Joh Bjelke-Petersen

Joh Bjelke-Petersen
The Honourable
Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen
31st Premier of Queensland
In office
8 August 1968 – 1 December 1987
Preceded by Gordon Chalk
Succeeded by Mike Ahern
Personal details
Born 13 January 1911(1911-01-13)
Dannevirke, New Zealand
Died 23 April 2005(2005-04-23) (aged 94)
Kingaroy, Queensland, Australia
Political party Country/National Party of Australia
Spouse(s) Florence Bjelke-Petersen
Religion Lutheran

Sir Johannes "Joh" Bjelke-Petersen, KCMG (13 January 1911 – 23 April 2005), was an Australian politician. He was the longest-serving and longest-lived Premier of Queensland,[1] holding office from 1968 to 1987, a period that saw considerable economic development in the state.[2] His uncompromising conservatism (including his role within the downfall of the Whitlam federal government), his political longevity, and his leadership of a government that, in its later years, was revealed to be institutionally corrupt, made him one of the best-known and most controversial political figures of 20th century Australia. An ironic feature of his government was that while Premier Bjelke-Petersen relentlessly preached the maintenance of law and order as a reason to suppress political opposition, a number of senior government figures, including a Police Commissioner he appointed, were subsequently jailed for corruption.


Early life

Bjelke-Petersen was born in Dannevirke in the southern Hawke's Bay Region of New Zealand,[3] and lived in Waipukurau, a small town in Hawke's Bay. Bjelke-Petersen's parents were both Danish immigrants, and his father, Carl, was a Lutheran pastor. In 1913 the family left for Australia, moving to Kingaroy in south-eastern Queensland and taking up dairy farming.

The young Johannes suffered from polio, leaving him with a life-long limp. The family was poor, and Carl Bjelke-Petersen was frequently in poor health. Johannes and his mother Maren worked on the farm. In 1933, Bjelke-Petersen began work on the family's newly-acquired second property at land-clearing and peanut farming. His efforts eventually allowed him to begin work as a contract land-clearer and to acquire further capital which he invested in farm equipment and natural resource exploration. He developed a technique for quickly clearing scrub by connecting a heavy anchor chain between two bulldozers. Obtaining a pilot's licence early in his adult life, Joh also started aerial spraying and grass seeding to further speed up pasture development in Queensland.[4] By the time he entered Parliament, he had built a thriving business.

Under sponsorship from Sir Charles Adermann and Sir Frank Nicklin, he was elected as Country Party member for Nanango in the Queensland Legislative Assembly in 1946 (from 1950 to 1987 he was member for Barambah). The Australian Labor Party (ALP) had held power in Queensland since 1932 and Bjelke-Petersen spent eleven years as an Opposition member.

Rise to power

Joh and Flo on their wedding day (31 May 1952)

In 1952, Bjelke-Petersen married Florence "Flo" Gilmour, who would later become a significant political figure in her own right. In 1957, following a split in the Labor Party, the Country Party under Nicklin came to power, with the Liberal Party as a junior coalition partner.

Bjelke-Petersen became one of Nicklin's cabinet ministers in 1963 as minister for works and housing.[5] When Nicklin retired in January 1968, Jack Pizzey became Nicklin's successor both as Premier and as Country Party leader. Pizzey died unexpectedly within seven months of assuming office. In the election for leadership of the Country Party, Bjelke-Petersen won. He became Premier on 8 August 1968.[6] (During the interval between Pizzey's death and Bjelke-Petersen's accession, the premiership was held by the Liberals' leader, Sir Gordon Chalk.) At this stage Bjelke-Petersen was still not very well known even to most Queenslanders, let alone outside the State. Even after becoming Premier, Joh was still very active in his local community teaching Sunday School.[6]

Bjelke-Petersen's government was kept in power in part due to an electoral malapportionment where rural electoral districts had significantly fewer enrolled voters than those in metropolitan areas. This system was originally introduced by the Labor Party in 1949 as an overt electoral fix in order to concentrate its base of rural voters in as many districts as possible. Under Nicklin the bias in favour of rural constituencies was maintained, but reworked to favour the Country and Liberal parties. In 1972 Sir Joh strengthened the system to favour his own party, which led to his opponents referring to it as the "Bjelkemander," a play on the term "gerrymander". Ironically, while in opposition, Bjelke-Petersen had vehemently criticised the 1949 redistribution, claiming that Labor was effectively telling Queenslanders, "Whether you like it or not, we will be the Government."

