Tony Fitzgerald Warns Of Abuse Of Power In Queensland

Tony Fitzgerald, the man who led the inquiry into corruption in Queensland’s Bjelke-Petersen government in the 1980s, has issued a statement warning against the abuse of power and describing Queensland today as “effectively a single-party State”.

FitzgeraldFitzgerald, a former judge of the Federal Court of Australia, said the first term of Campbell Newman’s government has seen attacks on the judiciary and judicial independence, emasculation of the anti-corruption commission, and interference with the electoral system.

The Liberal National Party government has “confirmed the critical importance of adequate checks and balances”, Fitzgerald says.

The Fitzgerald Inquiry of the 1980s contributed to the resignation of Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the jailing of Police Commissioner Terry Lewis, and the resignation and jailing of several Cabinet ministers.

Text of statement issued by Tony Fitzgerald.

Statement from Tony Fitzgerald

Queensland is extremely vulnerable to the misuse and abuse of power. There are almost no constitututional limits on the power of the State’s single house of parliament. Unless there is an effective parliamentary opposition to advocate alternative policies, criticise government errors, denounce excesses of power and reflect, inform and influence public opinion, the checks and balances needed for democracy are entirely missing. [Read more…]


Woof Woof!

I can’t resist it. Whenever I hear someone say “woof woof”, I always think of a famous exchange between Gough Whitlam and Billy Snedden in 1975.

Today’s email from Crikey alerted me to this tweet from Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Saturday:

Gillard

At least Gillard was only expressing her delight at the 9-point victory by the Western Bulldogs over Port Adelaide.

In the House of Representatives on February 19, 1975, however, the same words were uttered by the Liberal Opposition Leader, Billy Snedden. They came during a discussion of one of the most contentious constitutional issues of the Whitlam years. Snedden was ridiculed by Whitlam and the incident contributed to Liberal unease over Snedden’s leadership. He was replaced by Malcolm Fraser a couple of weeks later. [Read more…]


Anniversaries Galore In The First Week Of December

The first week of December is a big week for political anniversaries.

Today, for example, is the anniversary of the swearing-in of the Rudd Labor government in 2007. Channel 10 News reported it this way:

Looking back at Rudd: [Read more…]


Bjelke-Petersen: Corrupt, Venal, Vindictive, Hypocritical, Dangerous

The sycophantic coverage of the death of Joh Bjelke-Petersen over the weekend, particularly on television, was a timely reminder that the lessons of history can be quickly forgotten. It showed not only how badly served we are by commercial television, but how even sections of the ABC have been cowed.

Joh Bjelke-PetersenBarrie Cassidy should hang his head in shame for the shallow and non-probing interview with Senator Ron Boswell on Insiders, whilst Sky News revealed itself to be captive of the cloying celebrity political death approach. At least the likes of Terry Lane (In The National Interest) and ABC News Online offered some contrary views more soundly rooted in facts.

But it is today’s edition of The Australian that is quite remarkable. It goes some way to providing balance to the weekend’s simplistic and sympathetic coverage. The news of Bjelke-Petersen’s death is reported below the fold on page one, highlighting Premier Peter Beattie’s consent to a State funeral. The incumbent premier’s attitude to his predecessor will one day be worth historical investigation in its own right.

On page 2 there are 3 articles dealing with Bjelke-Petersen, all of which highlight criticisms. The former Premier’s vindictive attitude to artists such as Judith Wright and his fraudulent use of proxy votes to survive a leadership challenge in 1970 are recounted. Amidst the tributes, the former Labor Premier, Wayne Goss, is quoted as saying, “No, I don’t have a grudging respect for Sir Joh.”

“Thankfully we will not see your like on the political stage again,” begins the editorial on page 8. The paper’s scathing assessment of Bjelke-Petersen rightly accuses him of trampling on democracy, civil liberties and the fundamental elements of representative democracy. “His dominance of public life in Queensland for close to two decades demonstrates how quickly democracy can be perverted by a cunning politician with a will to power and an eye for the main chance.”

