Queensland Labor is in a spot of bother, and it revolves more around its leader than its position in the polls.
Labor knows how good it is in a campaign. Coming from behind is not a verdict, just a challenge, and repeatedly – at both the State and Federal level – it has proved that only fools underestimate its ability to claw its way back into the race.
That means while it is alert, it is not alarmed at polls showing the party is at serious risk of losing the treasury benches on polling day, in a year’s time.
Party decision-makers nominate David Crisafulli’s ‘thin skin’ and the lack of depth in the LNP ranks as two big dents in the Opposition’s armoury.
But it knows it has its own snags that need to be sorted out for it to have the confidence of winning a fourth term in power.
The rising influence and representation of the Greens is one of those, and it knows that several key Labor MPs are likely to lose their seats as a consequence. Education Minister Grace Grace heads that list.
But the party’s bigger problem is sitting in the the Labor leader’s office, and to steal one of the best show tunes of all time, it is unsure how to solve a problem like Annastacia.
“She doesn’t listen to anyone anymore. No-one.’’ “I’m not sure where she takes her advice from, but it’s not us.’’
Two innocuous comments – except that they come from two of the party’s most senior operators, who have until recently fiercely supported the premier.
Indeed the support Annastacia Palaszczuk boasted on her election dwindled away to near nothing: backbenchers are openly saying that she is now risking their jobs, senior public servants are looking for alternative jobs, and voters, wanting help, are wondering why she’s turned her back on them.
That’s a damning assessment, but comes from those who were paid up members of her cheer squad only a few years ago; those who pinpointed her as the party’s electoral show girl, and told all and sundry that she had, at previous elections, carried the party across the line.
No more. For some reason, and it is not clear, the Premier started to listen to her minders more than those who elected her; especially her media minders. She decided that victims of crime might be trouble-makers or didn’t deserve her time, and that it was better to hide away than be publicly accountable.
There are a few ways of solving a problem like Annastacia, and those inside the party are unsure which will play out first.
In politics, as in business, a crisis is never wasted and party minders know that the cruel but predicted bushfire gives the Premier a stage, in the same way floods sent Anna Bligh’s stocks sky-high back in 2011. Sad, but true.
That is potentially the only way that she will survive, according to many.
Secondly, the Premier will see that her cheer squad around the decision-making table has almost disappeared; that in a big government she has few friends who are actively lobbying for her to stay in charge.
And that might prompt her to step aside. But that’s unlikely. The fact that those who share the table with her – including the State Treasurer – were unaware she’d slipped overseas on holidays points to a level of dysfunction we should not see in any government.
So that leaves a coup, of sorts. Not a Caucus coup which is now almost impossible, but a Labor Party-type coup, when the unelected bosses decide it’s time to go and enact a plan that is as uncompromising as it is ruthless.
That’s looking more and more likely. Indeed Labor bigwigs don’t believe any new leader even needs to be too charismatic – as long as they are a team player, willing to listen to voters, and believe it is teamwork that will give Labor another win.
That would be unfair on a Premier who, in her first couple of terms, listened and learned and led real reform.
But that was yesterday. What’s her plan for Queensland tomorrow? Where’s the sense of purpose, the determination to leave a legacy that carries voters to a better life? An inkling of a vision?
Instead daily now, we hear trivial and unexplainable decisions being attributed to her: refusing interviews, wanting to choose those reporters to whom she grants a hearing, taking holidays without telling her Cabinet colleagues, and ignoring victims of crime who just want to be heard.
“It’s not Labor. It’s the leader.’’
Another quote, but this time from a Labor voter. And it tells the story of a leader who has lost her way.
The Party knows that. It’s just struggling to work out how to solve a problem like Annastacia; a problem voters now see as a flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! Perhaps even a clown!
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