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A Look at Queensland’s New Ministry

Two weeks have passed since the shock result of the state election in Queensland. The Electoral Commission of Queensland has declared all 89 seats and confirmed a surprise Labor Government, just three years after the ALP were spectacularly turfed out of office. On Sunday, new Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk unveiled her first ministry to the waiting public.

Unsurprisingly, given the turnaround in electoral fortune, it contains a significant proportion of inexperienced ministers, with a few old faces returning to the frontbench. There are some good choices and some bad ones and also some lost opportunities.

The new ministry also rewards those who claimed big scalps at the election.

The ministry is slimmer this time around, with 14 personnel making up the frontline of the Palaszczuk Government as opposed to 19 in the former Newman Government

 

Premier, Minister for the Arts: Annastacia Palaszczuk:

The accidental Premier. Someone many thought would lose the Opposition Leader job to a returning heavy-hitter such as Cameron Dick.

The excitement of becoming Premier is still there to see on Ms Palaszczuk’s face. Premier Palaszczuk did not have to do much work to earn the title, so will she grow into the role?

The new Premier will have to learn the ropes quickly or the ALP could very easily be a one-term government.

 

Deputy Premier, Minister for Transport, Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, Minister for Trade: Jackie Trad

A rapid rise to prominence for the MLA for South Brisbane. Just three years after replacing former Anna Bligh in a by-election, the former opposition’s spokesperson on Transport and Main Roads, Environment and Heritage Protection, Small Business, Consumer Affairs and the Arts becomes Deputy Premier, coupled with a big portfolio.

Annastacia Palaszczuk aside, Ms Trad was definitely one of the better performing of the ALP’s 9 parliamentary representatives.

The role of Deputy Premier might have been better suited to an MP with ministerial experience like Curtis Pitt who is the new Treasurer or Cameron Dick.

The combination of portfolios is a little strange and is an unnecessary result of the smaller ministry. It would have been ideal if the new Deputy Premier simply had the additional ministry of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, with Transport tacked onto the end. After all, transport is a vital form of infrastructure. The trade portfolio should have been given to Treasurer Curtis Pitt.

Will the diversity of responsibilities be a hindrance?

 

Treasurer, Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships: Curtis Pitt

Unsurprisingly, Curtis Pitt moves from Shadow Treasurer into the Treasury Portfolio.

For someone in such an important portfolio in opposition, he was not seen and heard as much as he should have been over the three years of Campbell Newman’s Government. This could have been a product of the fact that there was no anticipation from the ALP that they would be in government in 2015, or that he would have been replaced in the portfolio by a returning MP.

Employment and Industrial Relations is quite a natural match for the Treasury portfolio, so it is a good move from the ALP Government to link it with the treasury portfolio.

While it can easily be argued that there is an important relationship between employment and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships portfolio, that is not all there is to the latter portfolio. This responsibility should have been given to the Minister for Communities or the Attorney-General.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships portfolio should have gone to one of the two indigenous MP’s who won seats at the election. It beggars belief that this did not occur.

The salient question here is, will we see the modest spending commitments made by Labor in opposition carry through into government? History says no.

 

Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services: Cameron Dick 

It is entirely unsurprising that an MLA with ministerial experience like Cameron Dick was given the health portfolio. The former Attorney-General and Minister for Education has 3 years’ experience in senior ministerial positions.

It is also not a big secret that the MLA for Woodridge was seen as a leadership contender leading up to the election and what better portfolio to give someone with leadership aspirations than the poisoned chalice of the health portfolio? Trouble is, he could shine at the role, repairing relationships with the sector which were broken by the LNP.

While this portfolio is often used to temper the leadership ambitions of colleagues, it should have been given to someone skilled in areas related to the portfolio. Doctor Anthony Lynham would have been the ideal person to take on this job.

The question is whether or not the new minister can get on top of important issues relating to prompt care of patients who present to health facilities?

 

Minister for Education, Minister for Tourism, Major Events and Small Business, Minister for Commonwealth Games: Kate Jones

The MLA for Ashgrove, who took on Premier Campbell Newman and won back the seat she lost to him in 2012, has been rewarded with a plum role in the form of the education portfolio. Ms Jones brings some ministerial experience to the cabinet table and should again be one of the better performers in the ALP caucus.

Kate Jones has also been given a variety of other roles in what can only be described as a bizarre mismatch of portfolios.

