Ministerial exodus bad news for Qld, and Labor

 

Queensland Labor has lost two of its best-performing ministers amid a frontbench exodus just 26 days before Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk officially begins her campaign for a third term.

Colleagues were shocked when popular veteran minister Kate Jones announced her retirement yesterday, just hours after Mines Minister Anthony Lynham confirmed rumours he would not recontest the October 31 state poll.

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They joined Disabilities Minister Coralee O'Rourke, who earlier this week announced her own last-minute departure from Parliament.

All three had been personally asked to stay by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Ms Jones, the State Development and Tourism Minister, was hailed as a potential future premier by former premier Peter Beattie even as she left.

The compliment came as Ms Palaszczuk paid tribute to the "Campbell slayer", who toppled then premier Campbell Newman in Ashgrove to help end his one-term government in 2015 and reclaim the seat she had otherwise held since 2006.

"Never before have we seen such a great night when Kate was able to stand up there and say that she had reclaimed the seat of Ashgrove," Ms Palaszczuk said.

Mr Beattie paid tribute to Ms Jones, who was first elected during his government, and Dr Lynham, whom he described as first-class.

"The Queensland Government has lost two of its best ministers with the retirement of ministers Kate Jones and Anthony Lynham," he said.

 

Retiring minister Kate Jones outside Parliament House with husband Paul Cronin, son Thomas and daughter Grace. Picture: Liam Kidston
Retiring minister Kate Jones outside Parliament House with husband Paul Cronin, son Thomas and daughter Grace. Picture: Liam Kidston

 

Mr Beattie said he had worked with Ms Jones over a long period, including throughout the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

"She is one of the strongest supporters of Queensland tourism, sport, events and economic development," he said.

"Her retirement will be an enormous loss for Queensland.

"Kate had the potential to be a future premier.

"Public life in Queensland is the big loser today."

Tourism and mining groups publicly lauded the work of both ministers, saying they would be difficult to replace by the next elected government.

The departures mean three seats - including Ms O'Rourke's marginal Townsville seat of Mundingburra, where a preselection race is on - have no Labor candidate selected.

However it is understood victim rights advocate and 2009 Young Australian of the Year Jonty Bush will be picked to run for Labor in Ms Jones seat, now named Cooper.

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath's former chief of staff, Jim Sullivan, is tipped to run in Stafford to replace Dr Lynham.

Ms Jones paid tribute to her husband Paul Cronin, children Thomas and Grace and mother Ann, as former Old Guard cabinet colleagues Robert Schwarten, Andrew Fraser and Judy Spence watched on from the public gallery.

 

Kate Jones on the campaign trail in 2006
Kate Jones on the campaign trail in 2006

 

The youngest and first female elected to her seat, Ms Jones is also the first and only female minister to have had a child in office, something she said she hoped would change.

"Being the first, we didn't have any precedent about maternity leave and I ended up working to the day that Tom was born," she said, thanking Ms Palaszczuk for taking over her estimates hearing while she was on leave.

"In actual fact, it was the Premier and the Treasurer (Cameron Dick) who brought on that (labour) after an arduous Cabinet meeting when I had to get five of my last Cabinet submissions through, the Premier and the Treasurer suggested we should go to the Pancake Manor.

"So I may have eaten too many pancakes, but needless to say I went to Caucus that afternoon and Robert Schwarten said, 'You look crook, love' and Tommy decided to come that night."

Ms Jones, who grew up in government housing, said she hoped her experience would encourage more young girls from humble beginnings to believe in themselves.

"My mother's personal sacrifices, raising my brothers and I, shaped me and has taught me that government policy matters, government decisions matter, especially if you don't have the safety net of your own house," she said.

"The decisions we make around the Cabinet table and here in parliament every day either make it harder or a little bit easier for a young girl like I was, someone who was never going to rely on the old school tie to open up doors but nevertheless dreamt big to improve their circumstances through education, hard work and determination."

 

Kate Jones was defeated by Campbell Newman in 2012 (above) before winning the seat of Ashgrove back in 2015
Kate Jones was defeated by Campbell Newman in 2012 (above) before winning the seat of Ashgrove back in 2015

 

Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind, who was in the gallery for the announcement, said no one in the sector would have a bad word to say about Ms Jones, who was arguably the Palaszczuk government's best retail politician.

"She will be sorely missed," he said.

"She will be remembered as the best minister the tourism industry has had in a long, long time.

"Having her as the minister through these dark times, it made our industry's plight a little more bearable."

Tourism stalwart Paul Donovan said Ms Jones had been a fantastic minister who would be a big loss.

"She worked bloody hard and she has always been very supportive of tourism, both on the Gold Coast and across the state," he said.

"It's a real shock and she will be a big loss."

Village Roadshow Theme Parks chief operating officer Bikash Randhawa said Ms Jones was an outstanding advocate.

"It is quite sad to hear of the announcement today," he said.

" Minister Jones is someone who has bought so much energy and enthusiasm to the role and she has been a light which was needed for the industry, especially during this period,."

ASM Global boss Harvey Lister said Ms Jones's input had been strongly valued.

"She has been a significant supporter of bidding for major events and has been particularly supportive of the 2032 Olympics bid," he said.

Tourism and Events Queensland chairman Brett Godfrey said: "(Ms) Jones has proven to be a hard-working tourism minister who had become both an advocate and friend to many in the … tourism and event industries."

Originally published as Ministerial exodus bad news for Qld, and Labor



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