Annastacia Palaszczuk and Scott Morrison (Images: AAP)

Parenting expert Dr Brené Brown has become famous over the marble jar lesson, which is now being used by schools and counsellors globally.

Brown’s daughter Ellen was having difficulty with her classmates, and her mum explained how marbles can be deposited in a jar as a way of building trust with someone. It’s built up slowly, over time. Each time that trust is broken, the marbles are taken out. So when the withdrawals are more frequent than the deposits, the trust equation goes into deficit.

And that’s the problem Scott Morrison is facing as he gears up for an election. Do we trust him?

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Whether it’s on economic issues, or social issues, his announcements are coloured by opportunism. The latest example is India, where he’s flip-flopped more than a pair of sandals on a Gold Coast beach. But even if we accept his latest, and softer stance, it still flies in the face of other decisions. An example of that is the ridiculous decision to detain — so far for three years — a Biloela family facing deportation.

Empathy one day. Hardline the next. What will tomorrow bring?

Debt was bad. Now it’s good. We were all going to have the vaccine by the end of the year. Now we’re not. Or are we? Borders should be opened earlier. Now they should be closed for longer.

Policy backflips are not owned exclusively by Morrison, but as leader he has been unable to show a depth that allows voters to understand what he and his government stand for — if anything.

Going in to an election, his marble jar is looking a bit lean. And that might be costly, particularly in those areas of the nation where he needs voters to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Take Queensland for example. Just look at a map, and consider this. Morrison’s government holds every single seat, except one, north of the Brisbane River. Of the state’s 30 federal seats, it has a whopping 23. If he loses a few of those, it’s game over, red rover.

He knows that, which is why he’s building the frequent flyer points to regional Queensland. But Labor’s state leader, Annastacia Palaszczuk, knows that too, and she’s ready to take him on, on home soil.

Palaszczuk has made Queenslanders, who will usually err on the side of parochialism, feel safe. Her entire state reelection campaign was built around that, and proved spectacularly successful, shunting her into the position of Australia’s longest serving female head of government.

While a small chunk of small business, particularly in the tourism sector, have been noisily objecting, Palaszczuk’s approach — where borders were slammed closed at the nearest whiff of a COVID outbreak — has worked.

It made her unpopular with Gladys Berejiklian and Morrison, but popular where the votes counted.

Palaszczuk has become Queensland’s unexpected Labor hero, first for vanquishing Campbell Newman and then for holding government in two subsequent elections.

It’s State of Origin season in Queensland. Expect her to be out in maroon and using her home state popularity to take on Morrison, keeping the Labor votes she has held in the winning column for Anthony Albanese.

She’s a rival a declining prime minister needs to fear.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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