Annastacia Palaszczuk has been grilled by journalists after an explosive report revealed the Queensland government forked out more than half a million dollars on market research to “shape the government’s approach” to Covid-19 policies.
The Premier was widely scrutinised throughout 2020 for her tough border policy stance, keeping the border closed with NSW until late in the calendar year.
Ms Palaszczuk repeatedly deflected criticism about the approach by insisting the decisions were guided by chief health officer Jeannette Young.
But documents exposed by The Australian through the right to information (RTI) reveals the Palaszczuk government relied on secret monthly polling of Queenslanders to gauge the state’s appetite for closures and to help her decide on the scope and duration of pandemic restrictions.
The investigation details how the state government continues to receive “waves” of focus group and polling research intended to “shape the government’s approach” and communication strategy.
The polling questions appear to show the Palaszczuk government deferred critical decisions to the masses, with questions asked in the research about the health risks of the virus compared with the economic impacts of lockdowns.
It even asked “what advice would you give” to leaders on how to manage the crisis.
On Tuesday morning, the Premier was grilled by reporters who said her insistence the decisions were guided by health were false and she instead relied on popular opinion for critical pandemic responses in the lead-up to the October state election.
“The research was done to help the advertising campaigns that the Covid-19 taskforce put in place,” Ms Palaszczuk told reporters.
“Everyone knows clearly how much I was personally attacked and the government was personally attacked for some of the strongest answers that we took taking on advice.”
The Premier described the polling data as “sentiment testing”. It initially cost $528,000 for a year-long contract and was extended last month, according to The Australian.
She was prompted by a reporter who said the RTI documents revealed there had been 17 waves of research flowing from the contract that “shows it is about guiding your decision making”.
In response, Ms Palaszczuk said the assertion was “not correct”.
“You’ll find that nearly every state, including the federal government, from time to time does sentiment testing and research especially to guide their advertising campaigns,” she said.
“Those campaigns have to be based on value for money and making sure there is clear messaging to the public what to do with the Covid-19 and social distancing and staying at home – these are important messaging that needs to happen.”
The Premier insisted she had not seen all of the research before appearing to lose her patience with the questioning, accusing the reporter of being “grumpy”.