Parliament
Parliament

How the Tiger shirtfronted the Premier one last time

WITH the instinctive timing only a veteran hungry for blood could muster, the Tiger in the Long Grass, Jo-Ann Miller, has pounced.

Labor's longest-serving MP, the little battler from Bundamba, yesterday announced she was quitting Parliament, while insisting she was unlikely to contest the mayoral race for Ipswich.

Miller's exit surprised none.

But the manner in which she manufactured her departure shocked everyone.

Rumours abounded the Parliament precinct on Wednesday that the Tiger was on the prowl.

She'd called for a shredder and cardboard boxes from Parliamentary Services, apparently, and photographs circulated of her Level 11 Annexe office devoid of personal belongings.

Yet Miller in her post-Cabinet career as a fully fledged renegade has demonstrated a mastery for manipulating the everyday political hubbub.

She's shown a fervent zeal for inflicting maximum damage on those she insists wronged her, namely the entire Labor frontbench and more than a few backbenchers too.

Predicting her next move would have been damn foolhardy.

Yet Monday's attack on Jackie Trad - in which she referred to the pugnacious Treasurer as a "four-letter word" - showed she was planning something.

 

Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller, the Tiger in the Long Grass, has finally pounced. Picture: Annette Dew
Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller, the Tiger in the Long Grass, has finally pounced. Picture: Annette Dew

 

So did her decision to turn up uninvited to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's press conference that day, in Ipswich no less, where she made further claims about being ostracised and bullied.

It was also the beginning of the final sitting week of Parliament before nominations close for council elections, presenting Miller with the perfect moment.

She'd obviously planted enough seeds so everyone knew something was coming.

Rumours circulated that Miller would take to her feet from her far-flung seat during the rarely-used opportunity that MPs have to make personal explanations, which is jammed between ministerial statements and question time.

The scene made for a perfect Miller melodrama, the Parliament packed with every MP and media cameras at the ready.

She did not disappoint.

While ministers rose one after the others to give the traditionally tedious updates about how good the government is going, Miller gave the impression of being a million miles away.

She flicked through the pages of a weighty book with spectacles perched on the end of her nose.

The tome in her hands was called Everybody Matters, a guide to leadership that argues how morale and loyalty are the keys to success.

A coincidence? Undoubtedly not.

Then her moment came and she pounced.

It wasn't perfect, probably not how she'd imagined it, but the imperfections merely added to the drama.

 

Member for Toohey Peter Russo, another Labor Left faction MP, is facing claims he is ineligible to sit in Parliament.. Picture: Jono Searle/AAP
Member for Toohey Peter Russo, another Labor Left faction MP, is facing claims he is ineligible to sit in Parliament.. Picture: Jono Searle/AAP

 

She blubbered her way through a brief speech about her battles for Bundamba and then used a little-known convention that allowed her to personally hand her resignation letter to Speaker Curtis Pitt.

Rarely is there such silence on the floor of the House, or a time when every MP finds what's going on more interesting than their mobile phones.

Miller climbed the three steps to Pitt's ornate chair.

And then audible gasps sprung from everywhere as she tripped on the way down, falling into the Opposition front bench and the arms of the man the Labor MPs loathe the most, Jarrod Bleijie.

By accident or design, it was poetic.

And so was her second embrace, which was with LNP leader Deb Frecklington.

Palaszczuk, Trad and the rest of the frontbench remained rooted to their seats as the hugs with the enemy kept coming.

At some point Labor backbenchers realised it would be prudent to join in.

Pitt eventually had to ask Miller to leave because she was technically no longer an MP from the moment she'd handed him that piece of paper.

But the drama doesn't end with that five minutes of madness.

The Tiger in the Long Grass didn't plan it that way.

By handing her resignation to the Speaker, Miller has effectively taken the power over when the Bundamba by-election will be called out of the hands of Palaszczuk and handed it to Pitt.

While the date will still likely be March 28 to coincide with council elections, it's another shirtfronting of the Premier, who fell out with Miller after removing her from the police portfolio back in late 2015.

On paper, Bundamba is Labor's third-safest seat, but it can't be forgotten that Pauline Hanson's One Nation did not contest the seat in 2017.

Miller knitted booties for Hanson's newborn grandson, enraging her Labor colleagues as they mounted a campaign claiming the LNP was cuddling up to One Nation, and now the pair plan to put the boot into Palaszczuk again.

While Hanson's hopes of winning a seat in the city that was the birthplace of her political career are unknown, it is a distraction that the second-term Labor government does not need.

It also relieves the pressure on Frecklington as she fights to retain Currumbin after one of her own veterans, Jann Stuckey, quit, albeit with far less dramatic effect.

Labor was torn between celebration and rage over Miller's departure.

Back in Peter Beattie's day, one senior figure used to refer to her as the "poison dwarf" while another yesterday described her as "up there with Ronan Lee as the most awful person I served with".

However another lamented how it was a blow for the Government, while pointing out all the problems were coming from Left faction MPs, Bruce Saunders, Miller, Peter Russo and Trad.

"One Left member quits the faction, another quits Parliament, another might not be able to sit in Parliament and the leader is still before the Crime and Corruption Commission," they said.

The Tiger in the Long Grass has pounced.

Time will tell what it means for the remainder of the pack.