The Palaszczuk Government has spent half a million dollars polling Queenslanders opinions on coronavirus but the Premier denies it is to get a leg-up ahead of next month’s election, telling critics to “have a cold shower”.
Annastacia Palaszczuk said the surveys have been used to help shape behaviour-changing campaigns, for issues such as social distancing, and direct more funding into domestic violence.
Government disclosure logs revealed $528,457 was paid to market research company IPSOS to provide community “insights” into coronavirus.
A Government spokesperson said the company was “engaged to conduct market research and sentiment testing to ensure the Government’s COVID-19 public information and behaviour change campaigns were effective, achieved value for money and were evaluated”.
Ms Palaszczuk could not say whether Queenslanders were asked their feelings on controversial border restrictions as part of the survey, but said gathering community sentiment about coronavirus was commonplace across the country.
“IPSOS, my understanding, has asked numerous questions across the spectrum on a whole range of issues that they have done with every other state, including the Federal Government,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“So it’s interesting that Queensland’s just being singled out here.
“But let me say this very clearly, everyone just needs to have a cold shower when it comes to this, because every other state is asking a whole range of questions about how people are feeling about being in lockdown and coming out of lockdown.”
‘Politicising the pandemic’
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the money was evidence the Government was politicising the coronavirus health response.
“The Premier of Queensland has endorsed and spent over half-a-million dollars to gauge public opinion to get herself re-elected,” she said.
“We have 234,000 Queenslanders out of work … where does the Premier’s priorities lay? It’s in politics.
“She’s gauging opinions for political gain.”
Two contracts awarded
Government data showed a contract for $138,077 was given to IPSOS in May for a “COVID-19 key insights project”.
Another contract, worth $390,380 was given to the company in June, for insights into coronavirus “additional waves”.
The ABC has requested a copy of the IPSOS questions and its results from the Government.
Health Minister Steven Miles said the research was around essential health “messaging” during the pandemic.
“Government departments constantly are researching how they can best communicate with the public and it has been incredibly important throughout this pandemic that we have clear, consistent messaging, particularly about social distancing,” he said.
“That’s what that research does, it helps us inform those messages, helps us to inform how we can best get those messages out to the public.”
But Ms Palaszczuk denied the research would help with the state election at the end of October.
“No it won’t because it’s about how people are responding to the economic recovery,” she said.
“Every state does that and for example, when people were in lockdown we asked people how they were feeling.
“And because some people were going through a really tough time, we put more money into domestic and family violence services and we also put more money into mental health.
“We also asked people for example how they would feel about signing into restaurants, something they have never had to do before.”