CHECKS AND BALANCES: Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller dominated Estimates hearings.
CHECKS AND BALANCES: Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller dominated Estimates hearings. Courier Mail

ANALYSIS: Love her or loathe her... Jo makes headlines

JO-ANN Miller has ditched all Labor Party branding from her business cards and her electoral office.

Both were once plastered with ALP logos and wording, now the catch cry on Ms Miller's electorate paraphernalia is 'Jo-Ann Miller - fights for what is right'.

Ms Miller's performances in the recent Estimates hearings and her other public utterances suggest a parliamentarian prepared to, for want of a better way of putting it, 'stick it up' her party while also enhancing her image with sections of the community as a politician who will not kowtow to anyone.

Once she called herself, on her business cards at least, 'Labor Member for Bundamba'.

Now she is 'Jo-Ann Miller MP. Your State Member'.

Ms Miller grilled her ALP colleagues in the recent Estimates hearings, a performance she has since said publicly was motivated by her desire to ask questions that were of import to her electorate.

It angered many in her party, who have since told the QT of moves to disendorse Ms Miller before the next election and get rid of her for good in an ALP pre-selection.

But what is the big picture here? What do all the recent developments in the Bundamba MP saga mean for the future of Ms Miller as an ALP member? Was she right to take on her colleagues as she did?

There are plenty of ALP heavyweights prepared to speak on background or 'off the record' about Ms Miller.

That is the way of it in politics.

In this story we have avoided politicians and spoken to Dr Paul Williams, one of the best political analysts in the nation and senior lecturer at Griffith University's School of Humanities; and a long-term Goodna ALP stalwart in Keiron Butler.

It is not breaking ALP rules to remove branding from your business cards and electoral office. Ms Miller's Estimates grillings were also within parliamentary rules, although almost unheard of for an ALP MP to put the blowtorch to their own colleagues.

New Labor party leader Annastacia Palaszczuk and member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller at their Ipswich based Caucus meeting on Wednesday.Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times
HAPPIER TIMES: Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller at a caucus meeting in Ipswich. Rob Williams

Crossing the floor on an issue dear to her heart would be another matter and would see her expelled from the party.

With the numbers so tight in parliament Ms Miller perhaps feels as though she can push the ALP hierarchy right to the brink.

What will they do?

"She is cutting it fine," Dr Williams says.

"I am not sure exactly on the Labor Party rules, but if she is bringing the party into disrepute or offering comfort and support to the electoral enemy...they are all sackable offences.

"Crossing the floor is a sackable offence. The Labor Party is very strict on that. That's because the Labor Party is a party of delegates, not representatives.

"She is so distant from her caucus colleagues now that she is almost like an independent in all but name only.

"But she may not resign from the party because she has reached that happy medium.

"She is almost in 'no woman's land'. She is in the party but she's not."

In Estimates Ms Miller posed questions about infrastructure planning and whether the Government's Advance Queensland policy had been effective in job creation. There was hardly an issue she did not put to her colleagues, including Deputy Premier Jackie Trad.

You could have cut the atmosphere with a knife in that exchange, with some suggesting there was an element of 'pay back' for the way Ms Miller missed out on being Deputy Premier to Ms Trad.

But both Dr Williams and Mr Butler applaud Ms Miller's performance in Estimates.

In a recent column in The Courier Mail, Dr Williams said he was "happy to see Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller implore her Labor backbench colleagues to follow her lead and to properly grill the government" in places like Estimates hearings.

He said Ms Miller was right to make that call and pointed out that "a lack of Legislative Council has, for 90 years, concentrated power in Queensland in too few hands" and "led to corruption and maladministration on both sides of politics".

Hence, Ms Miller's scrutiny from the backbench addresses that imbalance.

"She's reminded Queenslanders, and all of us, what parliament and the committees are there for," Dr Williams told the QT.

"It is all well and good for someone from the other side to take a swing at the Government or executive in Question Time or a committee but much more meaningful when someone from their own side does it.

"That happens in Britain all the time.

"It is much more meaningful for democracy when someone from your own side says 'hang on, that is not quite right'.

"It means the state or national interest is at the top of the agenda and not party interest.

"Parliament in Queensland, probably 90 times out of 100, is a rubber stamp and it is important, because we don't have that Upper House, that Parliament does what it is supposed to do.

"I don't agree with everything Miller has done over her career - far from it. But she is encouraging people to put the power back in the parliament and take it away from the executive."

