Madonna King: Annastacia Palaszczuk’s luck will run out soon enough

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was given a harsh lesson on the importance of words this week, Madonna King writes.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was given a harsh lesson on the importance of words this week, Madonna King writes.

Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland’s Premier, has had more professional luck than most.

She represents the seat of Inala – once the safest Labor seat in the state – and which has only ever been held by a Palaszczuk; first her father Henry, and on his retirement in 2006, his daughter Annastacia.

In 2015, Ms Palaszczuk stunned Queenslanders and her own party by winning government after her unpopular predecessor Campbell Newman was sent packing in one of the biggest electoral landslides in recent history.

A few on her side of politics, with an eye on the Labor leadership, were stunned.

But since 2015, when she was termed the ‘accidental premier’, Ms Palaszczuk has slowly made the job her own.

She eschewed the loud and assertive approach of former Queensland premiers, like Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Peter Beattie and Campbell Newman.

More consultative by nature, she spent a lot of time listening, withdrew from the media, and treated the job a bit like the CEO of a big company.

For several years, it held her in good stead. But by last year, voters were wanting more. Ensuring she was never a target was not good enough.

Then COVID struck and Queenslanders – spared the pain seen elsewhere – backed Labor and Ms Palaszczuk to continue to keep them safe.

Like those before her, she’s worn the criticism of others – including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Gladys Berejiklian in New South Wales – as a badge; and that’s helped her inside the state, too.

But luck has played a big hand.

Queensland’s decision – at the cost of many businesses – to slam shut borders protected its citizens, at least health wise.

From zero to hero to back again, the pandemic is turning Ms Palaszczuk’s favour. Photo: AAP

Handing the decision making over to chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young (who is really the state’s pseudo-premier at the moment) also meant she was largely protected from any unpopular edicts.

And Queensland’s traditional Canberra-bashing meant, when things did go wrong, voters were happy to turn their wrath towards Scott Morrison.

In her job, certainly, Ms Palaszczuk has had the luck of the Irish.

That looked as though it would turn on its head this week.

As year 12s entered their final exams, and tourist operators put out the welcome mat for school holidayers, authorities revealed a locally acquired COVID case.

And then another.

And then another.

And then another.

And like a stone into a pond, the ripple grew.

School exams were halted. Tourism operators put the worn-old ‘closed’ sign on the front door, and locals took calls from Melbourne friends who know this path only too well.

The Premier dodged questions she should have answered at her press conferences. Other comments by the government just didn’t make sense. And other questions continued to hang, without answers.

For example, if 89 per cent of the state’s 1b population had already been vaccinated, why was an unvaccinated medico looking after COVID patients in an infectious diseases ward?

Or how many doctors and nurses who have not been vaccinated are currently looking after infectious patients?

Or why wasn’t the vaccination of frontline workers a mandatory first move?

Or why is an elderly woman, told she sat next to a positive COVID patient and ordered to be tested, sent home from a testing clinic because it was too busy?

Or why are some people in regional Queensland, in towns that have not had a single case, getting the vaccine ahead of those working in busy city hospitals?

Or why has the rollout here, compared to other states, been so slow?

Or what is the strategy, beyond Canberra bashing – to vaccinate frontline workers and residents of aged-care homes?

So many questions. And so few answers.

Annastacia Palaszczuk was saved by luck again late this week, when all community-acquired cases could be traced back to two clusters, thanks largely to the community-mindedness of a single nurse and a landscape gardener.

Eventually though, as any punter knows, luck runs out.

And when that happens, and voters turn to the form guide, Ms Palaszczuk will need to have done more than appoint an understudy to take the heat, and keep her fingers crossed.

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