For those who follow Queensland politics, there are two words that are guaranteed to spark a passionate response — Jackie Trad.
Many in the LNP see her as a symbol of everything they despise — outspoken feminist, old-style leftist, Labor apparatchik.
But the former deputy premier is also one of Labor’s most experienced ministers and one of the party’s strongest parliamentary performers, with a sharp wit and willingness for a political fight.
The announcement yesterday by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to rule out Ms Trad’s return to the frontbench is Labor’s brutal admission their former star is a luxury they can no longer afford.
The fact the news was delivered in such a clumsy way — less than 24 hours after Ms Palaszczuk refused to speculate about the future of her former deputy — is a sure sign of nervousness in Labor ranks.
Ms Trad’s frontbench career had effectively been in limbo since she resigned as Queensland treasurer and deputy premier in May after the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) announced it would investigate her alleged interference with a school principal appointment.
The CCC found on two occasions Ms Trad’s decision-making was “inappropriate”, and she admitted to making a mistake last year over her failure to declare an investment property within the proper time limit.
Other politicians have made worse mistakes and still survived, but the LNP never let the Member for South Brisbane out of their sights, labelling her “dodgy Jackie”.
Despite no longer being part of Labor’s leadership team, the LNP continued to target Ms Trad in their campaign material.
At times, the Opposition’s criticism of Ms Trad appeared personal, but the LNP argued their polling showed the former deputy was electoral poison outside of Brisbane.
‘Not dealing with any hypotheticals’
The Premier had the chance to put any speculation about Ms Trad’s future to bed three months ago after the CCC released its report.
But Ms Palaszczuk dismissed a question about her return to the frontbench.
“I am not dealing with any hypotheticals,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
The LNP were never going to let the matter rest there.
Another complicating factor was Ms Trad’s left faction, which has a majority in the Labor Caucus and therefore the power to allow their former champion to regain past glory.
This made it all the more difficult to sit on the fence, yet that is precisely what the Premier chose to do when asked the inevitable question on Sunday — will Jackie Trad return to cabinet if Labor wins?
“There’s an election on at the moment and people have to work hard to win their seats,” was Ms Palaszczuk’s reply, with a reference Ms Trad’s tough campaign to retain her seat of South Brisbane against a challenge from the Greens.
The next morning, after Brisbane’s only daily newspaper, The Courier Mail, ran a front-page story about the Premier’s comments, Ms Trad herself ended the speculation in a statement on Facebook.
“You know it’s going to be a bizarre week when you make the front page for (insert made up reason here),” Ms Trad wrote.
That was quite a bitter pill for Ms Trad to swallow, as over the past five months she has made no secret of her frustration at being on the backbench.
Ms Palaszczuk was asked twice yesterday whether she had a role in Ms Trad’s Facebook announcement — both times the Premier declined to answer.
That’s quite an understatement about someone who, for half a decade, was the second most powerful politician in the state.