Tourism and Major Events belong together, and should also include the Commonwealth Games portfolio. These responsibilities should have been given to the Minister for State Development. The Minister for Sport and Racing should have also shared in the Commonwealth Games portfolio. Quite clearly, Small Business should have been included in Minister Pitt’s portfolio.

The question here is will the people of Ashgrove like that their returning local member will be busy with such a large portfolio of ministerial responsibilities?

 

Minister for State Development, Minister for Natural Resources and Mines: Doctor Anthony Lynham

For winning back Stafford for the ALP at a by-election brought on by the resignation of Dr Chris Davis, then of the LNP, Dr Lynham has been given a very important portfolio.

This portfolio combination is sound. As mentioned above however, Dr Lynham should be in the health portfolio.

A question people will want to know the answer to, is just how much development will be allowed by the new minister? Over the last three years the ALP has railed against some key development projects.

 

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Training and Skills: Yvette D’Ath

Yvette D’Ath, another by-election winner has been rewarded with a senior role in the government.

The former federal MP takes on another oddly shaped portfolio. What kind of logic was used in separating the Training and Skills portfolio from either the education or employment portfolios? Terrible logic.

Yvette D’Ath is not the best choice for this position. There are at least two members of the ALP caucus better suited to this position. The Premier should have chosen former Attorney-General Cameron Dick, or high-profile lawyer Peter Russo.

One question with regard to this portfolio is whether the new Attorney-General and the ALP Government will show due deference to the rule of law and principles of justice? Another essential question is will the government be able to swiftly regain the confidence of the legal fraternity?

 

Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services, Minister for Corrective Services: Jo-Ann Miller

The combative member for the safe ALP seat of Bundamba, who has sat in the parliament since 2000,  picks up a portfolio which was front and centre of the last 3 years in the Newman Government’s response to criminal gangs.

A question on everyone’s lips is how will Jo-Ann Miller deal with the outlaw gang issue? It looks certain that a softer approach is on the way. The rule of law and principles of justice have to be front and centre, while at the same time making sure that the public continue to feel safe.

 

Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Minister for Sport and Racing: Bill Byrne

Bill Byrne is now in his second term as the MLA for Rockhampton. He picks up a ministry different to the one he held while in opposition.

The member for Rockhampton has also been awarded a strange portfolio mix. Agriculture and fisheries go well together, but sport and racing is a strange addition. The latter should have been included in the Tourism and Major Events portfolio as sporting tourism is an important drawcard for visitors to and within Australia.

It was a smart decision to make Bill Byrne the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. His electorate is well-known for agriculture, especially beef production and is in close proximity to the coastline.

A crucial question is how will this minister assist his colleagues in ensuring the ongoing viability of our fisheries as climate change hits and mining impacts take their toll?

 

Minister for Main Roads, Road Safety and Ports, Minister for Energy and Water Supply: Mark Bailey

Mark Bailey is a brand new MP, having beaten former LNP MP Carl Judge in Yeerongpilly. He takes on a large portfolio for a parliamentary newcomer.

Mr Bailey’s portfolio is also a hodgepodge of seemingly mismatched responsibilities. Main Roads should have been kept with Transport, along with Road Safety. Ports should have been included in the Infrastructure or State Development portfolio and those two areas merged into one ministerial area of responsibility.

There are two important questions in this space: What will happen on the ports front? And how well will Mark Bailey work with the self-appointed ‘infrastructure Prime Minister’ on what may well be competing priorities?

 

Minister for Housing and Public Works, Minister for Science and Innovation: Leeanne Enoch

The story of Leeanne Enoch is one of the best to come out of the 2015 election. The new minister and equally new MLA is one of two indigenous MP’s who were elected to the Queensland Parliament – a first for the state.

But yet again we have a case of confused ministerial priorities and missed opportunities.

The Housing and Public Works portfolio should be closely associated with either the Community Services, Infrastructure or State Development portfolios. The Science and Innovation responsibilities should be wedded with either Education, Employment or even State Development.

While housing is a big issue for indigenous Australians, it is a missed opportunity that Ms Enoch was not appointed to a broadened role relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island affairs, or even Community Services.

A question which has barely been countenanced in this area in recent times is what will be the strategy in relation to homelessness? This appears to be a forgotten issue in Australian politics.

 

Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef: Steven Miles 

Yet another first-time MP straight into a ministry. The new member for Mount Coot-tha has been rewarded for unseating Saxon Rice in the inner-city electorate. Over the next 3 years this portfolio will be one of the most widely mentioned in the political arena.