Veteran Goodna greyhound trainer Keiron Butler.
Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times
Goodna ALP stalwart Keiron Butler backs Jo-Ann Miller. Rob Williams

Mr Butler agrees with Dr Williams on this point.

"I very much admire her for what she has done (in Estimates) because she is 'keeping the bastards honest' as the saying goes," he said.

"She is keeping the state of Queensland honest and sticking up for her electorate.

"You have only got to see what is happening in NSW where the (LNP members) are toeing the party line and closing the greyhound industry down and that is disgraceful.

"We don't want that happening in Queensland.

"Politicians have got to start thinking for themselves."

Ms Miller is a polarising character. There are those who loathe her and others who are devoted to her.

She has the runs on the board in Bundamba no doubt.

It is hard to argue with seven consecutive election wins, with her victory in 2011 when the big swing was on against the ALP a standout achievement as Ipswich seats and those around the state fell to the LNP.

But would she prevail in an election as an independent and prevail against an ALP candidate?

"She would wipe their arses," Mr Butler says, in a typical Butlerism.

Dr Williams has a different way of putting it.

"It is no lay down misere that Labor would win that seat against Jo-Ann Miller as an independent," he says.

"Six months ago I would have said she was 'no chance'. But because she is recrafting her image... you couldn't rule her out. She would make a good fist of it.

"It would not surprise me if Jo-Ann Miller resigned from the Labor Party before the parliament expired or that she stands as an independent at the next election.

"There are always going to be enmities, blood spilled on the floor and bad vibes that last for years, so parties try and avoid it if they can.

"They would much prefer Jo-Ann to go quietly, but she is not going to go away quietly."

Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller MP with her father George Pringle of Riverview. Photo: David Nielsen / The Queensland Times
Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller relives her hits and memories in parliament as recorded by the QT. David Nielsen

Dr Williams says he suspects the ALP was hoping Ms Miller would have pulled the pin and forced a by-election months ago.

"And that is a by-election they would always win," he said.

"It is not exactly Pumicestone where they had to fight for every vote.

"But that is not going to happen and she is going to be a thorn in their side for a while yet."

What about the consistent mail the QT gets, as reported earlier in these pages, about machinations behind the scenes by the ALP to dump the former police minister?

"She could be disendorsed, for the reason that they may see her as a liability across Queensland," Dr Williams says.

"That is problematic because she is retrieving some popularity and engaging in the rhetoric of being 'your member' and 'standing up for what's right'. The Labor Party may be thinking about ditching her and I am sure in her own faction that her support has evaporated.

"I think that is where the rot started where she angered a lot of people in her own faction and the rest of the caucus.

"The Labor party may look for fresh blood but if she is disendorsed that would be a problem for Labor because she would make a good fist of winning it in her own right, because she is building up that new persona.

"She is a bit like the Liz Cunningham of Ipswich by sticking it up both the parties.

"She has really made a name for herself in the Estimates committee.

"A lot of people got a lot of respect for her out of that and she repaired a lot of the damage she did to herself with her blunders over the last couple of years."

Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller has removed Labor signage from her Goodna electorate office.
Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller has no Labor signage on her Goodna electorate office. David Nielsen

Mr Butler, also a greyhound trainer, is vocal. He is a fighter against bureaucrats and a battler.

He hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with Ms Miller, but he admires the way she speaks out.

"I have been a card carrying member of the Labor Party since 1978 and I call Jo-Ann the 'little Aussie battler'," he says.

"I've had run-ins with Jo-Ann over the years. We've had arguments and disagreements. But I cannot criticise her for what she has done for the electorate and this state. We had some issues with the greyhound industry years ago. I met her in parliament and she saw to it that a ruling detrimental to our industry was overturned.

"When she is onto something, she sticks to it."

Jo-Ann Millers old business card.Photo: Contributed
Jo-Ann Miller's old business card Contributed

Mr Butler said he suspected "factions" were trying to get rid of Ms Miller behind the scenes and that the ALP branding issue was a non-issue.

"She's got the State Government logo on there but she is not compelled to put Labor on there," he said.

"I imagine she will have it somewhere when the next election comes around, unless she is disendorsed.

"But I hope she is not disendorsed. The way the Labor Party works these days you wouldn't know what would happen."

Dr Williams suspects Ms Miller's ditching of ALP branding "could also be a softening up of the electorate for the big resignation letter".

If that happens, and she does indeed run as an independent in Bundamba it will be one hell of a ride.

Jo-Ann Millers new business card.Photo: Contributed
Jo-Ann Miller's new business card. Contributed