Public relations expert Paul Williams questions the PR decision behind Deb Frecklington's 'Princess Premier' train wreck interview.
Public relations expert Paul Williams questions the PR decision behind Deb Frecklington's 'Princess Premier' train wreck interview.

To the person behind Deb’s anti-elitist, toxic tirade …

I DON'T want to join the bandwagon condemning LNP leader Deb Frecklington for her train wreck interview with The Sunday Mail last week.

She has copped enough criticism, and most of it unhelpful.

Whether the LNP leader truly believes Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has become a "Princess Premier" for wearing quality apparel is beside the point.

The real issue is the quality of media advice the LNP leader herself is receiving and accepting.

As a teacher of political public relations I would fail any student who submitted that pitch if only for making the client (Frecklington) the story.

Indeed, if I were Frecklington, my first task next week would be to sack the PR officer responsible.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington has come under attack for an interview in The Sunday Mail in which she criticised Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk over her dress sense. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
LNP leader Deb Frecklington has come under attack for an interview in The Sunday Mail in which she criticised Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk over her dress sense. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

Queensland voters so deeply reject the negative politics of personality that the LNP's prospects for the October election are now severely compromised.

Remember the disaster of Labor premier Anna Bligh's 2012 campaign which - after beginning nobly with images of empathy and leadership during the southeast Queensland floods - soon fell into the gutter with allegations around Campbell Newman's family?

Let's leave aside Labor accusations that Frecklington in Sunday's story deliberately contrasted her own motherhood with Palaszczuk's childlessness.

A bigger problem emerged when the LNP leader refused to apologise for any perceived slight and instead doubled down.

"I won't stand by and allow the Labor Party to try and twist the love I have for my kids for some warped political gain", Frecklington rashly said.

But the real nub of the disaster still lies in the media advice that pitching downward to the negative politics of envy (and not upward to the positive politics of aspiration) was somehow a great idea.

Who could possibly think that one woman attacking another over dress sense was appropriate? And would anyone genuinely change their vote on the strength of Frecklington's boast she wears "thongs to Woolies"?

Haven't we outgrown that anti-elitist crap?

But Frecklington's story also fails because it reeks of hypocrisy.

Political public relations expert Paul Williams asks “in what universe is Palaszczuk, the unpolished and plain-speaking girl from Inala, anything other than down to earth and ordinary?”. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen
Political public relations expert Paul Williams asks “in what universe is Palaszczuk, the unpolished and plain-speaking girl from Inala, anything other than down to earth and ordinary?”. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen

 

How, for example, can a party championing individual rights - it is the "Liberal" National Party, after all - maintain integrity when its leader assaults the choices of other individuals?

If, as Frecklington insists, "there are bigger issues to focus on", why did she raise Palaszczuk's clothes in the first place?

And what about the attack on the premier for being "a politician [who] took her father Henry's seat"? I'm sure Frecklington's LNP colleague, Maroochydore MP Fiona Simpson, would have some choice words given she, herself, entered state politics after her own father, Nationals MP Gordon Simpson, retired.

Simpson's strong representation of Maroochydore shows there's nothing wrong with a democratic succession of family members.

But Frecklington is not wholly immune to blame. As an intelligent and well-seasoned political player she should have smelled the toxicity of that media advice.

The “Princess Premier” debacle comes just weeks after Frecklington waited a full day to condemn the racist mutterings of some Gold Coast Young LNP members. Picture: Facebook
The “Princess Premier” debacle comes just weeks after Frecklington waited a full day to condemn the racist mutterings of some Gold Coast Young LNP members. Picture: Facebook

 

The fact she didn't suggests the judgment of the woman who wants to be our next premier is very much in question. Worse still, this debacle occurred just weeks after a similar bungle that saw Frecklington take a full day before fully condemning the racist mutterings of some Gold Coast Young LNP members.

If nothing else Frecklington should have known that personal attacks on Palaszczuk, who remains Labor's best asset despite the Trad saga, were always going to backfire.

And in what universe is Palaszczuk, the unpolished and plain-speaking girl from Inala, anything other than down to earth and ordinary?

In the final analysis the events of the past few days have opened a window for a Labor Party that had been trailing the LNP. While publicly outraged at Frecklington's Sunday Mail interview, Labor tacticians are now privately smirking as they plan a third Palaszczuk term.

Deb Frecklington is now almost unelectable in Brisbane, according to Paul Williams. Picture: Russell Shakespeare
Deb Frecklington is now almost unelectable in Brisbane, according to Paul Williams. Picture: Russell Shakespeare

 

Is Frecklington bound for a similar fate as three-time election loser Lawrence Springborg?
Is Frecklington bound for a similar fate as three-time election loser Lawrence Springborg?

 

Put bluntly, Frecklington - a farmer-lawyer from the bush - is now as unelectable in Brisbane as three-time election loser Lawrence Springborg.

The inconvenient truth is that Frecklington must win over a majority of the middle and working class voters in the thirty-odd seats Labor now holds across Greater Brisbane.

That means she must dump the antiquated anti-elitist rhetoric - designed for a regional Queensland she's already won over - and offer detailed policy meaningful to southeast Queensland.

But, given Frecklington's most recent policy foray was to nick One Nation's Bradfield irrigation scheme for western Queensland, Labor won't be sweating the loss of must-win seats like Aspley or Mansfield anytime soon.

So will Frecklington be spilled before October 2020? In short, no. Loyalty is at a premium in the LNP - an admirable quality that will almost certainly see Labor win a third term.

  • Paul Williams is a political public relations expert and Griffith University lecturer


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