If the October 31 Queensland election was simply a popularity contest between leaders then Annastacia Palaszczuk would be celebrating victory over Deb Frecklington already.

Even at her worst ebb in August last year, Palaszczuk still dominated Frecklington as the Sunshine State's preferred premier.

Palaszczuk's popularity has rebounded somewhat from the tumult of the integrity crisis that engulfed her former deputy, Jackie Trad, last year.

Labor will kick off its official election campaign on Tuesday with a coherent and (mostly) credible argument about how its management of the COVID-19 crisis has Queensland well placed for an economic recovery.

The Victorian example of what happens when governments fail to adequately contain the deadly virus could not be starker.

Between Palaszczuk's popularity and the story that the government has to sell on the pervading issue of coronavirus, the 2020 election should be in the bag for Labor. However, the second-term Labor government has never been as popular as its leader.

And while Palaszczuk has always struggled to drag the government up, her errant bunch of badly behaved, incompetent and ineffective ministers in concert with the baggage amassed from five years in power might yet bring her down.

The Courier-Mail's last YouGov Poll in June demonstrated as much.

Palaszczuk's popularity had improved to similar levels before Trad's integrity scandals. Queenslanders had tuned into updates of the COVID-19 crisis and approved of her efforts.

Frecklington's numbers had gotten worse. Yet fewer voters were willing to support Palaszczuk with Labor's vote falling to a lowly 32 per cent.

On a two-party preferred basis, the LNP led 52 to 48 per cent, a 3.2 per cent swing which would potentially put Frecklington in the frame to form a majority government.

It seems incongruous that a relatively popular premier could lose to a less than popular opponent in the midst of crisis that has been mostly well managed. Yet in recent weeks, the Palaszczuk government has set about demonstrating with great aplomb why Queenslanders turned off them before COVID-19 came along.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (left) and opposition leader Deb Frecklington.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (left) and opposition leader Deb Frecklington.

Ms Palaszczuk's former chief of staff David Barbagallo was exposed for failing to properly declare his interests.

Sports Minister Mick de Brenni has been caught fiddling with sports grants to favour Labor electorates, including his own marginal seat of Springwood.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey has admitted he spoke to Jim Soorley after the former Labor lord mayor was allegedly handed $2500 cash in a car park to lobby on behalf of a restaurant owner.

All of these issues exposed the political blind spot Palaszczuk has whenever confronted with internal troubles, an inability to show leadership and a failure to enforce a principle.

On Barbagallo, Palaszczuk claimed she hadn't read the audit report she personally ordered which found the disclosure rules she is responsible for weren't followed.

On de Brenni and his sports rorts scandal, she ducked and swerved the central criticism that this most unimpressive of ministers had been blatantly busted perverting proper processes and using public money to favour himself.

Sports Minister Mick de Brenni. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Sports Minister Mick de Brenni. Picture: Steve Pohlner

And she saw no issue with Bailey, who has already been branded "foolish" by the corruption watchdog for his use of private email, failing to do anything when he was allegedly lobbied illegally.

Outside all the integrity issues dogging Labor, conflicts and contradictions are creeping in everywhere, something that is common with governments that have been around for a bit.

Palaszczuk jetted into central Queensland this week to announce that a new coal mine was proceeding while professing her government's commitment to the resources sector.

There was some irony to the Premier having to drive out after the government jet blew a tire given she is refusing to approve the New Acland mine on the Darling Downs.

It just reminded voters, particularly those in regional Queensland, of the government's intransigence on thermal coal and Palaszczuk's backflip on Adani's Carmichael Mine after the federal election.

Palaszczuk might be popular.

But the question on October 31 will be whether that's enough.

Originally published as Will Qld voters choose integrity or popularity?


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