2016 a bumpy ride for Queensland MPs

Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson was forced to resign after it emerged the Bundaberg MP was nearly three years behind in her council rates and she had driven her car when it was unregistered.
Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson was forced to resign after it emerged the Bundaberg MP was nearly three years behind in her council rates and she had driven her car when it was unregistered. DAN PELED

THE question of whether Queensland's Labor government could hold on plagued 2016.

The year began with questions hovering over the loyalty of Cairns MP Rob Pyne. It ended with one minister under fire for a faltering train system and another stepping down after revelations she had been years behind in her rates and needed the Labor Party to bail her out.

But despite its troubles the Palaszczuk government finished the year in power and able to pass legislation the LNP opposed.

The Opposition had its share of hard times as well with a leadership change and a federal senator labelling his state LNP colleagues and Labor "mediocre."

The year brought changes to the way Queenslanders will vote when controversial changes passed into law without community consultation.


In the government's first year Labor MP Billy Gordon quit the party in disgrace to sit on the cross bench. In March of its second year fellow far north MP Rob Pyne joined him.

Mr Pyne had been a constant pain for the Labor Party - repeatedly calling for investigations into local governments and making statements the government would have preferred he internalised.


Independent Cairns MP Rob Pyne
Independent Cairns MP Rob Pyne JAMIE MCKINNELL

But with the government needing every vote, its leader was unable to bring him into line. In March Mr Pyne quit the party to become an independent.

This left the government with an equal number of MPs as the opposition. But the crossbench, including Mr Pyne and Mr Gordon, continued to support Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's government.


First term Warrego LNP MP Ann Leahy made history this year - becoming the first person this century to be admonished in parliament. The Parliamentary Ethics Committee found Ms Leahy had deliberately disclosed confidential committee business.

Ms Leahy had found confidential documents when she moved into her new parliamentary office and showed them to an LNP aide to ask what to do with them. A parliamentary committee found Ms Miller, who lost her police ministry as a result, inappropriately left the documents in the office.

Ms Leahy stood in her seat in parliament and Speaker Peter Wellington told her she had behaved inappropriately and needed to pick up her act to regain the "respect of her peers".

She was the first person to be admonished since Ipswich West One Nation MP Jack Paff in 1999.


After teenager Cole Miller was tragically killed in an alleged late night assault in Fortitude Valley in January, the government moved to restrict liquor trading hours. Despite strong opposition from the LNP, which said the changes would cost jobs, the government secured support from the Katter's Australian Party to pass the laws.

The laws introduced 15 entertainment precincts across the state where last drinks would be served at 3am. A 1am lockout will be introduced from February 2017. Outside the designated entertainment areas last drinks would be served at 2am. The laws also banned shots and pre-mixed drinks with more than 5% alcohol after midnight. 


After the Queensland Government refused to bail out Clive Palmer's struggling Townsville Queensland Nickel plant, the company fired 237 people before entering voluntary administration.

The collapse began a big year for Mr Palmer. He did not stand for re-election at the Federal Election and had to testify in Federal Court about how QNI was run. In court Mr Palmer was quizzed about a green notebook that he claimed was a log of six years of QNI meetings - often only consisting of himself.


Clive Palmer
Clive Palmer DAN PELED


It wasn't just the Labor government which struggled for stability in 2016.

When the LNP lost the 2015 election, its leader and by a historic margin, they turned to the "Father of the LNP" - Southern Downs MP Lawrence Springborg.

But after leading the LNP through the first year of opposition Mr Springborg was knifed - as has become the tradition for Australian political leaders - and sent to the backbench. Former LNP government treasurer Tim Nicholls took over as Opposition Leader with Nanango MP Deb Frecklington his deputy.


Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Minister resigned as Police Minister in late 2015. She waited until 2016 Budget Estimates to extract her revenge.

Ms Miller requested to sit on every estimates committee to interrogate ministers on their portfolio's spending. While her fellow Labor MPs asked pre-arranged softball questions to ministers, Ms Miller lobbed hand grenades.


Jo-Ann Miller
Jo-Ann Miller The Courier Mail

For much of the estimates process she did more damage to the government than the opposition.

But as government and opposition remained on the same number of MPs, Ms Miller had the government over a barrel. If she was reprimanded she could quit. And if she quit it could cost the government power.