This is the best constructed portfolio of all fourteen ministries. Every aspect of it is interconnected.

People will be wanting an answer to the question of how much this portfolio will focus on the reef and also around Gladstone?

 

Minister for Disability Services, Minister for Seniors, Minister Assisting the Premier on North Queensland: Coralee O’Rourke

Coralee O’Rourke unseated a Newman Government Minister in David Crisafulli on January 31 and has been rewarded with what is a vital portfolio, given the aging population and the NDIS, which is in the important trial phase.

The North Queensland focus, while clashing with what is a social policy portfolio, will suit the Townsville-based MP. The North Queensland part of Ms O’Rourke’s responsibilities could however have been given to the state development minister if the Premier had chosen an MP from North Queensland to fill that role.

This is yet another case of picking the wrong candidate. Rob Pyne, a quadriplegic, was also elected to parliament on the 31st of January and given his personal experience with disability, would have been the ideal candidate for this ministry.

A topic of consideration will be what issues the NDIS trials raise and how the government works with other state governments and the federal government to ensure the NDIS becomes fully operational.

Also under consideration will be what additional government support is required in North Queensland.

 

Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety, Minister for Multicultural Affairs: Shannon Fentiman

Another minister, another rookie MP. Shannon Fentiman joins the Palaszczuk ministry after defeating Mike Latter of the LNP at the January 31 state ballot.

This is quite a large portfolio to start with but could have been even bigger if a streamlined version included disability and other areas of community services.

In the area of multicultural affairs, state governments do very little, especially when the Commonwealth Government has carriage of immigration policy. Nonetheless, making people from different backgrounds feel welcome and included in Australian society is a role state governments can play

There are a number of issues to consider in this area including: homelessness, getting more women and young people into the workforce and protecting children from online dangers.

 

Leader of the House, Assistant Minister of State Assisting the Premier: Stirling Hinchliffe

Stirling Hinchliffe returns to state parliament after losing his seat along with most of his colleagues in 2012. Mr Hinchliffe has effectively been demoted, given that his last role in government was the Minister for Mining.

Using his experience in key economic portfolios in the former Bligh Government, Mr Hinchliffe’s main task will be to help the new Premier behind the scenes.

As Leader of the House, he will also be both a general and guide to the whole ALP caucus.

First and foremost, we wait to see how well he negotiates with the crossbench. We know that most legislation is likely to be passed. However, it is unlikely everything will be smooth sailing.

Queensland Votes: Some Final Predictions

Ahead of Queenslanders going to the polls to vote out a long-term ALP state government tomorrow, it’s time to make some final predictions about the numbers that will begin to unfold beyond the 6pm closure of voting in this government-changing election. The most important aspect of the count to watch tomorrow will be who wins Ashgrove, whether it is Premier Campbell Newman or soon to be ALP backbencher Kate Jones. The size of the swing to the LNP will also be an important piece of data, with the swing required for the Opposition to take government being 4.6%. The total number of seats has also been much talked about with polls predicting the ALP could be reduced to as few as 12 if swings across the state were uniform. The highest profile scalp that the LNP claims in this certain election win also deserves a major focus as does the likely downfall of other Bligh Government ministers. The final major point of interest will be how Katter’s Australian Party performs in their first election.

ASHGROVE AND THE RACE FOR PREMIER

From the moment when Campbell Newman decided that he would run for the Premiership  and the seat of Ashgrove from outside of the parliament the polls indicated that the would-be Premier was well ahead on a 2-party-preferred basis, cruising to a win at that point.

Then came smear and allegations against Mr Newman and his family over business dealings as the election campaign got closer, which intensified once the campaign proper began with a plethora of ads asking questions of the candidate for Ashgrove and the Premiership. This saw support crumble for the former army engineer and Lord Mayor of Brisbane into single digits and eventually, in recent weeks to a small lead for incumbent ALP MLA Kate Jones.

The Crime and Misconduct Committee (CMC), an anti-corruption body set up in the wake of the Bjelke-Petersen era investigated allegations on multiple occasions and on each it was found that there was no case to answer for Campbell Newman.

Not long after the final clearance by the CMC and once it became clear to all voters this week, that the LNP would certainly be heading to a sweeping victory, the polls bounced back, indicating this week, at the time with just days to go, that the Premier hopeful would likely win the seat and therefore become the Premier of an LNP Government.

