The show will go on, but it’s unclear how it will end. Of course, this Government has never been scripted, more a Choose Your Own Adventure style of dramatic improv. For years, some expected Trad, the progressive leader of the powerful Left faction, to challenge Palaszczuk for the leadership, or blamed her when the Premier struggled. Now, Trad has gone, in an apparently final show of loyalty, and those who remain may be seen in a different light. Perhaps a new villain will suddenly emerge, or the leader will lose her appeal – Queensland politics is that kind of drama.
As far as forced weekend reshuffles go, and the loss of a foundation member of the leadership team, this one has an extraordinary sense of order about it. That it comes in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis, less than six months out from an election, may, counterintuitively, be a good thing. Unless, of course, Trad was playing a role that provided as much actual stability as perceived instability, a kind of reverse double agent. She will no doubt be watching on with interest to see if her legacy improves.
Undoubtedly, the biggest change is giving Cameron Dick the Treasury portfolio. Like Trad, he has always been regarded as having leadership potential or ambitions. Being Treasurer in an economic crisis is the ultimate test and, coming from the Right faction, he has an opportunity to change the tricky rhetoric around public service numbers and debt. But Dick will need to be careful – this is, of course, where the Newman LNP government came undone so spectacularly.
Steven Miles, the Health Minister, was already managing the pandemic with confidence, and is now, unexpectedly, Deputy Premier as well. To outsiders, that may seem appropriate, but on the inside much will depend on how long the pandemic style of crisis management can hold. All Queenslanders are being asked to have faith in the decisions of government at this time, yet some, including MPs, already harbour resentment or reservations. Leaders need to be able to take people with them, and the election is still far enough away for things to go astray.
Miles was not in Opposition with Palaszczuk or Dick, and does not have broad experience of portfolios (at 42, he becomes deputy at the same age as Trad took on the role). But his performance will be as much dependent on theirs as theirs will be on his; any tension in the Left, on the Right, or between the two dominant factions, will put pressure on the three members of government who need to be doing their jobs at this time. It is an extraordinary balancing act.
Having Kate Jones add state development to her responsibilities is a reflection of the energy she puts into her work. But now, as a senior minister, she also needs to strengthen the leadership team and support the Treasurer for any of this to succeed. After all, Queensland needs to come out of the crisis, and voters want to know what to expect next term.
As much as Trad seemingly drew criticism away from others, she was politically damaged, not unlike the Black Knight in Monty Python. Perceptions of a conflict of interest had already seen her hand responsibility for Cross River Rail to Jones, and responsibility for getting Virgin back in the air to Dick. The Crime and Corruption Commission’s continued interest left Trad in a position of diminished authority. That the CCC is now, ever so slowly, investigating her possible role in the appointment of a school principal in her electorate does not help her chances of holding the seat of South Brisbane for Labor. Politically, Trad’s demise was a death of a thousand cuts.
Palaszczuk’s style of leadership, to the public anyway, never depended on having Trad alongside as a strong, loyal deputy. But the Premier has held her role longer than anyone, and losing Trad may put her under more pressure as head of the government, externally and internally. Any disasters in the coming months will see blame shot down a lightning rod onto someone other than Trad, that’s for sure.
It is worth remembering that this Labor team was formed in adversity, having come together in what was expected to be a long period of opposition, only to defeat the Newman government and then have to work everything else out along the way. As the saying goes, oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them. The Newman government lost, and then the Palaszczuk government didn’t, and here we are less than six months out from an election like no other. The LNP Opposition would still need help winning.
On October 31, the only question for voters is whether the Palaszczuk Government has been focussed on the state’s problems, and doing everything possible to get Queensland back on track. The answer will likely change, again and again, in the months to come, but the stage is set for something different. The Government has no option but to get on with the show.Jump to next article