Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (bottom right) and Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey (2nd right, bottom row) pose for a photo with ministers after a swearing in ceremony at Government House in Brisbane last December. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (bottom right) and Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey (2nd right, bottom row) pose for a photo with ministers after a swearing in ceremony at Government House in Brisbane last December. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

Report card: Which ministers are failing?

HALFWAY through the first year of its second term and with a majority to boot, Steven Wardill delivers his report card on the Palaszczuk Government.

PALASZCZUK GOVERNMENT OVERALL MARK C

IF Annastacia Palaszczuk's re-elected Labor Government were a car then it would probably be a Volkswagen Kombi.

Loved by legions of dedicated fans whose loyalty is immovable; just don't expect efficient performance or for it to reach whatever destination it's bound for with any semblance of haste.

Seven months into a truncated second term - the next election is locked in for October 31, 2020 - the Palaszczuk Government is cruising.

 

If Palaszczuk’s re-elected Labor Government were a car it would probably be a Volkswagen Kombi.
If Palaszczuk’s re-elected Labor Government were a car it would probably be a Volkswagen Kombi.

 

 

It seems largely untroubled by the Opposition, led by third-term Nanango MP Deb Frecklington, while being unhindered by expectation or even self-enforced priorities.

From rewarding itself to a long summer recess through to calling off Cabinet meetings so ministers could kick back at the Commonwealth Games, Queensland's majority Labor Government has turned torpor into a political weapon.

 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Government is cruising with a C mark. Picture: AAP/ Ric Frearson
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Government is cruising with a C mark. Picture: AAP/ Ric Frearson

 

It keeps its to-do list short, starving its opponent of oxygen and limiting the odds of things going awry.

Not even the inescapable rigours of Parliament, Queensland's 56th, have proven a problem.

Only six sitting weeks have been staged, all under the new "family-friendly" hours regimen that truncates debate and ensures MPs get to bed, mostly, on time.

Much of what's passed has been piecemeal stuff, although contentious landclearing laws were the exception.

The State Budget came and went, with infrastructure spending and debt up.

And while the Opposition didn't pose too many pointed questions to expose Labor's fiscal plan, the Government couldn't muster much to ask itself either.

After the Budget's brief downhill burst, the Government wound the window down, turned the radio up and went back to coasting along Route 56 towards 2020.

That's why Annastacia Palaszczuk's team earns a solid C in today's mid-year report card.

It may not be tackling Queensland's problems, even acknowledging them, but nor is it making major mistakes.

The Premier tops the chart with a B. She's followed by Jackie Trad and Cameron Dick who are both performing well in new portfolios.

Only three ministers - Leeanne Enoch, Coralee O'Rourke and Craig Crawford - failed to earn a pass mark.

It's early days and there are plenty of potholes ahead. As every Kombi owner can attest, they either run forever or are terribly unreliable.

 

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (bottom right) and Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey (second right, bottom row) pose with ministers after a swearing in ceremony at Government House in Brisbane last December. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (bottom right) and Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey (second right, bottom row) pose with ministers after a swearing in ceremony at Government House in Brisbane last December. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

 

 

 

 

ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK B

Premier and Minister for Trade

Palaszczuk's transition from last-choice leader of a pint-sized party to Premier of a majority government has been remarkable. She's become very adept at handling the Opposition in question time and has adopted a regal approach to public appearances, aligning herself with populist causes that have little to do with her administration. However, her aversion to the pointy end of political debate may prove detrimental to the Government's narrative.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Photo: AAP
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Photo: AAP

JACKIE TRAD B-

Deputy Premier, Treasurer, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnership

A credible first effort handling the State Budget. Trad successfully sold the message about infrastructure spending. However, Queensland's building program is half that of New South Wales and the State's debt is on the way up. With expenses growing faster than revenue, Trad is going to have to morph into the Government's disciplinarian after previously demanding spending splurges.

 

 

CAMERON DICK b-

State Development, Infrastructure, Planning and Manufacturing

Dick is proving he can play offence after three years in defence with the health portfolio. He was pipped for Treasury and handed the consolation prize but he's making it work. Dick needs to restore gravitas to the state development role which was at its best under Peter Beattie. He's made a good start and much of the Government's economic credibility rests on his shoulders.

 

 

KATE JONES c+

Innovation, Tourism Industry Development and Commonwealth Games

Opening and closing ceremonies aside, the Commonwealth Games was largely a success. One of the Government's most capable performers, Jones has done well with some strategic tourism investment and selling the industry's successes. However, she has very light duties as the fourth most senior minster. She needs greater responsibilities to make the most of her talents.

Innovation Minister Kate Jones. Photo: AAP
Innovation Minister Kate Jones. Photo: AAP

 

YVETTE D'ATH C-

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice

An ordinary end to last term underscored by sluggish responses and secrecy scandals saw D'Ath relieved of some responsibilities. She's now assumed a more administrative approach, with announcing judicial figures her most common duty. D'Ath faces the challenging tasks of introducing new revenge porn laws and decriminalising abortion. The timeliness and effectiveness of her efforts must determine how long she remains Queensland's first law officer.

 

STEVEN MILES C-

Health and Ambulance Services

A big step up to the poison chalice portfolio of health is proving challenging for Miles. The environment ministry afforded him the time to indulge in his favourite pastime - playing internal Labor politics. However, health is a much more demanding beast. Miles has spent his time griping about federal health funding. However, with health stats slipping and Labor splurging on staff, Miles can't play the blame game forever.

