Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced her imminent retirement from politics, two months short of her ninth anniversary as Premier of Queensland. This follows a period of mounting pressure on her leadership amid deteriorating opinion polls ahead of an election to be held on October 26. Palaszczcuk has endorsed Deputy Premier Steven Miles as her successor, but it appears that does not settle the matter, with one MP so far declaring support for Health Minister Shannon Fentiman. The parliamentary party has a strong incentive to settle on a consensus candidate, as a contested vote would require a process lasting several weeks in which equal weight would be given to votes of the caucus, affiliated unions and the party rank-and-file, a process that has never been tested since the state party introduced it a decade ago.
Both Miles and Fentiman are members of the Left, which commands a majority at state conference. However, the United Workers Union, and in particular its state secretary Gary Bullock, works as an individual source of power within it that has lately been allied with the Old Guard sub-faction of the Right (UPDATE: Comments feedback suggests categorising the Old Guard as part of the Right may be out of date – it has typically been identified as a third faction in recent times). The other sub-faction of the Right is the Labor Forum, dominated by the Australian Workers Union, which counts among its number Annastacia Palaszczuk and Treasurer Cameron Dick. In August, Dick took it upon himself to release a “blueprint” for how Labor could win the next election, which was widely seen as an effort to deal himself into the game. However, James Hall of the Courier-Mail assessed he would “find it challenging to secure sufficient support”.
Palaszczuk will resign as Premier later this week and from parliament next month, resulting in a by-election for her south-western Brisbane seat of Inala, which she retained in 2020 with a margin of 28.2%, making it Labor’s safest seat. It was also among the seven that remained to the party following its near annihilation at the 2012 election, which left Palaszczuk as the only plausible contender for the leadership of what remained of the parliamentary party. It has long been reckoned Palaszczuk’s successor in the seat would be her deputy chief-of-staff, Jon Persley. However, The Australian’s Feeding the Chooks column noted in December that his candidacy would raise difficulties with affirmative action and the optics of imposing a political apparatchik on a multicultural electorate. Right faction sources identified an alternative in Nayda Hernandez, ward officer to local councillor Charles Strunk, who had “grassroots support”.