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The Premier for keeping people happy should know she also needs to keep them interested

Opinion

Annastacia Palaszczuk is a quarter of the way through an unprecedented four year term of government. Is she making the most of it, asks Dennis Atkins.

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As we watched the virus continue to dominate Queensland – and Australian – life in 2021, the premiers maintained their dominant presence in local and national politics.

They were heroes and heroines, the good and the bad, the recipients of blame and those dishing out blame.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison found them infuriating, frustrating his often simple narratives and serving as obstacles in his relentless drive for re-election.

In Queensland, these elements again combined to preserve Annastacia Palaszczuk’s position as the most visible and consequential politician in the state and one of the key players on the national stage.

Morrison might have told close confidants he couldn’t “abide her” preferring the company of the male Labor state and territory leaders but he couldn’t ignore her.

Palaszczuk also became an easy foil for the Jaffa rollers in the cheap seats, someone to sneer at for her folksy style or, even more offensive, her unashamed populism – otherwise known as giving the voters things they like.

Sometimes the Queensland premier and her government didn’t help their own cause, fumbling communications, failing to get in front of problems and issues and wasting time on wasting time.

It’s hard to believe this government is a quarter of its way through the first four year any administration has had the luxury to enjoy. What have they got to show for it?

There are three major things: they survived without insurmountable scandal, they delivered a better budget than any of the six that went before and the lives and livelihoods of most people in the state were protected.

Securing the 2032 Olympics should be noted but that is an investment in the future with any return at least six or seven years away.

However, there were as many missed opportunities, even if they were mostly of a lesser nature.

Foremost, Palaszczuk and her ministers missed the opportunity to shake up the way the business of government is conducted.

Just about everyone with a keen interest in public sector reform – including some influential players inside the government – know the old school silo approach to running things has had its day.

People continue to mutter “watch this space” but many observers will lose patience and interest.

One burr under the government’s saddle is the tension between Deputy Premier and State Development minister Steven Miles and Treasurer Cameron Dick.

The competitive search for big projects and major state initiatives occupies too much time without enough tangible results. If the roles and responsibilities could be sorted, more effort might go into actually delivering projects and priorities.

There have been some serious achievements in Miles’s area but greater drive and more creative ways to spread the news could help.

Nowhere has the lack of bureaucratic reform been more apparent than in the way Queensland Health continues to have failures in administering the system, planning the infrastructure for the future and delivering services for the people.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath is as good as any in the role since Lawrence Springborg held the job for the LNP during the Campbell Newman experiment.

From all accounts she has an open mind on change and reform and is willing to call a problem out and try to get something done.

The government also has to confront the melodramatic saga of the Crime and Corruption Commission, a crime busting and integrity outfit that has, to be painfully polite, lost its way.

Running a clear favourite for the worst integrity/anti corruption body in the country, the CCC has become mired in chasing parked cars, pursuing vanity projects and lacking the most basic understanding of what official misconduct is (let alone real wrongdoing).

The government seems a little unsure about what to do.

Leaving things almost as they are should not be an option regardless of any fear of the consequences of significant change. That would be a real mistake and a lost opportunity to reform a body that’s lost public support and confidence as well as failed to fulfill its purpose.

At the moment, you wouldn’t bet on the CCC’s busted crime buster, Alan MacSporran QC, still being in the job after Easter.

Palaszczuk is by nature a cautious leader – at first a necessity because of the complex, fractionally driven nature of Queensland Labor politics – and the public clearly likes that about her.

However, twelve months into what will be 48 months in this term is probably a good time to take stock and question whether a bit of assertiveness and intervention might be a good way to frame the year ahead.

Keeping the public happy is important. Keeping them interested can be harder.

On the other side of state politics David Crisafulli has wasted time, failed to make any impression on the public and put his lack of judgment and political skills on display by a completely hollow man response to the voluntary assisted dying legislation.

He’s lucky there’s no one in his parliamentary team ready or able to take on the worst job in Queensland.

When Crisafulli took on the job 14 months ago, he said he wasn’t going to be the typical Opposition leader, resisting the urge to chase easy headlines by complaining about everything that goes by and reacting to the story of the day with a painfully rehearsed one-liner.

Crisafulli said he was going to be constructive and put forward alternative policies and ideas.

He’s failed on every metric. No wonder he’s known as “fig jam” around Brisbane board rooms.

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