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Labor's one-time rising star Mike Kaiser lands back in government ranks

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Almost 20 years after resigning as an MP amid branch-stacking claims, Mike Kaiser is back – this time in the bureaucracy.

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After leading Labor to a third consecutive term in power, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has named Kaiser the acting director-general of the resources department. Key stakeholders were given prior notice of the move, part of an ongoing shake-up of the upper echelons of government. It will give Kaiser responsibility for mining and the state’s landholdings, although energy and hydrogen are being transferred elsewhere.

Kaiser will take on the temporary role in January, in what Palaszczuk described as a three-month appointment subject to the position being advertised, put through a merit-based selection process, and refilled on an ongoing basis. The same will apply for the Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport, which for the time being will be headed by the only other newcomer, John Lee, a partner with Newgate Communications.

Most other directors-general will continue in the roles they filled before the election, including Department of the Premier and Cabinet head Dave Stewart and Under Treasurer Rachel Hunter.

The Premier said she had a high expectation that directors-generals be focused on supporting her ministers to serve the people of Queensland.

“We’ve got a big job ahead of us and I expect everyone to roll up their sleeves and get on with our COVID recovery,” she said.

Kaiser, the one-time Member for Woodridge and former Labor state secretary, is well-regarded and was seen as a future leader until, early in his first term, he was embroiled in allegations investigated by the Shepherdson Inquiry. The inquiry also brought the downfall of then deputy premier Jim Elder and other Labor figures.

Kaiser worked in the private sector for a while before returning to politics as a federal Labor official. He was then hired as chief of staff to then NSW premier Morris Iemma and, following that, then Queensland Premier Anna Bligh in late 2007.

Kaiser worked for the NBNCo, under the federal Labor government of Kevin Rudd, before joining consultancy firm KPMG in mid-2015. Earlier this year, it emerged Kaiser, through KPMG, was advising the Palaszczuk government on issues relating to COVID-19 (as was Lee and his Newgate Communications). A local tabloid newspaper even profiled Kaiser and speculated the 57-year-old might be “playing a long game” to return to Queensland politics.

But not everyone was as forgiving. Opposition frontbencher Jared Bleijie said Palaszczuk had thrown Kaiser “a lifeline with a highly paid consulting gig”.

“Kaiser is the second Shepherdson figure to return to the Queensland government,” Bleijie told parliament.

“Admitted electoral fraudster David Barbagallo was, until recently, the Premier’s chief of staff.”

Barbagallo left amid a Crime and Corruption Commission probe of a government investment in one of his companies.

Palaszczuk’s announcement today confirmed all the other directors-general – including her top bureaucrat Dave Stewart, Coordinator-General Toni Power and Under Treasurer Rachel Hunter – would stay on in their existing roles.

 

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