Who won fiery leaders’ debate?

Undecided voters may have given the People's Forum to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, but what was the verdict from The Gold Coast Bulletin and Courier Mail team of experts?


Paul Weston

Senior reporter, Gold Coast Bulletin

So who won the Sky News' people's forum? Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in the red corner or LNP leader Deb Frecklington in the blue?

The reality for those watching on the Bulletin's web page or more than 100 people at the event, was this hour-long debate on the eve of Saturday's State poll appeared about as inviting as going to the school principal's office.

Deb Frecklington on arrival was smiling and appeared welcoming, talking about "bold and ambitious projects" once she became principal (sorry Premier). She appeared confident, like she could do the top job - but did frequently let Palaszczuk talk over the top of her.

Ms Palaszczuk seemed a lot more serious, very strict about our school, sorry border lockdown.

"Life is not like it used to be," she said. We were going to have to live like this for a long time, she added. In fact it "may be years away" before a vaccine is found for coronavirus.

Closing the borders? "This is exactly what Queenslanders would expect me to do," she said, saying it was her job to look after people.

Ms Frecklington said she would be a lot more compassionate about the restrictions. If we had a funeral to go to across the border, needed to see a family friend for important reasons, she would work to develop a COVID plan. It would not just be about AFL footballers and celebrities crossing the border.

But both agreed it would be up to the chief health officer if the lockdown ended. Somehow there was not much difference between the two of them here.

Ms Frecklington talked about "vision" and "ambition". "We need a bit of hope back in this great state of ours," she said, adding that Queensland had the highest unemployment rate.

But the principal (sorry Premier) kept interrupting and asking "how are you going to pay for your $26 million" in promises to provide new jobs.

"The only way if you are not going to borrow money, the only way is to cut, and the cuts will be savage, around 30,000 people will lose their jobs in this state, including doctors, nurses, teachers and teacher aides," the Premier said.

"Labor lies," Ms Frecklington replied. Then they started arguing.

But the principal (sorry the Premier) was right. "It's most important question of this campaign," she said, demanding Ms Frecklington give an answer.

Ms Palaszczuk gave her costings earlier this week. Ms Frecklington promised to give an answer, but that will be on Friday. Gee, that is a late extension for a report card.




State Affairs Editor, Courier-Mail/Sunday Mail

If there was one clear loser from Wednesday night's People's Forum it was Gladys Berejiklian.

The New South Wales Premier's foot-in-mouth moment on breakfast television about how she'd been in talks with Deb Frecklington about opening Queensland border was priceless ammunition for Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Yet throughout the forum either the Premier just couldn't get her aim right or Frecklington moved too fast.

At times Palaszczuk had shades of Campbell Newman at the 2015 forum in the way she abruptly attempted to dominate the debate.

While Frecklington was often light on detail, she was far more personable.

A few years back that's what Queenslanders showed they preferred.

Annastacia Palaszczuk 6/10

Deb Frecklington 8/10



State political editor, Courier-Mail/Sunday Mail

Annastacia Palaszczuk is a polished performer, and that should have given her the edge over the less-experienced Frecklington.

But far from the calm and methodical leader Queenslanders have warmed to through the COVID crisis, the Premier's demeanour was aggressive, and at times rude.

Palaszczuk seemed to forget she was not at a press conference jostling with journalists, but was speaking to people she needed to win over.

In the feisty meeting, Palaszczuk repeatedly spoke over Frecklington and Sky News host Kieran Gilbert and often wore a thunderous glower.

Frecklington appeared to stick to a careful plan to talk up her positive vision, rather than get dragged into the kind of bickering that turns off voters.

While she therefore missed opportunities to get in any big hits, and lost points for not being able to explain her costings, she more often spoke to voters about the issues that matter to them, like after-school care, the importance of coal jobs to the regions and bush maternity services.

Annastacia Palaszczuk 5/10

Deb Frecklington 7/10



Sky News host

If the Sky News-Courier-Mail leaders' debate was decided on who smiled the most, Deb Frecklington won in a landslide.

For most of the debate, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk looked like she'd just stood on cow dung at the Mount Isa rodeo. But elections are won on substance, not style, and this will go down in history as the COVID-19 election.

If voters believe the Labor Government has done the right thing on containing the health implications of the pandemic, it will win.

If voters believe that it had lost its way before COVID-19 hit, and that the LNP has the right post-pandemic economic narrative, it is in with a chance.

There was no knockout blow last night, although Frecklington looked more composed and stepped up on the big stage.

Palaszczuk kept looking in the rear vision mirror wanting to tie Frecklington to the ghosts of Campbell Newman.

There was no clear winner, although Frecklington just got the edge because she was more positive about Queensland's future.

It all might be a moot point, considering so many people have already voted.

Annastacia Palaszczuk - 6/10.

Deb Frecklington 7/10.






Courier-Mail Associate Editor

The belligerence Palaszczuk displayed while shuttering the economy and keeping borders closed was evident, unflatteringly so, as she sniped at Frecklington and kept interrupting her.

Behaving like a bully, Palaszczuk also talked over the moderator - not a good look.

Frecklington won points for holding her ground and her composure, and for reminding people of Labor's appalling record on jobs creation and tackling crime, long before COVID came along.

She called out Labor's double standards on exemptions for footballers and celebrities during the pandemic, and Palaszczuk's apparent lack of compassion, both irritants for voters.

Unsurprisingly, neither politician answered questions as directly as they should have, so both lost marks.

Frecklington, although a bit too smiley at times, appeared positive and energetic for the challenges ahead while Palaszczuk seemed sour and tired and her line, "with me, what you see is what you get", didn't do her any favours.

Annastacia Palaszczuk 5/10

Deb Frecklington 8/10



Former Labor speaker

Both were forthright. The Opposition Leader projected confidence. The Premier was strong on Covid, its economic impact, keeping Queenslanders safe, the contrast between Queensland and other states and the failures internationally.

Gladys Berejiklian's admission on Wednesday strengthened the Premier's case on what an Opposition border opening might have unleashed.

The Opposition Leader slipped when she said she would direct the chief health officer on border opening compromises, having formerly said she would follow her advice.

Her "big bold vision" lacked detail and she was robustly rebuked for the late release of costings to pay for it. Both were pro-jobs.

As both leaders increasingly talked over each other, the debate looked scrappy.

This late in the campaign it was much ado about nothing with half the electorate having voted and most having decided.

Annastacia Palaszczuk 7/10

Deb Frecklington 5/10






LNP Senator

Queenslanders have a clear choice and the debate showed the choice. The current Labor government cannot run on its record in office and has no plan for our future. It won't even deliver a budget before the election.

Yet again, we saw a scare campaign from Labor's Premier, while ignoring her own record on issues like crime, increased taxes and the terrible economic mismanagement that has delivered Australia's worst unemployment over the last five years.

By contrast we saw Deb Frecklington who was focused, full of energy and driven to deliver a stronger economy for Queensland today, with an eye to creating opportunity for you.

Deb had a conversation with Queensland last night while the Premier had a whinge.

Annastacia Palaszczuk 5.5/10

Deb Frecklington 9/10




Originally published as Who won fiery leaders' debate?

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