Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk and Jackie Trad visiting Paniyiri. Pic Peter Wallis
Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk and Jackie Trad visiting Paniyiri. Pic Peter Wallis

Ten Premier ideas to save her skin

WITH 18 months left until the next state election, the Premier needs to radically reset the image of her Government externally and how it operates internally. If she fails, forces with Labor may decide her fate much sooner, writes Steven Wardill

Federal Labor's dire support in the Sunshine State on Saturday - which was barely more than one in four voters - is being blamed on the performance of the Palaszczuk Government.

Bill Shorten's terrible campaign and Labor's suite of unpopular and divisive policies were the key reasons why Scott Morrison was re-elected.

However, it's undeniable that the Palaszczuk administration's maladministration played a part in the Queensland result, particularly it's stalling on Adani's controversial Carmichael coal mine.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk arrives to open the Riverway Drive duplication project in Townsville. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk arrives to open the Riverway Drive duplication project in Townsville. Picture: Zak Simmonds

The swings against Labor in regional and outer-urban areas has now lit a fire within Palaszczuk's caucus that has been smouldering for some time. There's now widespread talk among MPs, party stalwarts and unions leaders that Palaszczuk, her influential deputy Jackie Trad, or both, may have to be forced out.

The Premier tried to douse these flames with the staggering statement that she was "fed up" with her own Government's efforts on Adani and demanded her bureaucrats get together to decide a deadline.

It won't be enough.

With 18 months left until the next Queensland election, Palaszczuk needs to radically reset the image of her Government externally and how it operates internally. If she fails, forces with Labor may decide her fate much sooner.

 

Here's 10 ways she should start:

 

1: Cancel Japan trade trip

The optics of Palaszczuk and Trad in South Brisbane on Sunday denying Adani had anything to do with the Federal election was a massive own goal. It convinced many she'd developed a tin ear towards the electorate and caused further unrest in caucus.

Leaving Trad in charge and jetting out on what will be seen as a jaunt would be matters even worse.

Rather than board a business -class flight on Sunday, the Premier should make a virtue of cancelling her trade trip and calling her disgruntled caucus together to thrash out issues.

 

2: Approve the Carmichael coal mine

Declaring she is effectively "fed up" with herself is not going to cut it with Queenslanders.

Regional voters have already made it clear at the ballot box that they don't believe the Palaszczuk Government's protestations that it hasn't politicised the approval process.

Kicking the can down the road won't work because her caucus colleagues will be back banging on the Premier's door if the Carmichael mine approval drags on.

Palaszczuk needs to get the Department of Environment to approve Adani's outstanding management plans and be seen as the one to do it.

Coal at the Port of Brisbane. Picture: AAP image/John Gass
Coal at the Port of Brisbane. Picture: AAP image/John Gass

 

3: Reshuffle Cabinet

Palaszczuk needs to stamp her authority on an underperforming Cabinet, sack mendicant ministers and promote more regional members. Environment, Science and Arts Minister Leanne Enoch needs to be the first to go, or at least shifted to another portfolio. She's been a liability on Adani, constantly struggling to explain the process and ineffective on the Government's waste levy and container deposit scheme.

Kate Jones is an asset in search of something to do and needs to have Commonwealth Games finally removed from her title and given greater responsibilities.

Ministers focused on issues, not departmental functions, could work.

Leanne Enoch. Picture: AAP Image/Steve Pohlner
Leanne Enoch. Picture: AAP Image/Steve Pohlner

 

4: Listening tour

The Premier's Mackay mea culpa about Adani was straight out of Peter Beattie's playbook but far less convincing.

She will need to do more to reconnect with regional Queensland and another famed play of Beattie' was the listening tour.

A series of town hall meetings across the state, with a fresh Cabinet in tow, would show voters that the Government wants to hear about their concerns.

Palaszczuk has shown she has few equals when it comes to these types of interactions with voters.

It's where her authenticity comes out and, after all, it was this quality that was got her elected.

 

5: Sorry shouldn't be so

hard to say

Palaszczuk needs to say sorry.

She doesn't need to say sorry for federal Labor or Shorten, like she did this week. She needs to say sorry for the failings of her own Government which many Queenslanders now view as uncaring.

Contrition is a quality that the Premier has not been able to muster but she must learn how.

Instead, the Government likes to defend and laud its own efforts which comes off looking aloof and arrogant.

The ongoing youth justice scandal is a prime example where an apology was appropriate.

 

6: Get kids out of adult watch houses

The juvenile justice scandal is a demonstration that doing nothing has consequences.

With kids being routinely locked up with adult criminals because the state's two youth detention centres are full, there's a risk this issue will become a proxy for Government inaction.

Little wonder Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath happily gave up youth justice this term given she failed to alleviate the problem.

It will eat away at public confidence in the Government if it can't make the morally appropriate move to put these children to a more acceptable location.

 

7: Stare down union bosses

For too long the Palaszczuk Government has appeared like puppets of the union movement.

While the relationship needed mending after the Bligh administration's annihilation, the pervasive influence of unions continually makes Palaszczuk look weak.

It has also led to some perverse decisions that will prove costly for Queenslanders.

The current move to only allow licensed electricians to fit solar panels will cost hundreds of blue-collar workers in the industry their jobs.

The decision to bring privatised prisons back into the public sector will cost a bomb at a time when the State Budget can't afford it.

 

8: Commission of Audit

Next month's State Budget looms as the next big challenge.

Treasury had been banking on a federal Labor government digging the Government out of a financial hole that it has created for itself. Without those federal funds the situation looks grim.

A freefalling property sector, an array of new spending commitments and heroic forecasts of spending restraint may force the Budget into deficit and cause another credit downgrade.

Fresh ideas to free up funds is what's needed.

The Newman government called in former federal treasurer Peter Costello to conduct an audit.

Maybe someone should check if Paul Keating has some spare time.

Budget
Budget

 

9: Sack staff

Palaszczuk's communication strategy has been woeful all term.

Her speech to Labor's state conference where she threatened to take staff off Katter's Australia Party means the Premier could face the ignominy of being found in contempt of Parliament.

The Premier's office recently lost its best strategic mind when former state secretary Evan Moorhead quit to set up his own consultancy.

It has left Palaszczuk surrounded mostly by sycophants without the wherewithal to provide proper advice and successfully sell her message.

Experienced and talented operatives like Mike Kaiser are needed to reshape the way the administration operates.

 

10: Get her hands dirty

Palaszczuk now operates more like a sovereign than a state leader.

Her staff are convinced her popularity must be protected so she functions like a separate entity to her own administration. They align her with feel-good topics like movies productions and remove her whenever possible when the going gets tough.

This strategy won't work any longer with Labor on the back foot. Palaszczuk needs to get her hands dirty on every issue. She needs to be seen to be front and centre of all major decisions.

Labor needs a leader and if Palaszczuk doesn't do it the party will find someone else.



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