The swing required to win the electorate of Ashgrove is 7.1% and this should be eclipsed with a swing around 8-9% seeming likely.

THE STATEWIDE SWING

Polls seem to indicate that the swing to the LNP in Queensland will be massive, up to around 10% statewide against the Australian Labor Party after such a lengthy term in office.

The LNP only requires a swing of 4.6% to take office and is certainly set to achieve that.

MY PICK: The LNP win will come with a swing of anywhere between 7%-10% and Labor will be decimated around Brisbane and the suburbs and will lose significant numbers from the regions.

NUMBER OF SEATS LABOR WILL BE LEFT WITH

There has been much commentary in recent days over how many seats the ALP will be left with after votes have been finalised by the Electoral Commission Queensland.

The results have been talked about in terms of sporting teams, whether it be a cricket team (11 plus a 12th man), a rugby league team (13 plus a bench of 4), a rugby union team (15 plus 7 reserves) or an AFL team (18 plus 4 reserves).

It is almost certain that the number of seats the ALP will be reduced to after the election will fall somewhere in this range.

MY PICK: Labor will be reduced to a rugby union team minus the bench players, that’s 15 MPs in a parliament of 89.

THE BIGGEST ELECTORAL SCALP

Other than the must watch seat of Ashgrove, which now looks certain to go to the LNP and incoming Premier Campbell Newman, the electorate of Mount Coot-tha will be a major focus as the current Bligh Government Treasurer, Andrew Fraser battles to hold onto his seat with a margin of 5.3%, just 0.7% above the swing needed for the LNP to take the reins of government.

On the polls it looks certain that the LNP will well and truly surpass the margin needed to form government in their own right, possibly more than doubling the swing of 4.6% required if the polls are near accurate. This means that the LNP candidate for the electorate, Saxon Rice will almost certainly beat the incumbent Mr Fraser.

This result would be absolutely disastrous for the ALP which look set to lose other ministers tomorrow and the last thing they need is to lose the Deputy Premier and Treasurer and youngest member of the Bligh Government and quite likely Bligh successor as Labor leader.

MY PICK: Saxon Rice but close, especially if the ALP vote does not collapse too much in the seat as the Greens traditionally poll very strongly in this seat and any preferences would flow to Mr Fraser.

THE FORTUNES OR MISFORTUNES OF KATTER’S AUSTRALIAN PARTY

As noted, this will be the first election for Katter’s Australian Party and its state leader and former LNP, Independent and Queensland Party MLA Aidan McLindon. This party was created by Bob Katter and included the Queensland Party which Mr McLindon started after leaving the LNP and giving up being an Independent member of parliament.

The party had high hopes for themselves, at first of taking government and then holding the balance of power, though we all knew that this was completely out of the question. Polls have continuously confirmed that the swing against the ALP was unlikely to convert into many, if any extra seats for the fledgling political party fielding candidates in 76 of the 89 seats (though they did hope to do so in all 89).

Dalrymple MLA and LNP defector Shane Knuth will probably hold onto his seat in the north of Queensland, becoming an electoral success story for Katter’s Australian Party. With a margin of 14.4% it would be a difficult gain for the LNP.

A member of the Katter family looks able to win the electorate of Mount Isa in the north west of the seat.That person is Robbie Katter, son of party founder Bob Katter who represents that electorate in the federal parliamentary seat of Kennedy.

The big battle for Katter’s Australian Party could be to hold onto the seat of Beaudesert with Aidan McLindon on a margin of 8.3% within the possible statewide swing range in a conservative seat (although the party that Aidan McLindon represents is heavily socially conservative).

The electorate of Nanango is a real possible gain for the new party with high-profile candidate Carl Rackemann in with a real chance upon the retirement of Independent MLA Dorothy Pratt. The margin at only 2.9% opens up the seat for a possible LNP gain for candidate Deb Frecklington.

MY PICKS: Aidan McClindon to lose Beaudesert. Robbie Katter to take the electorate of Mount Isa in a tough fight. Shane Knuth to hold Dalrymple. Deb Frecklington to beat Carl Rackemann in Nanango

THE WASH-UP

Queenslanders are a day away from knowing the make-up of the parliament for the next 3 years and just how large a majority the LNP will be granted by voters across the state. It will certainly be a sweeping majority, with the LNP likely holding more than a 2/3 majority in the unicameral Queensland Parliament, with big ministerial scalps claimed in the process. The electoral hopes of Katter’s Australian Party will prove to be another big fizzer.

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