Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s department has reportedly spent more than half a million dollars on polling to gauge “sentiment” over her tough coronavirus restrictions ahead of the state election next month.
The Australian reports that on May 7, the Department of Premier and Cabinet hired polling company Ipsos Public Affairs for a $138,077 “COVID-19 Key Insights Project”, followed by a top-up contract of $390,380 on June 19.
Ms Palaszczuk has consistently said all COVID-19 restrictions are based on health advice from chief health officer Jeannette Young, and her office last month denied the government had done polling to test support for border closures.
The state shut its borders on March 26 and reopened to all but Victoria on July 10, before again closing its borders to NSW and the ACT on August 8.
A DPC spokeswoman declined to confirm to The Australian whether the Ipsos polling asked voters about the border shutdown, but said the company was “engaged to conduct market research and sentiment testing to ensure the government’s COVID-19 public information and behaviour change campaigns were effective, achieved value for money and were evaluated”.
“This is a requirement under the Government Advertising Communication Committee process,” she said.
Ms Palaszczuk has come under growing pressure from her NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the hardship caused by the border closures.
Queensland shut its borders on March 26, reopened to all but Victoria on July 10, and on August 8 closed to all of NSW and the ACT.
Last week, the Queensland Premier accused Mr Morrison of bullying her after he emotionally intervened in the case of Canberra woman Sarah Caisip, who had been ordered to leave the state after her father died while she was still in hotel quarantine.
Ms Palaszczuk yesterday refused to back down, saying she was willing to lose the upcoming October 31 election if it meant keeping people safe. She again hit out at the “relentless” attacks on her government’s border measures.
“If it means I have to lose the election, I will risk all that if it means keeping Queenslanders safe,” she said on Monday. “I will always stand up for what I believe to be right in this state.”
Ms Palaszczuk promised more staff would be brought on to accommodate entry requests on compassionate grounds, but said if she loses the election over the border issue, “so be it”.
“I will stand on my record, I will hold my head up high and I will stare down those people who are trying to tear Queensland apart, because we have a track record of our economy going strong, because we have put in place a good health response,” she said.
It comes after it was revealed earlier this week that Dr Young has been so overwhelmed with personal attacks over the tough border measures that she now requires police protection.
“Jeannette Young now has a couple of police outside her house who go with her everywhere,” Australian Medical Association Queensland president Chris Perry told Nine’s Today show on Monday.
“She has had to have extra help with sorting through the applications for quarantine exemption. She was getting over 100 per day and she was trying to deal with it herself. So working from five in the morning until nine or 10 at night … it was quite hard work. She now has eight or 10 people who help her do that.”
He added, “It has been quite stressful and it hasn’t been helped by cowardly people threatening to take the life of a woman.”
Meanwhile, other disclosures have revealed Ms Palaszczuk’s departments spent almost $60,000 on alcohol in the last financial year, which included three months of coronavirus lockdown.
The Premier defended the spending in parliament on Tuesday, saying the money was used to buy beer and wine to offer “foreign dignitaries” and at events to help connect “Queensland sellers with overseas buyers or to connect potential overseas investors with Queensland project opportunities”.