Tag Archives: Queensland

My Whitlam Hang-Up

I spent the afternoon of 11 November 1975, the day the Governor-General dismissed Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, marking essays on an earlier dismissal, when the New South Wales Governor, Sir Philip Game, sacked the Premier Jack Lang in 1932.

As a very junior tutor in Australian History, I had a desk in an outlying building well away from the hub of the History Department. By current standards, I had generous accommodation – a room on my own! – but also by current standards, I was isolated there: no internet, no phone, no tea room or gossip in the corridors. All I had was a deadline and a good 50 essays to mark and return before the students sat for their final exam. When I finally got to the bottom of the pile, in the mid-afternoon, I bundled them up and headed back to the department.

As soon as I entered the corridor of Forgan Smith – the original sandstone building at the centre of the University of Queensland – I knew something must be up: knots of people talking, radios switched on behind closed doors, notices pinned to those doors saying their occupants were elsewhere because of ‘reprehensible circumstances’. This was the phrase the opposition leader, Malcolm Fraser, had used to justify his decision to refuse to pass supply in the Senate.

As we all now know, that afternoon Sir John Kerr sacked Gough Whitlam and appointed Fraser as interim Prime Minister. Continue reading

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Governor and Lady Bowen: an odd couple in Queensland

Today is Queensland Day, an inoffensive but slightly daft non-holiday that was dreamed up in 1981, during the mad, bad days of the Bjelke-Petersen administration, with its separatist, anti-Canberra agenda.  It celebrates the splitting off of the northern part of New South Wales into a separate colony, Queensland in 1859.

It’s an odd date.  6 June was the day on which Queen Victoria signed the Letters Patent, which are still held in Britain at the National Archives, but given communications at the time, nobody in the Australian colonies knew what Victoria was doing that day.  If we must celebrate the birth of Queensland – and do we really need to? – then surely 10 December makes more sense. This was the day that Governor Bowen arrived in Brisbane, and the new colony was proclaimed. We usually celebrate birthdays, not the date of conception, after all.

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Portrait of Spain at the Queensland Art Gallery

It wasn’t a good look for the Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, to compare the State’s economy with that of Spain this week.  First because it’s simply not true: Queensland’s economy is extremely healthy compared with that of Spain.  But also because it’s an insulting reference to make in this of all weeks, when we Queenslanders are benefitting from Spanish generosity with the opening of the new exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery, Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado.

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An axe, a rifle and a box of matches

Queensland votes next Saturday in an election that looks like a rout for the current Labor government.  Pundits say that the key issues are state ones, rather than federal, though the fact that federal Labor is on the nose as well can’t help.

Win, lose or draw, the next Queensland government won’t be significantly different from governments elsewhere in Australia.  The main fight will take place in the south east corner, which is a carbon copy of south east Australia generally, not least because so many of its inhabitants are recent immigrants from interstate.

Nobody is asking today, as they invariably did 20 or 30 years ago when politics was discussed: Is Queensland different?  Or, having answered ‘yes’ to that question, Why is Queensland different?  On the whole, it seems, people and pundits no longer believe that the state of Queensland is a weird aberration from the Australian norm.  We even won the Sheffield Shield last weekend, and nobody found this remarkable.

But in many ways, geographically, demographically and politically, a remnant of Queensland weirdness remains – and some of it is exemplified in the person of Bob Katter, former Country Party, National Party, Independent and now leader of Katter’s Australia Party. Continue reading