It can be a bumpy ride on the Opposition train, but is Deb Frecklington headed for success or will she be derailed before the next stop?
One party stalwart Joan Sheldon says at least the Queensland LNP’s first female leader is travelling light.
“Unfortunately, Tim [Nicholls] did have a lot of baggage,” she said.
“I don’t think Deb’s got any baggage and that’s to her credit — it was really the boys who were ruling the roost.”
And she thinks Ms Frecklington should have been installed as leader a lot earlier.
“I really thought Deb would have been a better choice there for just that last reason, but that wasn’t my decision — I did say so, however,” Ms Sheldon said.
“It’s not an easy position at the best of times being leader of the opposition, but I think she is saying things people expect her to say.”
Deb Frecklington is no clone of her predecessors.
She promised an “energised” approach and has made tough calls — she even publicly chastised her former boss Campbell Newman over his criticism of the police handling of a fatal traffic accident last month.
“I don’t care what side of politics you are on, the former premier’s comments this morning were insensitive and inappropriate,” she said online.
Twitter: “My thoughts are with the family of the woman tragically killed in Brisbane CBD today and the first responders who tried so valiantly to save her”
Mr Newman fired off his own criticism days later, calling her policy on toll road operators “populist, retrograde nonsense”.
Twitter: “Populist, retrograde nonsense from Deb Frecklington who has never delivered any infrastructure”
But as we have seen in Queensland politics, going too fast and too hard too quickly can end up in disaster.
Dr Paul Williams from Griffith University said Ms Frecklington would need to prove she is strong enough to take on the Government without being ruthless.
“It’s very tough to put your foot on the throat of Annastacia Palaszczuk because she’s still a widely liked political figure, so you can’t be too aggressive,” he said.
“She has got a softly, softly approach — she’s obviously trying to be a consensus-building leader, and so in that sense she seems to be contrasting quite strongly with Frecklington who is obviously trying to assume a strong, combative leadership role.”
He pointed out that despite “ticking all the boxes”, Ms Frecklington was still working out how to connect to voters.
“I would have assumed she was making ground on Labor, but the opinion polls don’t lie,” he said.
“And clearly, the fact that she’s not finding traction in Queensland is cause for problems.
“Why is she ticking all the textbook boxes on how to be an opposition leader — but why is she not gaining traction?
“I think it’s something to do with overreach, perhaps she’s not nuancing her style, she’s being very aggressive.”
Even back in the November election, Ms Frecklington might have known there was work to be done to raise her profile.
During one busy day on the hustings, she came within metres of the Premier at the Kumbia races, but in the throng of the crowd, one voter became confused between the two politicians.
“How do you spell your name again, Anna?” he said to a blank-faced Ms Frecklington, thinking she was the premier.
The moment was shrugged off with a smile but might have stood as a wake-up call that she needed to up her game.
It happened in her own electorate after all.
Twitter: “The Opposition’s Deb Frecklington working at Kumbia races, within earshot of the visiting Premier. They haven’t said hello yet”
Former independent MP Liz Cunningham has seen opposition leaders come and go over her 20-year political career.
She said Ms Frecklington was the best pick she had seen in years, and warned it would be suicide if the party ever dared to switch before the next election.
“There’s been a succession of failures in the conservative leadership and they need to stand behind Deb and make sure they show unity, strength and a willingness to support something that’s different — and that is a woman in leadership,” she said.
But Ms Cunningham argued voters did not want to see constant criticism, for criticism’s sake.
“They do not want people that are just naysayers for the sake of ‘Well, you’ve put the idea up so I’ll say that’s bad’,” she said.
“They want their leaders to show credibility by actually opposing what needs to be opposed but also agreeing with what essentially is good for the nation or good for the state.
“That’s the difference that she has got to be able to discern.”
But nothing is impossible for an opposition behind the eight-ball.
Just ask Ms Palaszczuk.