Board, having served from 1934 until his death in 1957.

Mr Mulherin was the eldest of six children of a single-income, working-class family.

In 1975, he worked as a clerk at well-known local firm Michelmores and in 1976 he joined the Queensland Electricity Commission until 1993.

During his employment with the Queensland Electricity Commission, he was employed in the transmission branch, overseeing the day-to-day administration of the Mackay office.

 

Mackay Sugar made a bid to US Navy in the hope its mill's bio-fuels plant would become a supplier to the navy's 'green fleet'. From left: Tim Mulherin, Chris Tindal, Director for Operational Energy for the US Navy and Andrew Cappello, Chairman of Directors for Mackay Sugar. Picture: Peter Holt
Mackay Sugar made a bid to US Navy in the hope its mill's bio-fuels plant would become a supplier to the navy's 'green fleet'. From left: Tim Mulherin, Chris Tindal, Director for Operational Energy for the US Navy and Andrew Cappello, Chairman of Directors for Mackay Sugar. Picture: Peter Holt

"My concerns for my fellow workers led to my involvement as an active member of the Australian Service Union, and I represented the union at both local delegate level and state branch council level," he said.

"In 1993, I resigned from the electricity industry and commenced employment as an organiser for the Labor Party, a position I held until my election as the member for Mackay.

"Because of my family history and work background, I find it easy to relate to people, especially the average working-class people, those being the grassroots people of my electorate.

 

Tim Mulherin, Anna Bligh, Jan Jarratt and Andrew Fraser. Picture: Tony Martin
Tim Mulherin, Anna Bligh, Jan Jarratt and Andrew Fraser. Picture: Tony Martin

"I am looking forward to meeting with community groups to assure them that their views will be noted and acted upon where possible.

"I also hope to provide the people of Mackay with an open-door policy.

"I will do my best for each and every one of my constituents. I also hope to be able to raise local concerns within this Chamber and to provide advice and information to lobby groups within my electorate.

"The priorities in my life are ones that I share with Edmund Casey. These are: family, faith and friends.

"These will certainly be evident in the way that I approach my responsibilities as the member for Mackay."

Frank Mason, Tim Mulherin of Mackay Hospital Foundation and Cr Kevin Casey. Photo Contributed
Frank Mason, Tim Mulherin of Mackay Hospital Foundation and Cr Kevin Casey. Photo Contributed

Mr Mulherin fought for better education opportunities for our children and argued for sustainable development for the city he was passionate about.

"Future developments must not only accommodate our physical needs but also ensure the preservation of the natural environment," he told parliament.

"Change and development must occur in a sustainable way. We owe this to our children and our children's children.

"Mackay's greatest strength is her people."

 

Opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk in Mackay with new local candidate Julieanne Gilbert and Tim Mulherin during the election campaign. Picture: Tara Croser.
Opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk in Mackay with new local candidate Julieanne Gilbert and Tim Mulherin during the election campaign. Picture: Tara Croser.

Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert took over from Mr Mulherin in January 2015 when he retired.

In her maiden speech to parliament, she spoke of his advocacy for a trade training centre in Mackay and other education and training centres for the booming mining and resources industry.

"The hard work and foresight of Edmund and Tim has paid dividends for Mackay," she said. "It has provided equality of opportunity for the residents of Mackay and its region."



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