The editorial outlines the various ways in which Bjelke-Petersen enriched himself by abusing his public office. It recounts the demand for $1 million from Alan Bond in settlement of a defamation action, corrupt gains from oil exploration permits, and stories of bags of cash arriving at the Premier’s office. Moreover, the paper rightly attributes Bjelke-Petersen’s “snake-oil economics and populist patriotism” as paving the way for Pauline Hanson.

The Australian then devotes 4 full pages to commentary on Bjelke-Petersen. It amounts to the most comprehensive demolition of a political figure since the National Times exposed the corruption of former NSW Premier Bob Askin on the weekend after his death.

Adrian McGregor and Evan Whitton trace Bjelke-Petersen’s career but conclude with the damning assessment that he left politics a bitter man and left his National Party discredited, a position it remains in today.

Phil Dickie writes that Bjelke-Petersen “trampled on civil liberties” but resorted to the defamation laws with a “rare vindictiveness” and Tony Koch writes of the “selfish and short-sighted premier who ran Queensland with a tyrannical zeal.” Most appalling is the story of how Bjelke-Petersen stopped state funding of trachoma treatment for Aboriginal people in retaliation against their electoral enrolment.

Mike Steketee argues that Bjelke-Petersen had “a big influence on federal politics, all of it destructive.” He reminds us of the breach of convention which saw Albert Patrick Field appointed to the Senate in 1975, setting in train the dismissal of the Whitlam government. According to Steketee, Bjelke-Petersen “managed to wreck or derail the careers of no fewer than three federal leaders, all from different parties.” He refers to Whitlam (Labor), Howard (Liberal) and Sinclair (National).

Another article outlines the repressive social atmosphere that prevailed under Bjelke-Petersen, from laws restricting rock ‘n’ roll bands, censorship and bans on protest marches. Ross Fitzgerald explains how politicisation of the police force was an integral part of Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensland, how the Special Branch was deployed to monitor critics and ruin careers.

An article by Dani Cooper explains the outrageous malapportionment (frequently and incorrectly referred to as a gerrymander) kept the National Party in power, even though it rarely polled above 40% of the vote. At one point it was the majority party in the coalition with just 27% of the statewide primary vote.

John Stone, the former head of Treasury and National Party senator, writes of his time on the Bjelke-Petersen bandwagon with some bemusement. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” he says somewhat unconvincingly. The Australian’s editorial acknowledges that Stone wasn’t the only one to climb aboard the “jimcrack bandwagon”. Sir Joh “conned all sorts of Australians – including, it must be said, this newspaper.” That’s the closest you’re likely to get to a mea culpa from a Murdoch editorialist!

Read The Australian today. It’s worth it.


Mal Colston, Venal Politician, Labor Rat, Dead At 65

Mal Colston, the former Labor senator, whose name has become synonymous with politicians’ rorts, has died, aged 65.

ColstonColston was elected to the Senate in 1975 and sat as an undistinguished backbencher until 1999. He resigned from the ALP in 1997 after failing to secure nomination for the deputy presidency of the Senate. His vote gave John Howard the majority he needed to pass legislation to privatise Telstra.

Following his departure from the Senate following the 1998 election, Colston faced 28 charges relating to travel rorts. On medical advice that he had only months to live, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions dropped the charges in 1999.

There have been intermittent calls for the charges to be reinstated, but two weeks ago the current DPP, Damian Bugg QC, said Colston’s condition was deteriorating and no further charges would be brought. Colston reportedly had cancer of the bile duct. [Read more…]


Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen Comments On The 1987 Federal Election Result

This is audio and video of Queensland Premier Sir John Bjelke-Petersen commenting on the re-election of Bob Hawke’s Labor government in 1987.

Hawke called an early double dissolution election because of Coalition divisions over Bjelke-Petersen’s “Joh for PM” campaign.

Despite a small swing against the ALP, Hawke won two extra seats from the Coalition in NSW and another two in Queensland, increasing his overall majority in the House of Representatives. [Read more…]


So Sing It Loud – National Party Queensland Song

This is a 1977 recording of “So Sing It Loud”, the song of the National Party of Australia – Queensland.

The recording was made from a 45rpm record (of the thin, cheap and bendable variety) produced by the party during 1977. The record and its cover are shown below.

The National Party’s federal leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Doug Anthony, is shown on the cover, with his wife, Margot, and the Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. [Read more…]