Jackie Trad

Lessons in Leadership

IF you are looking for lessons in leadership, Queensland politics threw up a couple this week.

Steven Miles, the MP for Murrumba, added second-in-charge of the Palaszczuk Government to his health portfolio, in a public acknowledgement of his role in managing the state’s COVID19 crisis.

Jackie Trad, whose job he took, is left to weigh up her political future, and whether she’ll even be a candidate in October’s state poll. One of Labor’s most senior has lost her big office, a whole department of public servants, and – it would seem – the support of many in her own party.

It’s hard not to imagine her sense of humour disappearing along with it.

But all of this has happened without a single adverse finding being made against her.

How can that be? And is it fair?

I would argue it is manifestly unfair, for two reasons. Firstly, Jackie Trad should be wholly considered innocent until proven otherwise.

But secondly, what is the role of a local MP? And could it be possible that meeting, and discussing the requirements of leadership in a big school in an MP’s electorate, falls squarely within that role?

The Crime and Corruption Commission is looking at the former deputy premier’s involvement there, in relation to the letter of the law.

But we need a public debate also on what we want from our local MPs, who are paid very well to represent us, and their electorates, at a state level.

Schools are the heart and soul of many suburbs and regions, and the role of the principal is crucial to how it fits, and partners, and interacts with the local community.

Indeed, Jackie Trad has been very public about her role in building the new Inner City South State Secondary College and expanding West End State School. She worked as a public servant in education.

So her interest in who was going to lead a big, big organisation smack bang inside her South Brisbane electorate is understandable.

Whether she then overused or undermined or did something underhand, which is alleged in brackets with every CCC investigation, is still to be determined.

But advocating for better schools, good leaders, wider roads, more small business and helping families find jobs, locally, should be higher on the priority list of all our MPs.

The problem here is the perception that it was done privately, or secretly, or without accountability. And that’s a big lesson for any leader in 2020.

So is the way leaders go about their job. Jackie Trad is as brash as she is bright, has as many enemies as friends, and believes that crash-through is often a quicker route than any other.

And that’s a second lesson for leaders this week. In this case, her supporters stopped answering phones, and supporting her publicly (and in many cases, privately).

It’s a hard lesson, without any detrimental finding, and perhaps one not possible to come back from.

And that brings me to Steven Miles, the new deputy premier of Queensland, who owes his promotion as much to Covid19, as to Jackie Trad’s demise.

Two months ago, he would have been an unlikely candidate, in the public’s eyes. But a crisis can make a man (or woman), and Steven Miles’ leadership through it has been exemplary.

He’s shown how he can articulate a message, be part of a team, and provide confidence despite the confusion that COVID19 has delivered; all traits that pop up in every leadership survey. He’s he done it will dog tired.

But one other tiny attribute stood out this week, and that was an openness we don’t often now see in politics. 

How did he celebrate his promotion? Champagne with staff, and a big fat cheese burger made by his son. And the State’s chief health officer wouldn’t have approved of it either, the Health Minister added.

Being real. Being open. And just saying it how it is. 

Photograph of Madonna King

Madonna King is a leading journalist and commentator. An award-winning presenter of 612 ABC Brisbane, she has authored 12 books and now works across radio, television and online.

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