When the LNP suggested expanding parliament from 89 to 93 seats with the KAP on board, it had the government trapped. The move would keep more seats in rural areas where the two conservative parties dominate.

But in a political manoeuvre more like House of Cards than George Street, Labor amended the bill to reintroduce compulsory preferential voting - ending the "Just Vote One" campaigns. The KAP agreed to the amendment as long as the parliament still expanded to 93 members. Observers and the opposition condemned the move which had not been previously suggested or evaluated in a committee.

But the unexpected popularity of One Nation at the Federal Election has led to questions on whether the preference system was a good idea for Labor.


The LNP faced a lose-lose situation when long time Toowoomba South MP John McVeigh decided to move to federal politics. If they held the seat they would still be in opposition. But if they lost they would slip one seat behind the government.

The LNP's candidate, lawyer David Janetzki, faced an unexpected challenge in the usually safe seat when former Toowoomba mayor Di Thorley ran as an independent candidate. She was boosted when Labor, having not held the seat since 1974, did not run a candidate.

But when the dust settled Mr Janetzki won the seat comfortably, keeping the major parties on an even footing.


The number of Queensland coal miners diagnosed with black lung continued to climb throughout 2016, with the total confirmed cases reaching 16 so far.

A Monash University report into the re-emergence of the disease found there had been a "major system failure at virtually all levels". The report found "clear deficiencies" in x-ray and lung capacity test reading and reporting.


Section of a coal worker's lung showing black lung disease with progressive massive fibrosis.
Section of a coal worker's lung showing black lung disease with progressive massive fibrosis. Contributed

Following the report Queensland's parliament came within a whisker of establishing a Royal Commission to find how the disease had been allowed to re-emerge after 30 years with no cases. But instead a select parliamentary committee was set up to investigate the disease.


More than 100 years after Redcliffe Peninsula train line was proposed, the route from Brisbane to the Moreton Bay suburb Kippa Ring opened.

But a lack of staff meant hundreds of services across all south-east Queensland rail lines were cancelled. The LNP was immediately calling for Transport Minister Sterling Hinchliffe's head.

But Mr Hinchliffe refused to bow to the pressure and maintained the only course of action was for him to stay in the ministry and fix the problem.


A Darling Downs mine warned it could run out of coal after the reintroduction of water licences for mines. Despite agreeing with the goals of legislation, miner New Hope said reintroducing water licences would mean the company's decade-long plan to expand its New Acland mine outside Toowoomba could again be challenged in the courts.


New Hope workers protest proposed new legislation outside Parliament House in Brisbane.
New Hope workers protest proposed new legislation outside Parliament House in Brisbane. Geoff Egan

Hundreds of New Hope workers rallied outside Queensland Parliament the week before the vote, calling to be exempted. But they were not successful with the government only exempting mines that had a Land Court decision in their favour.


With two parliamentary sitting weeks left most observers thought Mr Hinchliffe could be the next minister to fall due to QR's cancellation of hundreds of services.

Few were expecting Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson to be the one to tender her resignation.

But after it emerged the Bundaberg MP was nearly three years behind in her rates and had driven her car when it was unregistered, Ms Donaldson stood in parliament and tendered her resignation.

A week later Ms Donaldson said she had suffered depression following the collapse of her marriage. She said depression hit her so hard she did not want to get out of bed - and paying bills fell by the wayside.


As the year wound to a close even politicians in other states were asking how things were tracking in Queensland. When Victorian Liberal Party heavyweight Michael Kroger asked Federal Attorney-General, and LNP senator, George Brandis how the Queensland party was looking, he didn't hold back.

Not realising he was being broadcast Mr Brandis described his state colleagues and the government as "very, very mediocre". He questioned if the LNP merger would need to be rolled back in the wake of the reintroduction of compulsory preferential voting and rise in One Nation's popularity.

Former Premier Campbell Newman then joined in and backed up Mr Brandis' comments that the government and opposition were not performing.

The LNP went into damage control rejecting the claims and pointing to the party's strong results at the Federal Election as proof the Attorney-General and Newman were wrong.  


Topics:  ann leahy billy gordon campbell newman clive palmer george brandis katter's australian party lawrence springborg leanne donaldson palaszczuk government rob pyne tim nicholls

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