From Pala-who? to premier: the rise and rise of Annastacia Palaszczuk


Few Queenslanders knew much about the state's new Premier, or even how to spell her name at the start of the year. But now, Annastacia Palaszczuk is a Labor hero.

Her predecessor, Campbell Newman, failed the spelling test in a radio quiz during the election campaign, saying he usually wrote 'AP'.

Now Ms Palaszczuk is a Labor hero after defeating the one-term Liberal National Party in a astounding victory at polls just over two weeks ago.

It's a win that has secured her a place in Australian electoral history.

"I think being premier of Queensland is a wonderful opportunity. She is the 39th person in Queensland to achieve that honour and I feel so proud of her," said father Henry Palaszczuk, a former Labor MP and minister under the Beattie government, at her swearing in at the Queensland Governor’s residence.

Six years ago Ms Palaszczuk was at the Govenor's Residence, being sworn in as a first time minister after Anna Bligh won the 2009 election.

The 46-year-old’s ministerial experience consists of Transport and Multicultural Affairs.

After Labor’s 2012 election defeat, Ms Palaszczuk was described more as a seat warming opposition leader for some future Labor contender, rather as the premier in 2015.

"Well, I don't think anyone thought 2012 would wipe out all the current leadership and future leadership of the Labor Party," said Peter Beattie, Queensland's Labor Premier when Ms Palaszczuk was first elected in the seat of Inala in 2006. "She was the last woman standing and that there [had been] a whole lot of other people ahead of her.

“I didn't for one minute didn't think she wasn’t capable of it, of course she was capable, as she's demonstrated in the last three years and during the election campaign."

Ms Palaszczuk achieved what most thought impossible, leading the nine Labor MPs to a historic victory against Campbell Newman’s 74 Liberal National Party MPs, after they had served just one term.

She now heads a minority government, with the support of an independent MP.

In 2006 she replaced her father as MP for the ethnically diverse seat of Inala, in Brisbane’s south.

"I think she's done a great job by herself and doesn't need any external advice, that's for sure," said Henry Palaszczuk, who represented the electorate for 14 of the 22 years he was in parliament.

Ms Palaszczuk's Polish grandfather Leo settled with the family in Inala after the Second World War, having survived a Nazi German labour camp.

In May last year in parliament, Ms Palaszczuk spoke of her family's experience during a debate over a gaffe referencing concentration camps by one of her own colleagues.

"These [Nazis] were the people who almost killed my grandfather, and also my grandmother," she said breaking down in tears.

"I just can't believe that people on this (other) side of the house talk about Nazis being admirable people."

Her father renounced his oath to the Queen while he was an MP, when Prince Harry was pictured in Nazi uniform for a fancy dress party by UK newspapers.

"It's just great to have a grandfather who migrated under those extraordinary circumstances, to have his granddaughter as the premier of Queensland," said Mr Beattie.

"That in itself shows how rich multiculturalism is in this country, how vitally important migrants are to the development of this country, and you don't get a better Australian story than that."

The Palaszczuk’s are well known among ethnic communities in the Inala electorate.

"With the very close relationship with the Vietnamese community for a long, long time, we got a lot of projects [finished] and she's helping us and we also doing a lot of work with her," said Hai Van Vu, the vice-president of the Queensland branch of the Vietnamese Community in Australia based in Inala.

Mr Vu has know Henry Palaszczuk since before he entered parliament and helped the large number of Vietnamese constituents secure their office in Darra and erect a memorial to refugees on Kangaroo Point overlooking the Brisbane CBD.

Ms Palaszczuk once learnt Vietnamese but had to drop classes when the demands of being a minister took over.

"I remember every time we have a festival, she always come to our Vietnamese community and join in," Mr Vu said.

Ms Palaszczuk was politically active for Labor at Queensland University and a photo from 1989 shows her speaking out against public radio station 4ZZZ being thrown off campus by National Party-led student union.

After completing a law degree she studied a masters at the London School of Economics, which led to ridicule for an election campaign radio gaffe when she forgot the rate of GST.

Her good humoured handling of the criticism contrasted with her predecessor Campbell Newman's style.

Openness about her personal life has also surprised.

"She was married and tried to have children, and she did an interview, and I told her I thought she was very courageous, where she said she couldn't have children," said Mr Beattie.

"Now I think there's a lot of people out in the community who have tried and can't and can relate to that."

Ms Palaszczuk swearing-in as premier makes her the first woman to lead an opposition into government in an Australian state or federal election.

She has appointed a female deputy and has a cabinet of eight women and six men, including the state's first Aboriginal woman MP, Leeanne Enoch, as a minister.

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