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A Brief History of the Beattie Labor Government 1998-2004

The Beattie Labor Government was elected in 1998, following a period of turmoil in Queensland politics.

Queensland Premier Peter BeattieThe long-term National Party Government, first elected in 1957 and which governed under Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen from 1968 to 1987, was defeated at the State election on 2 December 1989. Led by Wayne Goss, the Labor government was comfortably re-elected in 1992.

At the 1995 elections, Goss’s majority was reduced to one seat. Following the overturning of the result in the electorate of Mundingburra, the Liberal Party won the ensuing by-election and the Independent member for Gladstone, Liz Cunningham, pledged her support to the Coalition. A National-Liberal government led by Rob Borbidge took office in February 1996.

At the 1998 State election, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party captured nearly 23% of the total primary vote and won 11 seats. The ALP lost 5 seats to One Nation, but also picked up 5 seats from the Liberal Party in Brisbane. The Liberals were apparently punished by city voters for their reluctance to put One Nation last on Liberal tickets.

The Independent member for Nicklin, Peter Wellington, pledged his support to the ALP and Peter Beattie took office at the head of a minority Labor government in June 1998.

Following the resignation of the One Nation member for Mulgrave, Charles Rappolt, a by-election was held in December 1998. Victory for the ALP gave Beattie a majority of one seat in his own right.

During 1999, the remaining One Nation members split from the party, 6 of them forming the City Country Alliance Queensland, and 4 of them sitting as Independents. Following findings of irregularities in the registration of the party and the distribution of election funding, One Nation appears to have declined as a serious force.

Two by-elections early in 2000 indicated a high level of support for the Beattie Government.

At the end of 2000, Beattie was beset by a political scandal that threatened to destroy his government. Known as the “Electoral Rorts Affair”, the scandal implicated a number of prominent Labor Party identities in electoral fraud. One ALP member was jailed for bogus electoral enrolments, the Deputy Premier and Treasurer resigned and a backbencher, Mike Kaiser, the party’s former State Secretary, quit politics.

Beattie was widely seen as having handled the crisis head-on, culling his party of people implicated in electoral malpractice. Whilst largely written off at the end of 2000, he emerged in February 2001 with the largest majority ever achieved in the Queensland Parliament.

The ALP polled 48.93% of the primary vote and won 66 of the 89 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The National Party won 12 seats, later reduced to 11 following the loss of former leader Rob Borbidge’s Surfers Paradise seat.

Both the National Party and the Liberal Party were decimated, respectively securing 14.16% and 14.32% of the primary vote. The Liberal Party was reduced to 3 seats. One Nation won 3 seats and 5 independents were elected.

Shortly afterwards, the National Party leader, Rob Borbidge, resigned from Parliament and his seat was lost to an independent.

By the middle of 2001, Beattie had emerged as the most electorally successful political leader in Australia.

The National Party chose Lawrence Springborg as its new leader, whilst the Liberal Party chos Bob Quinn as leader.

At the 2004 State election, Beattie was returned for a third term, suffering a net loss of only 3 seats. Whilst the coalition parties secured a swing towards them, it delivered few seats. The ALP remained dominant in metropolitan Brisbane and One Nation was reduced to one seat.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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