Sick culture that cost Labor two of its finest


Queensland Labor's moribund factional system has now cost the state a future premier as well as a very capable minister.

Kate Jones, a 41-year-old mother of two, yesterday shocked the establishment and walked away from a successful political career, which included defeating a sitting premier.

Shock exit: Jones third Labor minister to quit

Minister Anthony Lynham quits on election eve

Punished for not being a career politician

Joining Jones in the political exit lounge was Energy Minister Anthony Lynham, who decided he could no longer juggle the demands of a Cabinet career with remaining a qualified surgeon.

The loss of their collective talent is a bitter blow for the Labor Government ahead of its quest for a third term.

Unlike a lot of their aloof contemporaries, Jones and Lynham were successful ministers because they managed to maintain close relationships with the stakeholders in their portfolios.

Both their decisions can be traced back to the rigid tribalism that has infected Labor's faction system, which these days prizes blind obedience over pragmatism.

Former Labor premier Peter Beattie yesterday lamented their loss.

"Kate had the potential to be a future premier," he said.

"Public life in Queensland is the big loser today."

If the factional system was the same during Beattie's day he probably would never have been premier.

Like Jones, Beattie was from Labor Old Guard faction, a group so small that it can no longer cobble together a cricket team.

Yet Beattie rose to the Labor leadership because the factions decided he was the best person for the job.

That's unlikely to happen any longer.

With a four-year term ahead, Jones had reached the conclusion that she'd risen as high as the factional system would allow.


Kate Jones announces her retirement. Picture: Liam Kidston
Kate Jones announces her retirement. Picture: Liam Kidston


State Parliament's youngest ever minister, the first to give birth while a cabinet member, had hit modern Labor's latest glass ceiling, its cultish commitment to one of the three tribes.

And well may Lynham protest that his decision was his own.

Yet the drums within Lynham's Right faction had been beating for him to quit for some time by forces who wanted to replace him with the son of a former member for Stafford.

It might be the party of the worker, but Labor doesn't mind a dynasty.

The surgeon, who was drafted into the party by Annastacia Palaszczuk and won the seat of Stafford with a 19 per cent swing at a by-election in 2014, carved out a successful career in state politics.

But the millionaire who move from southside acreage to northside suburbia was never going to be part of the inner Labor mob, regardless of what he achieved.

The machinations of factionalism must have been foreign to the analytical brain of a highly accomplished medical professional.

But Lynham found a way to make it work, until the appeal of putting broken people back together again became pervading.

The current Government is far from the first to face the drama of ministers retiring before an election.

There will be claims about rats and sinking ships, but that's not right.

In the end, two talented ministers have decided to quit a government that has been beset by pointless factionalism from the start.

And Queensland politics is poorer because of it.


Anthony Lynham bids farewell. Picture: Dan Peled/NCA NewsWire
Anthony Lynham bids farewell. Picture: Dan Peled/NCA NewsWire





Originally published as Sick culture that cost Labor two of its finest