Taxpayers spend another $50k+ on PR for COVID-19 response

 

Taxpayers shelled out another $54,000 to a PR firm last month as part of the State Government's handling of COVID-19, as Annastacia Palaszczuk told everyone to take a "cold shower" after copping backlash for undertaking coronavirus polling.

The Premier and her deputy Steven Miles defended the spending of more than half a million dollars on polling ahead of the looming state election to gauge the sentiment of Queenslanders on messaging around the pandemic, insisting it was important there was consistency.

It comes as Ms Palaszczuk claimed to not know key Labor strategist Mike Kaiser, who had been hired to help create the state's economic recovery.

He was also a former Labor MP for Woodridge and ex-premier Anna Bligh's chief-of-staff, before becoming a partner at KPMG, which does consulting work for the Government.

Mike Kaiser.
Mike Kaiser.

 

When asked whether she could give an update on what Mr Kaiser had been doing for the Government and whether she spoke with him much - albeit the reporter pronounced his name wrong - the Premier said: "I don't know who you're talking about, sorry".

A new question on notice released this week revealed PR firm NewGate Communications was contracted by the Government for $54,054 in August, with the work "considered essential to the Government's COVID-19 response and recovery."

The firm landed two other contracts earlier this year, totalling $190,000.

A Department of Premier and Cabinet spokeswoman said the firm was engaged last month to support the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Taskforce with the co-ordination of a range of pandemic related issues across government and with business and industry.

The Premier was accused by the Opposition of being more concerned about populism and politics than the health advice yesterday, with Leader Deb Frecklington saying she should either pay back the money or release the polling results.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Tertius Pickard
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Tertius Pickard

But Ms Palaszczuk said it wouldn't help Labor win the election, saying every state undertook polling and that it had helped the Government determine where money should be allocated, citing recent mental health funding.

"It's about how people are responding to the economic recovery," she said.

"We had to put together a comprehensive road map to ease people out of those restrictions and look how we're going.

"We've got a strong economic response because of our strong health response."

She wouldn't say whether pollsters had asked Queenslanders about the state's strong border restrictions, instead saying they asked numerous questions about a range of issues.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles also defended the spending, insisting it was important there was clear messaging throughout the pandemic.

Mr Miles said Government departments were constantly researching how they could communicate with the public.

"It has been incredibly important throughout this pandemic that we have clear, consistent messaging, particularly about social distancing," he said.

"Just think about how we have changed the practices, the actions of our entire society.

"We've all changed the way we go about our day-to-day life and we've done that because we have been able to communicate to the public what those changes are."

The Deputy Premier said it was a relatively small investment to make sure Queensland got it right.

Originally published as 'I don't know who you're talking about'


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