The person talking most sense amid election bluster


IT'S looking like it will fall Anna Palaszczuk and Labor's way, but we must still await the end of the month to be sure who will be Premier of Queensland in the next parliament.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington has been written off and underestimated in the past, only to fight back stronger. She may yet do so again.

There would be a lot less doubt about the outcome of this election if another woman's name was on the ballot sheet. It's deeply unlikely she ever would, but if Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young was to run for election, she would surely romp home.

Comments by Dr Young at a Women in Medicine breakfast hosted by the AMA in Brisbane last week provided a timely reminder of why we are lucky to have her.

Dr Young talked about an issue that has been getting scant attention from the politicians - the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people and their prospects.

"It's the unknown," Dr Young said. "How are we going to get ourselves out of this? We can't stay as we are. We just can't.

"It's not good for mental health alone, let alone all the other issues in our economy. And I think our economy is a big player in mental health outcomes.

"I think our young people as a generation are really going to struggle and I'm so glad that the federal government is putting in those incentives for workers to be hired who are younger.

"I know that then causes a problem for older workers but if we don't get young people, give them some hope and some ability to enter life, they're just going to be a totally lost generation going forward."

Chief Health Officer Dr. Jeannette Young. (News Corp/Attila Csaszar)
Chief Health Officer Dr. Jeannette Young. (News Corp/Attila Csaszar)

It was a thoughtful contribution - unlike most of what passes for "debate" in the election campaign. It showed that Dr Young is concerned about impacts beyond the immediate health dangers posed by COVID-19, which she has been instrumental in helping us avoid.

We already know that extended restrictions and lost work opportunities have seen a dreadful rise in domestic violence and mental health issues. A source told your columnist that police on the northern Gold Coast are run off their feet dealing with DV-related call-outs.

But very few people are giving much attention to the impact on young people who, although least affected directly by COVID-19, are most affected by the extreme measures taken in the cause of keeping the virus out.

"Universities are still mainly online. They (young people) can't make those networks that are so critical in life," Dr Young said.

"I'm not surprised it's that younger age group that is having that really increased risk of mental health problems."



Member for Gaven Meaghan Scanlon has also been victim of outrageous abuse from online trolls. Picture: Jerad Williams.
Member for Gaven Meaghan Scanlon has also been victim of outrageous abuse from online trolls. Picture: Jerad Williams.



It would be wrong to read too much into Dr Young's comments. But they do indicate she sees a bigger picture than many give her credit for, and might be amenable to a less hard line stance on economy-sapping measures as the virus fight drags on.

We can only hope that, once the election hullabaloo has subsided, the next government is similarly minded.

It has been disappointing in recent months to see her health advice used as a shield to defend unpopular decisions with political and economic dimensions.

Worse, she has been on the receiving end of the most outrageous abuse, up to and including death threats. The sharing online of a cartoon depicting her in a Nazi-style uniform was a particularly low moment.

While the most awful online abuse has become all too common - Gaven MP Meaghan Scanlon was yesterday revealed to be another notable victim - it was especially unwarranted in Dr Young's case.

Few people will ever serve Queensland better.

It is a comfort to know that, regardless of the election result, Dr Young will remain.

The next Premier, whether it's Annastacia Palaszczuk or Deb Frecklington, will have the backing of hundreds of thousands of voters.

But she still won't be the most popular woman in Queensland. That honour will rightly rest with Dr Young.




Originally published as The person talking most sense amid election bluster