 

GRACE GRACE C

Education and Industrial Relations

With a remit to spend more on education, Grace has been handed a low bar to leap over. Yet parents will judge whether the Education Minister has performed based on actual student results. With all the spending the Government is doing on education surely NAPLAN should have rated a mention in Grace's ministerial charter letter? A good parliamentary performer who has talked down the doubters.

Minister for Education and Minister for Industrial Relations Grace Grace during Question Time. Photo: AAP/Dave Hunt
Minister for Education and Minister for Industrial Relations Grace Grace during Question Time. Photo: AAP/Dave Hunt

 

MARK BAILEY C

Transport and Main Roads

Bailey is one of the Government's hardest working ministers. But he can't escape from the email scandal in which he used a private account to conduct public business. Commonwealth Games transport went well. Good planning was the key. But scaremongering about gridlock chaos also played a role. His challenge will be improving public transport patronage and delivering road projects for the appropriate price.

 

 

 

ANTHONY LYNHAM C-

Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

Lynham's attempts to hide big increases in water charges for households backfired. It showed the former surgeon, who entered Parliament with great credibility, had become just another politician. He is supposedly an advocate for the resource sector but the odds are stacked against him around the Cabinet table. The Palaszczuk Government's energy agenda seems to be losing momentum under Lynham.

 

MICK DE BRENNI C-

Housing, Public Works, Digital Technology and Sport

He's been trying to strongarm the sporting codes over stadium costs but is being outmuscled by more seasoned performers. He also seems confused over whether he's the Minister for Housing or tenancy advocate after defending spikes in complaints and disruptive behaviour. He's not without talent and not afraid to be forthright. But De Brenni needs more experience in reserve grade before he can fulfil his ambitions to be a top minister.

Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works, Minister for Digital Technology and Minister for Sport, Mick de Brenni. Photo: AAP/Darren England
Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works, Minister for Digital Technology and Minister for Sport, Mick de Brenni. Photo: AAP/Darren England

 

SHANNON FENTIMAN C

Employment, Small Business, Training and Skills Development

Cabinet's fifth economic minister who has been inexplicably excluded from mention in the Government's stated economic team. Fentiman performed well in the difficult child safety ministry and the bits-and-pieces portfolio she has been handed represents a challenge. The to-do list she was given by Palaszczuk amounts to not much. The capable Fentiman has done a worthy job so far making her ministry relevant but she needs to take that to the next level to win promotion.

 

LEEANNE ENOCH D+

Environment, Great Barrier Reef, Science and the Arts

Selling the merits of the waste levy has so far proven too taxing for Leeanne Enoch. Convincing anyone they need to pay a new tax is never easy but Enoch seems unprepared. She wanted to swerve the tougher delivery portfolios and landed in environment instead.

The Government needs Enoch to regain confidence after a spluttering start because the tough questions about the waste levy have only just begun.

Queensland Minister for the Environment and Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch. Photo: AAP/Dave Hunt
Queensland Minister for the Environment and Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch. Photo: AAP/Dave Hunt

 

MARK RYAN C-

Police and Corrective Services

While Ryan is a clever operative, it remains debatable whether he's suited to the police portfolio. He hasn't seemed to have recovered from the "No Body, No Parole" scandal last term. With unions warning of imminent problems in prisons because of overcrowding, Ryan could be in for a challenging time. It's not like the Government wasn't warned.

 

CORALEE O'ROURKE D

Communities, Disability Services and Seniors

It will be a surprise for some to learn O'Rourke is still a minister. She might even be surprised herself after a scathing Queensland Audit Office report into Queensland's readiness for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This is O'Rourke's key responsibility amid otherwise light duties. O'Rourke's Yes Minister-style response about supporting the audit recommendations has some asking whether there's an alternative option for a Townsville-based minister.

 

MARK FURNER C-

Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries

Palaszczuk's father Henry wrote the blueprint for how a Brisbane-based minister could manage the agriculture portfolio. Furner should do himself a favour and read it. The former Labor senator is about as well known among farmers as, well, a former Labor senator. His achievements so far amount to putting together a talkfest of industry groups whose core purpose already is to talk to government.

 

STIRLING HINCHLIFFE C-

Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs

Hinchliffe has proven better at sacking himself than sacking councils. He quit as transport minister last term when things got too hot to handle and now he's back in the thick of it with rogue councils. The drawn-out process of the future of Ipswich Council has taken too long. While Hinchliffe is a stickler for process, he needs to learn that sometimes being a minister requires human decision making.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe issuing a statement about Ipswich City Council. Photo: Peter Wallis
Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe issuing a statement about Ipswich City Council. Photo: Peter Wallis

 

DI FARMER C

Child Safety, Youth, Women and Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence

If Farmer's mandate was to get child safety out of the media then she's been an enormous success. However, the freshly-minted minister - who has been knocking on Cabinet's door for some time - can't take all the credit. Without Ros Bates as Opposition child safety shadow, Farmer is having an easier time. She needs to climb back into domestic violence reform which has disappeared from the Government's vernacular.

 

CRAIG CRAWFORD D+

Fire and Emergency Services

Yes, we have a Minister for Fire Trucks. The Government didn't even bother to carve off ambulances from health to make Crawford's ministry credible. This meagre Cabinet post is a product of the Government needing a far north minister with Left faction allegiance. It cast around and found Crawford was the only option. He didn't perform too badly during the summer storm season. But more questions should be asked about Crawford's threadbare agenda and why fire trucks deserve a stand-alone seat in Cabinet.

 

 

Next week we have the LNP in our sights, delivering their report card.

Steven Wardill is The Courier-Mail's state affairs editor and the previous owner of two VW Kombies.