Premier’s Gump-esque election triumph

 

It was the fictional movie character Forrest Gump - ironically played by Hollywood A-lister Tom Hanks - who coined the term that "life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get''.

On Saturday night, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk got Teuscher, the Swiss chocolate recognised as the best in the world, while LNP leader Deb Frecklington was served up boiled lollies.

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The Hanks analogy is ironic. Back in March, when we didn't quite know how much of an impact COVID-19 would have on our lives, it quickly became real when Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson were diagnosed with the virus.

Hanks was on the Gold Coast to film a biopic on Elvis Presley, playing the entertainer's manager "Colonel" Tom Parker.

Bringing big-budget Hollywood films to Queensland has been a key part of the Palaszczuk Government's commitment to jobs.

Around that time, Premier Palaszczuk and senior members of her cabinet were being briefed by medical and epidemiology experts that if COVID-19 exploded in Queensland, it could result in up to 150,000 deaths.

Those close to the Premier said she felt a huge weight of responsibility and was struggling to sleep. She vowed to protect Queenslanders at all costs.

And while the critics, including me, pursued her for not trying to save more jobs by being pragmatic about harsh border openings, it is clear that the people of Queensland valued her health stance over the economic carnage to tourism and small business.

Make no mistake, this election was a referendum on the Government's handling of the pandemic. To suggest otherwise is fantasy.

Labor framed it that way. They messaged it that way. They put all their campaigning eggs in that basket and it worked beautifully. But while coronavirus dominated, there were nuances to this election that will shape the future of politics in this state.

Queensland love a strong leader. They love a leader who will bare their soul and bleed for them. They want the warts and all style. Policy is secondary.

 

Annastacia Palaszczuk and Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump (image digitally altered)
Annastacia Palaszczuk and Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump (image digitally altered)

 

Ms Palaszczuk's believability has won the hearts of Queenslanders. Her homespun charm resonates. Queenslanders trust her. Internal Labor research clearly shows that because it was part of her campaign chutzpah.

Some may say it's too early for recriminations within the LNP but politics is a brutal beast and it is clear that Deb Frecklington's long-term future as leader is under question.

Ms Frecklington is incredibly capable and has one of the best work ethics in Australian politics. She is a decent, good woman widely respected by her peers and colleagues.

But the harsh reality is that Labor was always incredibly comfortable with a Palaszczuk-Frecklington contest. Their internal research and polling companies such as YouGov and Newspoll showed that Ms Palaszczuk was twice as popular as her LNP counterpart, even before COVID-19.

We will never know if Ms Frecklington would have beaten Ms Palaszczuk if this was a coronavirus-free election.

But the LNP's bold economic alternative to Labor was suffocated by the noise around the government's pandemic response.

The "unite and recover'' ads - paid for by taxpayers - were brilliant political propaganda, as was Labor's hackneyed slogans about the LNP cutting, sacking and selling.

The LNP simply wanted to balance the books and its plan involved making the bloated public service more efficient by reducing non-frontline employees through natural attrition.

For Labor, that was an open invitation to cast Ms Frecklington as the Grim Reaper of jobs. It's not true but this is politics and nobody plays by the rules.

The fact that voters consistently said they believed Labor was the better bet to steer Queensland out of the pandemic-induced recession was testimony to the LNP's lack of cut through. It's as if spiralling debt doesn't exist.

The other appalling part of the LNP's demise was the internal white-anting against Ms Frecklington from its party headquarters. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said Ms Frecklington had been "sabotaged by forces within her own party''.

The plotters say this was borne out of frustration with polling numbers, which reaffirmed the notion that the LNP under Ms Frecklington could not win this election.

That is the difference between Labor and the LNP. Queensland Labor would never air its dirty laundry in public.

 

2020 QLD state election results 

 

Major parties
  • LNP 0
  • ALP 0
Others
  • ONP 0
  • UAP 0
  • KAP 0
  • OTH 0
  • GRN 0
Called seats

 

In fact, the federal Labor team needs to take a leaf out of the Queensland branch's book on energy and climate change.

Anthony Albanese will never win in Queensland while his party brawls internally over the future of coal jobs.

It's said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

On that basis, the LNP must change. It must undergo fundamental change at the parliamentary and organisational wings.

It must also change the way it recruits prospective candidates. While there is an emerging pipeline of talent among LNP women, Labor has a virtual production line of quality individuals coming through.

They play politics in this state like a State of Origin footy game. Comparatively, the LNP are stuck in the Intrust Cup.

Labor is too big, too fast, too strong at every level. The discipline and messaging provided to incumbent MPs is exemplary. They game the system like nothing we've ever seen before. They have an army of young, hungry warriors prepared to walk over hot coals to get the job done.

This election also showed the luxury of incumbency has never been more valuable. Most incumbent MPs were returned. Not all, but most. This tells us that when somebody gets into State Parliament it takes a superlative effort to unseat them.

For example, because of COVID-19, all MPs were told that any monies they had left over from their personal "entertainment'' stipends could be used on marketing.

Some incumbents, with tens of thousands of dollars left over, put up big billboards on the M1. Nice work if you can get it. The election of 2020 will be known as the year a female Labor leader became a legend.

Queenslanders rewarded Palaszczuk with the keys to the kingdom for another four years because she kept us safe.

The question leading into the election was would voters opt for stability and a government that had defied the worldwide trend of horrendous virus numbers, or would it punish Labor for integrity scandals and poor economic performance.

Like New Zealand, the ACT and the Northern Territory, voters thanked Ms Palaszczuk for keeping them out of harm's way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Premier's Gump-esque election triumph



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