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Champagne, burgers then back to work for virus-busting Deputy Premier

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A glass of champagne with staff and a double cheeseburger with the family before Queensland’s new Deputy Premier got back to work.

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Health Minister Steven Miles described Monday’s champagne moment as “brief” and joked that the burgers made by his son were not “Chief Health Officer approved”.

In taking on his new role as Deputy Premier, Miles also spoke to his predecessor Jackie Trad, who resigned from Cabinet and the leadership team due to an ongoing Crime and Corruption Commission investigation.

“She is understandably upset at the course of events however, as I’ve said to you, she has done the right thing to avoid further distraction to the government and the party,” Miles said of his Left faction colleague.

Trad is being investigated over claims she inappropriately interfered in the appointment of a principal for a new school in her electorate of South Brisbane. She has denied wrong-doing.

After Trad resigned at the weekend, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk elevated Miles, handed the key role of Treasurer to Cameron Dick – in the process shifting the budget from the Left faction to the Right – and gave Kate Jones the added responsibility of state development.

Miles today said “the four of us will work well together, we will lead the government well”.

During the pandemic, Miles has fronted the media most days and managed the state’s response to the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. Today, there were no new diagnoses to announce, only six additional cases being transferred from interstate, taking the Queensland tally to 1051.

On World Nurses Day, Miles also took the opportunity to praise frontline staff and urged Queenslanders to rally behind nurses, saying “today is a day for us to thank them”.

Perhaps befitting his additional duties, Miles was not joined by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for today’s media conference, instead left to respond on behalf of the government to questions on broader issues.

Miles said he believed Education Queensland would have followed due process in standing aside a senior official due to the CCC investigation and the minister, Grace Grace, did not appear to have a case to answer.

“That’s all being investigated by the CCC but I’ve seen nothing to suggest that the minister herself had any role to play,” Miles told reporters.

Asked if Labor had a better chance of securing regional seats without Trad, the Deputy Premier suggested the government had performed well all year but now had a strong leadership team to focus on the state’s economic recovery.

“I like to say the health response was the first stage of the economic response,” Miles said.

“You’ll see in places where they’ve failed in the health response the economic cost has been, and I believe will be, far, far greater.

“But clearly, the leadership team, the entire cabinet, the entire government now need to shift our focus to creating jobs and restarting those jobs right across the entire state.”

Initially, Miles will remain focussed on his health responsibilities – Labor is still governing in crisis mode – but said he was “looking forward to playing more of a leadership role within the government, working more closely with the Premier and Cameron and Kate”.

With an election due on October 31, Miles said he would campaign alongside every Labor candidate – including Trad in South Brisbane. If Trad retained her seat next term, Miles expected her to have a “long and substantial contribution to make” but stopped short of commenting on any Cabinet return should the Labor government be re-elected.

Last week, before the CCC advised Trad that its long-running assessment of the allegations had become a formal investigation, she declined to comment on her own future, saying she was only focussed on saving the jobs of Queenslanders.

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