Spare us the victory lap, Premier, it’s clear we’re no longer your top priority

Having dragged her party back from the brink of extinction, Annastacia Palaszczuk has secured her status as a Labor legend – but it’s also clear that, both inside and outside of government ranks, she’s now in cruise control, writes Madonna King

Feb 16, 2023, updated Feb 16, 2023
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (left) and Deputy Premier Steven Miles (right) - it's time to pass the baton. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (left) and Deputy Premier Steven Miles (right) - it's time to pass the baton. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Annastacia Palaszczuk can say she will remain premier as much and for as long as she likes. But actions speak louder than words – and she’s simply clocked off.

That’s been the view inside boardrooms for some time, but her decision not to attend last night’s Toowoomba crime summit shows voters that.

And the jockeying for her job shows that those inside the Labor Party believe it too.

Can you imagine, early in her premiership, her deciding not to front a community where a 75-year-old is killed, and residents are worried crime is swallowing its freedom?

Deputy Steven Miles, Treasurer Cameron Dick and Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman are all limbering up at the starting line, ready to battle it out for first place in the premier stakes.

We saw a tiny preview of that race this week, when the three swapped barbs over what was appropriate and what wasn’t when it comes to youth crime.

In brief, in case you’ve been disinterested enough to switch off from politics, a Townsville magistrate granted bail to 13 youths last week.

Steven Miles, who has been the strongest voice in the youth crime debate since Brisbane mother Emma Lovell died after an alleged home invasion in December, told us his view of that decision.

“We cannot stand for a media stunt like this one from someone who clearly does not agree with our laws designed to keep dangerous offenders out of the community,’’ Miles, who is also the leader of Labor’s dominant Left faction, said.

“It should not be happening. We cannot allow the safety of Townsville residents to be held to ransom by rogue courts and rogue justices.’’

Cameron Dick, the State’s treasurer who has always had his eye on the top job, didn’t like Miles’ comments, but said he needed “to choose my words carefully and I need to be careful about what I say’’.

So say something. Please?

So this is what the senior figure in Labor’s Right faction said: “I’m not going to say anything that’s going to potentially impact the prospects of appeal as a result of those decisions,’’ Dick said.

Could someone translate that for me. What does it even mean? At least we understood what Miles was saying.

Lawyers then decided to join the fray, with the Law Society concerned that Miles’ comments might undermine faith in the criminal justice system.

But do we have faith in the criminal justice system?

Isn’t that why 150,000 people have signed a petition for action over youth crime laws? Could Miles have just been reflecting the sentiment of the community?

And didn’t we see that last night, writ large on the faces and in the questions, of Toowoomba voters at a public crime summit?

But it doesn’t even stop there. Remember the issue here is youth crime, not politics – but Shannon Fentiman, the State’s Attorney-General, decided it was her turn to be noticed.

She distanced herself from Miles, although she didn’t really say that. In fact she didn’t really address his comments at all.

But newsflash. Community safety, she maintained, was the Palaszczuk Government’s “first priority”.

Fentiman doesn’t have the factional seniority of Dick and Miles, but she’s probably the crowd favourite (although that doesn’t necessarily translate into the staff favourite).

But here’s a question for the talented Attorney-General. If community safety is the Government’s top priority, why didn’t Annastacia Palaszczuk – the State’s premier – see fit to travel to Toowoomba last night for the local crime summit?

If the Government’s commitment to address crime mirrors that of the community it serves, why couldn’t the Premier travel 90 minutes up the road to talk to Toowoomba voters?

From this angle, it’s not looking like a “first priority’’. And that’s only emphasised by the focus she has put on her eight years in office – not the concern of a big local community over crime.

The deaths of Ms Lovell and 75-year-old Toowoomba resident Robert Brown, who was allegedly attacked by a teenager at a taxi rank and later died from his injuries, have galvanised voters – and the only one who seems aware of that – in the Miles-Dick-Fentiman-Palasczcuk relay – is Steven Miles.

And good on him.

In May next year, Annastacia Palaszczuk will become the longest-serving Labor premier since World War 2.

But why stay to pick up the trophy, if you’re not going to finish the race?

This debate, which is simply showcasing genuine community concern over crime, needs the premier to lace up, or let someone else run the last leg.

And based on this week, we should all be cheering for Steven Miles.


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