To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, losing one senior minister in a day may be regarded as a misfortune, losing two looks like carelessness.
The surprise retirements of Mines Minister Anthony Lynham and State Development Minister Kate Jones on Thursday capped off what was a ragged last parliamentary sitting day for the Palaszczuk Government before the October 31 election.
Both frontbenchers were viewed by their colleagues as good performers — Ms Jones in particular will be missed as one of the Government’s strongest debaters on the floor of the legislative assembly.
While the LNP can make jibes about rats leaving a sinking ship, the departure of two senior ministers is not in itself a major problem for Labor, whose election strategy is more strongly focused on promoting Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk rather than the team around her.
But there is a danger these 11th-hour departures could turn into a more significant setback if Labor doesn’t manage what will be a rushed pre-selection process — and the party’s recent record hasn’t been good.
Mundingburra hotly contested
The most important decision the party faces is how it will replace another departing minister, Coralee O’Rourke, who last weekend announced her intention to retire for health reasons.
While Ms O’Rourke’s community and disability services portfolio wasn’t as high profile as her two departing ministerial colleagues, she currently holds one of the most marginal and hotly contested seats in Queensland.
Mundingburra, taking in much of the southern part of Townsville, has traditionally changed hands with a change of government and is one of Labor’s most vulnerable seats with a margin 1.1 per cent.
The LNP has preselected high-profile former police inspector Glen Doyle, who has been campaigning for the past seven months with a heavy emphasis on law and order issues.
Selection process questions
Labor called for nominations for Mundingburra last week, and with early voting in the election just over four weeks away, time is of the essence.
But a factional brawl threatens to delay the process.
Ms O’Rourke is from the party’s left faction, which has put forward its own preferred candidate, nurse Simon Mitchell.
Members of the rival right faction argue they have a better candidate — Townsville councillor and former deputy mayor Les Walker — and a party source said it was “highly likely” there would be a preselection contest.
The process for this is unclear.
Normally under party rules there is a ballot of party members in the electorate, but the party’s central administrative committee has the power to bypass this and appoint its own candidate.
Ms Cameron was pre-selected for the seat of Whitsunday, but was effectively forced to stand down last month to make way for a so-called captain’s pick, Angie Kelly.
A similar controversy occurred with the appointment of former surfing world champion Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew in the Gold Coast seat of Burleigh.
Ms Cameron became so disillusioned with the experience that she quit Labor and is now helping out Katter’s Australian Party.
“I’ve been Labor through and though for my entire life, so I’m still a bit fragile about it,” she said.
Labor can ill afford a similar preselection debacle.
Neither of the two outgoing senior ministers’ seats are as vulnerable as Mundingburra — Dr Lynham’s seat of Stafford in Brisbane’s inner-north has a margin of more than 12 per cent, while Ms Jones’s electorate of Cooper in Brisbane’s west has margin of 10.6 per cent.
But both the left and right factions are expected to contest Stafford, another potential flashpoint at the worst possible time for Labor.
There is also the question of why these frontbenchers are leaving.
Ms O’Rourke’s departure is the easiest to explain, as she has a two-year history with battling breast cancer.
Dr Lynham, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, provided a detailed explanation about his desire to focus on his medical work.
But a relaxed Kate Jones, who explained in her valedictory speech how she was the first and only Queensland government minister to give birth while in office, gave no explanation as to why she would leave while her political career was still peaking,( except more time with her family)
It’s an omission you can be sure the LNP hasn’t missed.
This reporter is being very kind above for he failed to mention anything of the heartless and cold administering of border closures in Queensland who flattened the cure back in April, and with small clusters of 2 – 6 people, the status quo remained, the decision based on hypochondria and paranoia to decimate tourism and other industry, while expecting others to remain locked out of Queensland, even when needing to farewell dying loved ones, and other needing urgent medical care, while letting in the wealthy and celebrities without batting an eyelid.