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Jobs, integrity the focus for leaders in election eve scramble for last votes

Decision 2020

Annastacia Palaszczuk and Deb Frecklington have exchanged barbs – and even compliments – at the final election debate.

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While the majority of Queenslanders have already voted, through pre-poll and postal votes, the Labor and Liberal National Party leaders keep campaigning and were able to confront each other directly at today’s debate.

Organised by the Queensland Media Club, the debate attracted some 350 people – the vast majority of whom signalled they had already voted – with tables bought by the parties, unions, big business, lobby groups and lobbyists. It was also broadcast, and the performance from the leaders ranged from upbeat to critical and dismissive, with Palaszczuk even emotional at one point talking about euthanasia.

Unlike other forums, the format of the debate allowed the leaders to ask a question of each other, which led Frecklington to immediately attack Labor’s history of integrity and misconduct scandals and ask how Palaszczuk could be trusted.

In response, Palaszczuk at first reverted to talking about her handlng of the pandemic – “Queenslanders can trust me because every day I’m keeping them safe” – before downplaying the issues Frecklington raised.

“In those issues that she raised, there was never any finding of any corrupt conduct,” Palaszczuk said.

When it was her time to interrogate, Palaszczuk relayed a question from a nurse to ask how Frecklington could be trusted not to sack thousands of workers as the Newman government had done.

In front of several union tables, Frecklington suggested it was akin to a “Dorothy Dixer”question as the LNP would employ 2530 nurses and other health staff and had already ruled out forced redundancies.

“My daughter Lucy is a second-year nursing student,” Frecklington said.

“I get how tough it is and how hard it is to work in the Queensland health system.”

Frecklington then referred to Labor’s planned efficiency dividend in Queensland Health, which the LNP would drop, saying “I would never, ever ask you to work even harder”.

The LNP leader later attacked Jackie Trad, again, and questioned how Palaszczuk could expect to choose her Cabinet when the Premier was clearly a “puppet for the unions”.

Palaszczuk retorted “how are those property developers going?” to applause from the union tables. The Premier had previously raised the issue of Frecklington meeting with developers banned from donating, but said questions about Trad were just playing politics amid the serious issues of the pandemic and recession.

She then attacked Frecklington over her repeated calls to open the Queensland border, telling the audience “we could have ended up like Victoria.”

When it came time to again take questions from Press Gallery journalists, one unexpectedly asked the leaders to nominate a good quality in their rival. Frecklington quipped that “the Premier may need thinking time so I’ll go first” and nominated Palaszczuk’s advocacy for her constituents.

“The Premier has been doing that in the Queensland parliament for 14 years on behalf of her community,” Frecklington said.

Palaszczuk said their fathers were able to get along and relayed a similar compliment to Frecklington.

“We’re all humans, we all just want the best for our families, our communities and our state,” Palaszczuk said.

The leaders mostly repeated their previous public statements on other issues, raising from government debt to the prospects for the economy, and would not be drawn on how they would respond to a hung parliament scenario.

On Labor’s plan to fast-track voluntary assisted dying laws, Palaszczuk revealed she had changed her mind on the issue and for the first time linked it to the death of her grandmother earlier this year.

“It was a very distressing time for me – I couldn’t go and see her when she passed away,” Palaszczuk said, referring to limits on visitors to aged care facilities.

“The day she called me, when she was in pain, I couldn’t go, I had meetings in the city.”

Palaszczuk would vote for euthanasia but Frecklington, who avoided declaring her intentions, questioned why the Premier had “politicised” such a sensitive and complex issue.

“We had a bipartisan agreement to send it to the Law Reform Commission so the right people were writing the legislation,” Frecklington said, claiming it was being fast-tracked to help Labor win the seat of Currumbin.

Frecklington vowed to await the legislation to determine whether there were appropriate boundaries before deciding how she would vote.

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