The Adani conflict of interest claim and veto debacle will be a severe test of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s campaigning ability and demeanour, for the remaining three weeks until the Queensland election.
On Friday, Ms Palaszczuk announced her government would have “no role in the future” of an assessment of a $1 billion loan to Adani for its Carmichael coal mine, blaming an alleged smear campaign by the LNP targeting her partner.
However, LNP leader Mr Tim Nicholls refused to support her decision.
Mr Nicholls had already ended the first week ahead in the race to grab voters’ attention, with more variety in his announcements and more vigour in his campaign.
Now Ms Palaszczuk must dig deep if she is to stay on the course that Labor strategists had set of daily policy pitches and smiling campaign appearances, while also facing another barrage of questions about the Adani mess.
It would be hard enough in normal times, let alone when the Premier is trying to convince people to vote for her again.
Such dramas are magnified enormously in the glare of the election lights.
Ms Palaszczuk’s appeal and her best campaign skill is her down to earth nature and in built decency, but once or twice already this week, even before the Friday furore, she let herself get testy at reporters’ questions.
Nor was Ms Palaszczuk helped by the unnerving interruptions of anti-Adani protesters.
Can she be cheerful, confident and relaxed for the rest of the campaign, focused on policy, if questions about her partner rile her and the messy veto scenario drags on?
LNP had already grabbed more campaign headlines
Although the Labor Government outspent the LNP Opposition by $250 million in the first six days, the Premier’s policy promises were confined to mainly one issue — jobs.
There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a reasonable and important area to focus on for an incumbent, especially one who’s talked about the importance of employment.
But Ms Palaszczuk’s week hasn’t been as zippy as Mr Nicholls’, who delivered four significant policy pledges despite initially being stranded in the south-east while the Premier was up and down the state.
In Brisbane he gave a $100 million commitment to lift the payroll tax threshold, followed by $300 million to duplicate the Sunshine Coast rail line.
When he finally got airborne, Mr Nicholls grabbed headlines with Townsville teen curfew as part of a $26 million north Queensland crime fighting plan and then $160 million in new money for dams.
Most of Ms Palaszczuk’s $836 million was for jobs, with health and tourism also benefiting: $167 million for 3,500 new nurses, $134 million for tourism and $535 million to continue Labor’s Back to Work, Skilling Queensland and Works Queensland programs.
The Palaszczuk agenda this week was serious and fundamental to Labor values, but perhaps lacked imagination.
It wasn’t delivered with the same vim as Mr Nicholls’ week of buses scraping under bridges, helicopter flights, boat rides and train tracks.
Of course the wrapping isn’t everything, it’s the contents that matter.
It is a marathon, not a sprint
As Griffith University analyst Paul Williams said, it is a 28-day journey, not a one-week dash.
“Tim Nicholls has tried to have something of a grab bag of policies this week. He has tried to cover too much ground too quickly,” Dr Williams said.
“The LNP campaign is very much in danger of running out of steam … [and] I think you will see the Labor Party build up to a crescendo.”
Who knows what’s up Labor’s sleeve.
The last ALP premier to win re-election for her government was Anna Bligh in 2009.
Her campaign that year was pedestrian for much of the first three weeks.
In the last week Ms Bligh hit the go button, racing through 30 seats in three days to storm home over the top of the LNP.
Of course it didn’t go so well for Ms Bligh in 2015, but that’s another part of history.