Caucus meeting set to decide Deputy Premier’s future
IT'S NO secret Ms Trad's public and internal popularity has been in free fall over the past 12 months.
So, it's on. Or at least it might be. Because after months of simmering anger, bitter backgrounding and blustery scheming for those Jackie Trad detractors in the Government, an invitation has been extended.
Tomorrow, at Labor's caucus meeting, let's have it out.
And it is the Premier herself who has invited her team to stand up and say what they really think.
Because after months of stasis for the second-term Palaszczuk Government, dragged down by the integrity issues surrounding the powerful but damaged Deputy Premier, voter discontent is getting real for an administration facing another electoral test in eight months.
Ms Palaszczuk has spent months weathering a storm - unable to remove Ms Trad and unwilling to try - but as The Courier-Mail polling shows Ms Palaszczuk's personal popularity has plummeted and Queenslanders are unimpressed with the Government's direction, something has shifted.
It might have seemed like an obvious statement, maybe even an innocuous one, but when the Premier publicly declared her Government had been damaged by Ms Trad's integrity crisis on Friday, Labor insiders were listening intently.
"I think everyone knows that there has been damage to our Government," she offered. "There's no denying that.
"I'm the first person to admit it and I'm quite sure Jackie admits it as well."
But she didn't stop there as journalists' questions came, driven by reports of a heated argument between Ms Trad and hardworking Maryborough MP Bruce Saunders that caused his resignation from her powerful Left faction.
Because according to the Premier - whose most ringing endorsement of her right-hand woman staying in the job was that she "contributes to Cabinet" and is "working on the Budget" - every member of Cabinet has a responsibility to "step up or step out".
Asked whether backbenchers briefing against Ms Trad should "shut up", Ms Palaszczuk didn't think so at all.
"I actually believe that people should be allowed to say what they want to say," she said.
"So we have full and frank conversations in caucus and I would say that they should be making those conversations in caucus and not to the media.
"People are always going to say different things so I'm not going to judge what people say and do."
In stark contrast, just hours later, Ms Trad (inset) was telling a press conference she had no intention of commenting on "gossip". "Gossip that appears in newspapers is of no interest to me," she declared.
For disgruntled MPs, she had this message: "I would say to every single member of parliament, Queenslanders need us to be focused on them, on their jobs, on their economic security."
It is no secret Ms Trad's public and internal popularity has taken some big hits over the past 12 months.
It was one year ago this month that the Deputy Premier mused in parliament about the decline of thermal coal in international markets and the need to be "reskilling" Queensland's mine workers.
Her disdain toward the Adani project, popular in the regions, went down like a lead balloon in Central and North Queensland at last year's federal election.
Then, to nail a toxic trifecta, came the Deputy Premier's failure to declare the purchase of a $700,000 Woolloongabba investment property on the Cross River Rail route, the purchase of which she learned of in a text message from her husband.
Despite surviving a Crime and Corruption Commission assessment that was the genesis of the so-called Trad Laws, which will see MPs jailed for conflict-of-interest transgressions in the future, Ms Trad is currently the subject of another CCC complaint relating to claims she interfered in the appointment of the principal of the new Inner City South Secondary College in her South Brisbane electorate. Both she and the Education Department deny the claim.
Meanwhile, she will face an incredible fight to keep her seat against the Greens after the LNP's decision to preference the minor party ahead of Ms Trad.
It has all led to suggestions from a band of MPs that she should step down to the backbench for the good of the party, to allow the Government clean air.
But, and here is where the complications lie, Ms Trad retains the support of her powerful Left faction and they are letting that be known both publicly and privately.
Even as Ms Palaszczuk delivered her barely concealed message to her backbench, Health Minister Steven Miles - the next most senior Left MP - stood beside her with his own.
"I don't think anyone could ever question my support for Jackie or the Left's support for Jackie," he said, when asked for his thoughts.
So those mulling over their next move do so under intense pressure from the Left, with sources yesterday accusing Left operatives of "mercilessly bullying" colleagues to keep them in their box.
With preselections not yet sewn up, the very real fear of reprisal hangs over those who might speak out.
So, as the rest of us enjoy our weekend, there are plenty of backroom conversations happening among MPs wondering how to navigate tomorrow's caucus meeting as they stare down the barrel of an October 31 election.
Put up? Or shut up?