Although Bjelke-Petersen's 1972 redistributions occasionally had elements of "gerrymandering" in the strict sense, their perceived unfairness had more to do with malapportionment whereby certain areas (normally rural) are simply granted more representation than their population would dictate if electorates contained equal numbers of voters (or population). The lack of a state upper house (which Queensland had abolished in 1922) allowed legislation to be passed without the need to negotiate with other political parties.

With Labor weak and chronically divided in Queensland throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Bjelke-Petersen won a series of election victories, often at the expense of his Liberal coalition partners as much as Labor. Typically the Country Party would gain fewer votes than either Labor or Liberal, but those votes would be spread out across the many rural electorates, giving the Country Party more seats than the Liberals and thus making them the senior coalition partner. Together they had more seats in Parliament than Labor, allowing Bjelke-Petersen to govern as Premier of a State in which his party received, in one election (1972), only 20% of the votes. However at each election Bjelke-Petersen won, the combined Liberal and National two party preferred vote was higher than Labor's.[7] His campaigns stressed social conservatism, law and order and unrelenting attacks on Labor.

In 1984 Bjelke-Petersen was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) for "services to parliamentary democracy".[8] He was then generally known as "Sir Joh" (rather than "Sir Johannes"), and his wife generally (if incorrectly) known as "Lady Flo."

Queensland under Bjelke-Petersen

Relations with Cabinet

Bjelke-Petersen evolved from a diffident beginner to an aging autocrat who faced no opposition of any consequence in Cabinet, according to University of Queensland political scientist, Dr Rae Wear.[9] As a National Party Premier, he could choose and dismiss Ministers. There was no developed Cabinet office and because during his last years, submissions did not go to Department heads, power was further concentrated in the hands of the Premier and his advisors.[10]

State development

Bjelke-Petersen abolished state duties on deceased estates (inheritance taxes), leading to a steady flow of retired people moving from the southern states of Victoria and New South Wales to Queensland, particularly the Gold Coast. All other Australian states and territories had abolished this tax by 1981 in attempt to stem the flow of people to Queensland. The rapid rise in population in the Gold Coast, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast led to a building boom that lasted for three decades.[citation needed]

The development boom was particularly noticeable in the tourist area of the Gold Coast. The Bjelke-Petersen government worked closely with property developers, who constructed resorts, hotels, a casino and a system of residential developments. The Hinze Dam was also constructed on the Gold Coast.[11]

In one controversial case, the Queensland government passed special legislation, the Sanctuary Cove Act, in 1985, to exempt a luxury development, Sanctuary Cove, from local government planning regulations.[12] The developer, Mike Gore, was seen as a key member of the "white shoe brigade", a group of Gold Coast businessmen who became influential supporters of Bjelke-Petersen.[13] Gore established Queensland's first gated community at Sanctuary Cove. [14] Gore was a vocal backer of the "Joh for PM" campaign. Bjelke-Petersen denied that had received any money from Gore.[15] A similar piece of legislation was passed to allow the Japanese company, Iwasaki Sangyo, to develop a tourist resort near Yeppoon in Central Queensland. It was later revealed by the Morning Bulletin newspaper that Bjelke-Petersen's son-in-law, Lester Folker, had been appointed a director of the Australian-based arm of the development company.[16] Bjelke-Petersen denied any conflict of interest, and was quoted by the newspaper as complaining that every time one of his children bought a Japanese car, people decried it as a conflict of interest.[citation needed]

Interior of Cloudland Dance Hall

Considerable development of the state's infrastructure took place during the Bjelke-Petersen era. He was a leading proponent of Wivenhoe and Burdekin Dams, encouraging the modernising and electrifying of the Queensland railway system, and the construction of the Gateway Bridge.[4] Airports, coal mines, power stations, and dams were built throughout the state. James Cook University was established. In Brisbane, the Queensland Cultural Centre, Griffith University, the South East Freeway, and the Captain Cook, Gateway and Merivale bridges were all constructed, as well as the Parliamentary Annexe that was attached to Queensland Parliament House. Bjelke-Petersen was one of the instigators of World Expo 88 (now South Bank Parklands[17]) and the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games.[4]

