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Government stunned as Labor star Kate Jones walks away from politics


One of the Queensland Government’s most popular and high profile ministers, Kate Jones, has announced her retirement from politics, the third Palaszczuk Government Minister to do so in less than a week.

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The Tourism and State Development Minister revealed her decision to quit political life, on the last sitting day of Parliament before the October state election.

Ms Jones has long been considered one of the Government’s strongest performers, regularly relied upon for her negotiation skills.

Her decision to quit politics is a blow to the Labor Government.

“It has been a very rewarding and humbling journey for me, with all the highs and lows that political life can throw at you,” Ms Jones told Parliament.

“I would like to thank everyone who has guided me and influenced me along the way.”

The fiery politician is famously known for unseating then LNP premier Campbell Newman in 2015 when she regained the seat of Ashgrove — having lost it to Mr Newman in 2012.

Ms Jones became emotional as she recounted the experience.

“That loss strengthened my resolve,” she said.

“And Mr Speaker to win back the trust of my local community, of the people in my local area, has been a true honour and a privilege.”

Ms Jones first held the seat of Ashgrove from 2006 for two terms and served as environment minister under the Labor government led by Anna Bligh.

The electorate has since been renamed the seat of Cooper.

Ms Jones also led the planning and running of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.

She becomes the second Labor frontbencher today to quit state politics.

Earlier today, Mines Minister Anthony Lynham announced he also would not be running again.

Last weekend, Disability Services Minister Coralee O’Rourke also announced her decision to retire.

Lynham, Labor’s two-term member for Stafford, told parliament he could not continue to represent his constituents “100 per cent” while trying to maintain his registration as a maxillofacial surgeon.

“The people of Stafford, and indeed Queensland, deserve 100 per cent,” Lynham said, opting to instead focus on his medical career.

Like O’Rourke, the Member for Mundingburra, Minister Lynham had denied retirement rumours and speculation of factional ructions in the days leading up to the announcement.

State Development, Tourism and Innovation Minister Kate Jones kept her plans secret until she confirmed her pending retirement this afternoon.

First elected in 2006, Jones lost her seat of Ashgrove to incoming LNP premier Campbell Newman in 2012, only to defeat him in 2015 as Labor returned to power. She advised Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of her intentions last night.

“This has been a very difficult decision for me and my family,” Jones told parliament, using her valedictory speech to again champion Labor values and the need to level the playing field for women.

Lynham and Jones chose to confirm their intentions on the last sitting day of parliament, already a raucous affair due to the debate over border restrictions and budget management during the pandemic.

Deputy Opposition leader Tim Mander later declared the government was “crumbling”.

Jones, who holds the record of the youngest minister to be appointed in Queensland, has been part of the core leadership team and played a crucial role in the government’s response to the recession.

Lynham may have one last portfolio matter to deal with. Last week, the Minister received the interim report from the Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry, and has asked for advice on what information about safety issues he can release, and act on, without jeopardising “any potential future prosecutions”.

If Labor is re-elected, Palaszczuk would have to undertake her second Cabinet reshuffle in six months, after long-time deputy premier Jackie Trad stepped down in May.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington led the attack on the Government in question time today, criticising the apparent contradictions in border exemption policies. Palaszczuk again accused the LNP of politicising sensitive issues.

The LNP, in turn, copped an unanticipated barrage of complaints and allegations from former member Jason Costigan, who was disendorsed over his dealings with people. Costigan may not hold the seat of Whitsunday on his own.

Speaker Curtis Pitt is also considering a last-ditch effort from the LNP to force more scrutiny on the Government. Frontbencher Tim Nicholls said the appropriation bills introduced after Treasurer Cameron Dick’s budget update this week were unconstitutional as they were not sent off for committee scrutiny.

Dick, who has offered himself up for a short period of committee scrutiny tomorrow, told parliament he had acted in accordance with the constitution. He said he had advice that the bills were not for a full budget period and therefore did not require a referral to committee.

One of Queensland’s leading tourism industry figures has described Kate Jones as “perhaps the best Tourism Minister in the state’s history” following news of her decision to leave Parliament.

ASM Global (Asia Pacific) Chairman and Chief Executive Harvey Lister said Ms Jones’ input had been strongly valued by the tourism industry since she took over the portfolio in 2015.

“Kate Jones has been a very active and successful advocate of the tourism and events industry in this state,” Lister said. “She has been a significant supporter of bidding for major events and has been particularly supportive of the 2032 Olympics bid.

“The tourism industry in this state would probably agree that Kate Jones is perhaps the best Tourism Minister in the state’s history. She will be missed and we wish her the very best for the next step in her career.”

ASM Global has a strong presence in the state’s tourism industry through its operation of Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane and Cairns Convention Centres, Brisbane Entertainment Centre, and as the proponent of the Brisbane Live entertainment precinct at Roma Street.

Lister said he hoped next Queensland Tourism Minister would show similar enthusiasm for the role.

“This is such an important industry for this state,” Mr Lister said. “There has never been a more important time to ensure that we continue with strong leadership in this portfolio.”

-ABC, Sean Parnell

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