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Not telling: Premier insists polling data on pandemic will stay a secret

Politics

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has doubled down on her refusal to give Queenslanders access to research reports about their views on how her government handled the pandemic.

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Under intense questioning over the data for the second day running, she denied the taxpayer-funded research on her government’s pandemic strategy was shared with campaign staff working to get Labor re-elected.

The research began before last year’s state election and asked Queenslanders for their views about how the government had managed COVID-19.

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet commissioned the work, which cost $528,000, and Palaszczuk has described it as “sentiment testing” needed to make sure the government’s pandemic ads and public messaging hit the mark.

But the opposition claims taxpayers have paid for opinion polling designed for political gain, and that it gave Labor an unfair advantage leading into the October election.

Market researchers hired by the premier’s department asked Queenslanders about issues including the merit of border closures to deal with the virus, and whether the government should trial a region-by-region approach to easing restrictions.

Queenslanders were also asked what advice they had for leaders to best manage the virus.
And market researchers were told to delve into how Queenslanders rated the performance of individuals in the government, the police service and the health department.

A report in The Australian newspaper has quoted unnamed Labor insiders as saying the research helped shape the government’s re-election strategy.

Palaszczuk responded with a terse “no” when she was asked on Wednesday if the material was ever shared with Labor’s campaign staff.

She said she’d seen “only very limited amounts” of the research but would not say what that related to.

“It was market research and sentiment testing and no, it won’t be released,” she told reporters.

When asked why it would remain secret, she said: “Because every state and the federal government has also done the exact same market research and sentiment testing.”

When pushed about whether that was a valid reason not to release it, she said:
“Well go and ask all the other state premiers and go and ask the prime minister.”

The premier has always said her decisions on how to manage the pandemic have been informed by the advice of Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, who she described on Tuesday as a “wonderful woman” who had kept the state safe.

The opposition says the Palaszczuk should release Young’s health advice, and the market research, so voters can determine how she made crucial pandemic decisions that affected the lives of millions of people.

Palaszczuk has cited the criticism she received for closing the border as evidence she didn’t use the research to make decisions that would be popular with Queenslanders.

“Everyone was yelling at me to open the borders,” she said earlier this week.

“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.”

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