Colourful Queensland Labor Left stalwart and MP Jo-Ann Miller is in the headlines again.
As Crikey has reported, Miller’s Queensland Left faction is set to defeat her preselection bid to run again for Queensland Labor in her Ipswich seat of Bundamba, which she has held easily since 2000. Though there were big losses for them in the 2012 LNP clean sweep, Ipswich has returned to its roots and is considered Queensland Labor heartland.
Some senior figures are obviously anxious about losing the seat to One Nation in the vein of the 1998 state election, when Pauline Hanson’s far-right renegades picked up 11 seats across the state. Miller barely hung on in Bundamba as the public flirted with the LNP from 2012 to 2015, after almost 20 years of uninterrupted Queensland Labor government under premiers Peter Beattie and Anna Bligh.
A very popular local MP, she has more recently struggled to maintain the critical support of the most powerful Left-aligned trade unions recently after numerous scandals and a bitter battle with Deputy Premier Jackie Trad for control of the Queensland Left. Trad, the former Queensland Labor Assistant Secretary, who is backed strongly by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union decisively won that battle years ago, and Miller has struggled to come to terms with that.
Miller is seen as a strong trade unionist but appears to only have the support of the Mining division of the CFMEU. It’s been reported that Miller suffered several controversies as police minister under the Palaszczuk government. Most notably she was slammed by the powerful Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee (PCCC) — controlled by her own party — after numerous confidential PCCC documents from her time on that committee were left in a safe she had handed over to an LNP member to use. She has never recovered her reputation inside her party and the Parliament.
Queensland Labor members and MPs were stunned when more recently she mauled and seemingly mocked Palaszczuk government cabinet ministers during budget estimates. That was the final shoe to drop for many. Since then, it’s been almost guaranteed she will not be preselected again, and it is unclear if she will run again as an independent.
My sense is she will struggle to bring herself to resign from Queensland Labor despite her troubles and what she may perceive as unfair treatment. I don’t think she has any desire to be a wrecker and distraction in a new Parliament, but time will tell. I think she realises her power in a new Parliament wouldn’t be significant outside her old party. She’s stubborn and proud, but she also understands realpolitik.
Despite the threat of One Nation, I don’t see the party reaching its highs of 1998, and it will most likely take seats from the LNP rather than Queensland Labor. Having said that, the next parliament is more than likely to be one where Queensland Labor needs seats like Bundamba if One Nation threatens to be a small crossbench forming minority government with the LNP.
It all depends on the Palaszczuk government’s agenda, achievements and campaign strategy, which, in the wake of the One Nation mess in the federal Senate, senior party hardheads are devising.
Meanwhile, the creation of a new Queensland Labor branch in Bundamba has tongues wagging overtime. Following the meeting of the new local branch and its submission to Queensland Labor’s Administrative Committee for consideration of its endorsement, anxious forces loyal to Jo-Ann Miller have been causing mischief. They have incorrectly leaked to the Murdoch press that the new branch is an attempt to build numbers to defeat Miller in her Queensland Left preselection.
Given the Queensland Left numbers within Bundamba, it has been put to me that local numbers don’t matter and the Left executive has the numbers to overpower the local vote regardless. It has not been put to me how strong her support is among the Ipswich Left rank and file.
Several party sources have said that staff from Jo-Ann Miller’s office are responsible for leaks to the media about the new branch being formed. These unfortunate staffer interventions have ramped up what was already a tinderbox locally, and things are set to explode unless something is done to calm the situation.
Tensions are very high in the Ipswich Left.
Miller and those loyal to her are feeling increasingly isolated and are lashing out. The problem is that with a minority Queensland Labor government they is also lashing their government.
The Palaszczuk government needs Miller’s vote.
It is hoped cool heads prevail and the Palaszczuk government is left to govern undistracted by false and damaging rumours and ill-considered leaks.