Queensland by Mark Bahnisch

Queensland by Mark Bahnisch

Author:Mark Bahnisch
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: NewSouth
Published: 2015-04-07T16:00:00+00:00

REACTION REACTS BADLY

Goss walked, rather than face a vote of no confidence in parliament, and Rob Borbidge became Queensland’s first post-Fitzgerald National premier, leading a minority government supported by Gladstone independent Liz Cunningham. Borbidge had been a junior minister under Mike Ahern, rising to Police Minister in the brief Russell Cooper Government. A Victorian immigrant, drawn to the Gold Coast by Joh’s abolition of death duties, the member for Surfers Paradise was an urban National, and therefore, a rare bird. His brief premiership, in double harness with the Liberal leader Joan Sheldon as Treasurer and Deputy Premier, was riven by scandals surrounding a memorandum of understanding with the Police Union, an organisation made notorious in the Joh era. The union was given power of veto over senior appointments, allegedly in return for political support and a donation towards the by-election campaign.

This affair haunted the Premier, and shenanigans around an inquiry into the matter by the CJC were superseded by an enquiry into the CJC itself, which promptly led to the resignation of the original judge. Yet another enquiry, in true old Queensland style, exonerated everyone. But this was hardly a good look, and nor was the setting of mounted police on revellers at a 4ZZZ market day in Musgrave Park, a decision former Premier and Police Minister Russell Cooper failed to defend cogently or even coherently. ‘Don’t you worry about that’ was not really good enough in 1997, and Borbidge also faced the revolt of his own bush base over John Howard’s acquiescence in Wik Native Title legislation and, even worse for the farmers, the gun legislation that followed Port Arthur.

Pauline Hanson had already been elected to federal parliament, of course, the fish and chips shop owner having been disendorsed by the Liberals before the 1996 federal election due to her racist remarks. Both the state Coalition and the federal governments now had to face a real threat to their right, but many Labor voters in Queensland were also attracted to Hanson’s style and rhetoric. The perception that Paul Keating had governed for ‘elites’ and minorities had taken hold, and equally as important, the losers from his political and economic projects did not intend to take defeat lying down. Hanson swept 11 MPs into office in the state election in 1998, a campaign dominated increasingly by the National Party’s overruling of Premier Borbidge’s injunction to put One Nation last.

Labor and Nationals both lost seats to the colourful insurgents, including a fisherman and a department store Santa, but Labor won more, and was able to govern initially with the support of Nicklin independent MP Peter Wellington. Wellington was to support Labor again into minority government in 2015, and insisted on transparency and community participation as a condition of his support on both occasions. Beattie responded by instituting ‘Community Cabinets’, where the ministry would meet openly, often in a suburban or regional area, and meet with the community and take questions. As with a number of Beattie’s innovations, this was subsequently adopted by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the federal sphere.



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