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Angry Premier denies using polls to make Covid decisions

Politics

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has refused to release expensive research that asked Queenslanders how her government should manage COVID-19, angrily denying the data guided her decisions on the pandemic.

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She rejected suggestions she used the secretive polls of Queenslanders to decide what coronavirus restrictions to impose on the state.

Palaszczuk says the polling was commissioned to make sure government ad campaigns on COVID-19 hit the mark.

Documents obtained by The Australian under right-to-­information show the government spent almost $530,000 seeking Queenslanders’ views on issues including the value of border closures, the economic fallout of lockdowns versus health risks, and what things should trigger eased restrictions.

The market research firm hired to do the polling even asked what advice Queenslanders had for leaders on how to best manage the virus, and if the government should test easing restrictions on a “region-by-region, or sector-by-sector vs all-of-Queensland basis”.

Ipsos Public Affairs provided 17 “waves of ­research” to the government over about a year and its contract has just been extended.

The contract, signed by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, also told Ipsos to delve into how Queenslanders rated the performance of ­individuals in the government, the police service and the health department.

Palaszczuk, who has always insisted her decisions are based solely on health advice, faced a barrage of questions over the polling on Tuesday.

She denied using it to ensure she was making decisions that were popular with voters, citing the backlash she copped from some quarters when she took the lead on short, sharp lockdowns.

“Everyone was yelling at me to open the borders,” she told reporters.

“So don’t talk to me about popularity. Everybody was attacking me when I stood my ground here, and backed the chief health officer’s advice to me, when … it was seen as not being popular out there in the public and it kept Queenslanders safe.”

The premier said she had seen some of the research, but not all of it, but also refused to detail which aspects she had reviewed.

“I’m not going to go in and out of that today for goodness sake.”

Palaszczuk said the COVID-19 Key Insights Project was commissioned to “help with the advertising campaigns that the COVID taskforce put in place” and her actions were guided by the advice of Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young.

“I’ll tell you who helps guide my decision making. This wonderful woman standing to the left of me, who has helped keep Queenslanders safe.”

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