Australia’s most powerful politicians lashed the Queensland Premier this week for her refusal to open her state’s borders to New South Wales.
The Prime Minister, the NSW Premier and NSW Health Minister have all accused Annastacia Palaszczuk of putting her own re-election bid ahead of the lives of her constituents.
And it seems a large portion of the country agrees.
But in an expansive state that covers rough outback plains and unruly tropical heat, bucking national trends flowing from the south is commonplace and people take pride in delivering shock federal election results.
“Is she for jobs or not?” Scott Morrison spat on Thursday morning, accusing Ms Palaszczuk of forgoing her primary election pledge.
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The Premier has been a thorn in the side of her interstate counterparts. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dan PeledSource:News Corp Australia
“The number of people who have come back in to jobs in New South Wales since we hit the pit of that COVID-recession is a 70 per cent increase.
“In Queensland, it’s 44 per cent.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said her Queensland counterpart was unfairly shifting the goalposts on the requirements to ease border restrictions, while the boldest rant came from NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard who said Ms Palaszczuk’s policy was simply a “political agenda”.
“The date she keeps mentioning is the date straight after the election,” he told the ABC on Friday morning. “Why would it go straight after the election? Well, there is only one reason, because she’s focused entirely on the political outcomes. She believes it’s a political advantage to her.
“This is a completely reprehensible, uncaring and cruel approach by the Queensland Premier.”
All three, of course, sit in opposing political camps to the Queensland Labor leader.
Within the Sunshine State, the Premier has been greeted at campaign stopovers with placards declaring their gratitude for holding firm.
Her management of the coronavirus crisis led to a surge in popularity from just 29 per cent in February to 57 per cent in the YouGov Poll released earlier in the week.
According to the The Courier-Mail poll, Labor now leads the Liberal-National Party 52 per cent to 48 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.
“The border policy is undoubtedly popular,” said Tracey Arklay, a senior lecturer with Griffith University’s school of government and international relations.
“There are some parts of Queensland who don’t like it as much, particularly those who live down near the Gold Coast border.
“But, in the main, the overwhelming sentiment is that it is popular.”
The Prime Minister accused the Queensland Premier of holding back job growth. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary RamageSource:News Corp Australia
Dr Arklay says it isn’t a crafted strategy curated to ensure her government is re-elected, it’s a “considered evidenced based approach to how to handle this COVID-19 situation”.
She said the political agenda was more likely from the Liberal side of politics, who are lobbying to get their colleague, Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, into the Premier’s chair.
“The absolute attack that seems to be happening on Queenslanders, as opposed to Western Australia for example, is telling,” the government relations academic told NCA NewsWire.
She said interstate political operators had a proven record of misunderstanding the “broad church” of Queensland voters, evidenced in the shockwave of support that delivered victory to the Coalition Government in the 2019 federal election.
“People up in North Queensland don’t particularly like people from Brisbane telling them what to do, let alone someone from Sydney,” Dr Arklay said.
The border policy may not have the universal support among the inner-city voters in the southeast of the state, but it has support where it matters, the senior lecturer said.
Particularly in the three tightly held seats in the northern hub surrounding Townsville where it’s widely believed the October 31 election will be won or lost.
The incumbent government holds the central Townsville electorate and Mundingburra by 0.4 and 1.1 per cent respectively, while its more dominant margin in the outer and semirural Thuringowa — 4.1 per cent — is expected to be aggressively contested by both One Nation and Katter’s Australia Party (KAP).
Dr Arklay said, if anything, the outside lobbying over the border dispute from Liberal Party elites had a damaging effect on Ms Frecklington’s campaign, whose stance on the controversial topic has become blurred.
“It’s coming across as a bit unclear,” the Griffith University senior lecturer said.
“She wanted the borders open and then she supported the borders staying shut and she is now saying the borders should be open as soon as possible.”
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