Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has reshuffled her Cabinet amid scrutiny of her government’s handling of housing, youth crime, and the state’s embattled healthcare system.
In keeping with the Premier’s long-standing preference for political stability, there are no new faces in Cabinet, just a re-allocation of portfolio responsibilities.
Since her election in 2015, Premier Palaszczuk has only made a handful of changes to her ministry, all of which were instigated by resignations or elections. This is her first reshuffle to address ongoing political concerns and some insiders have said the Premier resisted calls for more wholesale changes to her ministerial line-up.
The biggest changes involve health, youth justice and housing – with Yvette D’Ath, Leanne Linard and Leeanne Enoch all reassigned to new portfolios. Shannon Fentiman, Mark Bailey, Meaghan Scanlon, Craig Crawford and Di Farmer have been given new or additional responsibilities.
With an election due in just under 18 months, these changes are an attempt to reset the narrative in areas of weakness for the Government as it seeks to persuade voters to grant them a historic fourth term. Fourth terms in state government are notoriously hard to win, as former NSW premier Dominic Perrottet found in the recent election south of the Tweed.
Premier Palaszczuk declared this is “exactly the reset the government has needed” and that her revamped Cabinet will have an unrelenting focus on the issues of healthcare and housing.
Machinery of government changes are also imminent and there will likely be increases in funding allocations in the June budget.
In a direct portfolio swap, Shannon Fentiman will replace Yvette D’Ath as the state’s health and ambulance minister, while D’Ath returns to her previous position of Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, as well as overseeing the prevention of domestic and family violence.
Fentiman also picks up the role of Minister for Mental Health and retains her position as Minister for Women. She will be in the spotlight as she takes on the unenviable task of overhauling the health portfolio following a series of very public crises.
Labor’s only Gold Coast MP and the state’s youngest minister, Meaghan Scanlon, has picked up the housing portfolio.
Queensland has been the epicentre of a housing storm, with rents surging more than 30 per cent in Brisbane and increases in homelessness outpacing all other states and territories.
SEC Newgate’s recent Mood of the Nation report found that four in 10 Australians are reporting financial difficulties.
With housing, or lack thereof, expected to be a primary issue at the October 2024 poll, Minister Scanlon takes on a mighty challenge as the cost of living begins to bite hard.
For the first time in Queensland’s history, an Indigenous woman will be Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, with Leeanne Enoch taking on the role, as well as Minister for Treaty. Ms Enoch also retains her position as the Minister for Communities and Minister for the Arts.
Leanne Linard takes over the environment portfolio from Ms Scanlon, as well as becoming Minister for Science and Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
Bulimba MP Di Farmer returns to her previous post as the Minister for Youth Justice, while retaining her responsibility for employment, small business, and training.
The transport minister Mark Bailey adds digital services to his portfolios and Cairns-based Craig Crawford takes on the critical role of child safety, as well as his existing role as Minister for Seniors and Disability Services.
The Premier says that she hopes this will be the final reshuffle before the next election due in 2024. However, more frontbench changes cannot be ruled out, as ahead of the 2020 poll two high profile Ministers chose not to recontest their seats.
To find out more, contact our Queensland Government and Public Affairs team.
Jamin Smith, Partner and Brisbane Office Head, SEC Newgate Communications – [email protected]
Finn McCarthy, Account Director, SEC Newgate Communications – [email protected]
Alistair Coleman, Senior Consultant, SEC Newgate Communications – [email protected]