A Queensland defamation jury found in 1992 that industrialist Sir Leslie Thiess had, during 1981–1984, bribed Bjelke-Petersen generally 'on a large scale and on many occasions'; specifically, to procure Government contracts involving Winchester South, Expo '88, a Gold Coast cultural centre and three prisons.[18]

Despite public protests, several Brisbane heritage sites such as the Bellevue Hotel were demolished. Thirteen Liberal backbenchers supported Labor in parliament, condemning the destruction of the state government owned Bellevue.[19] Former Liberal Parliamentarian, Terry Gygar, described the early morning scene at the Bellevue demolition; "A large crowd had gathered around the building. There was a cordon of police. They had thrown up a barbed ... a mesh wire fence around it. And then the Deen Bros arrived, rolling through like an armoured division, straight through the crowd. People were knocked sideways. Police were dragging people out of the way. Parking meters were knocked over. Traffic signs were bent and twisted on the road. It looked like Stalingrad."[20] Bjelke-Petersen congratulated the contractors, the Deen Brothers, "on a job well done".[21]

Relations with the media

Bjelke-Petersen's government dominated Parliament, not allowing committees or impartial speech, and ran a very sophisticated media operation, sending press releases out right on deadline so journalists had very little chance to research news items.[22] Journalists covering industrial disputes and picketing, were afraid of arrest. In 1985, the Australian Journalists Association withdrew from the system of police passes because of police refusal to accredit certain journalists. Some journalists experienced police harassment.[23]

Bjelke-Petersen's authoritarian and manipulative approach to media, at times became visible behind his tangled syntax, which frequently bemused interviewers. It was unknown whether he was joking, confused or saying what he really thought when he said: "The greatest thing that could happen to the state and nation is when we get rid of all the media... then we could live in peace and tranquility and no one would know anything."[24] Joh's catchphrase answer to unwelcome queries, "Don't you worry about that," was widely parodied. Peterson was known to refer to this process of patronising journalists as "feeding the chooks".[25]

Bjelke-Petersen responded to unfavourable media coverage by using government resources to sue for defamation on numerous occasions. The Queensland historian Ross Fitzgerald was threatened with criminal libel when he sought to publish a critical history.[26]

In 1989, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, found that in 1986 Bjelke-Petersen had placed then Channel 9 owner Alan Bond in a position of 'commercial blackmail' when Bond improperly agreed to pay $400,000 as an out-of-court defamation settlement.[27]


In 1975, after the Whitlam Dismissal and before the ensuing election, a letter-bomb addressed to Bjelke-Petersen was sent to his office. The bomb exploded, resulting in minor injuries to two public servants.[28] As a result, a second bodyguard and a bulletproof vest were allocated to the Premier and a special bomb squad was formed.[29]

Civil liberties, the Police and political protest

Police violence was witnessed against demonstrators at the University of Queensland, which was a haven for anti-Bjelke-Petersen sentiment.[30] A decision by this University's Senate to award him an honorary LL.D brought about criticisms from both students and staff. Leading Queensland poet, Judith Wright, returned her own honorary Doctorate, in a personal protest.[31]

The 1971 Springbok tour by the South Africa national rugby union team sparked nation-wide demonstrations against apartheid. The Springboks' Brisbane match was moved from the Rugby Union headquarters at Ballymore because it was easier to erect barricades at the Exhibition Ground.[32] The RNA, which administered the ground refused to co-operate. Bjelke-Petersen "grabbed the political initiative",[33] by declaring a state of emergency,[34] thus compelling the RNA to co-operate. The declaration covered the whole of Queensland and operated for a period from ten days before the first game to fourteen days after the last, "in case the police had any unfinished business".[35] Federal Country Party leader Doug Anthony called Bjelke-Petersen's support for South Africa's Apartheid regime, in direct defiance of the federal Coalition's stance, "unreasonable, selfish and un-Christian". The Bjelke-Petersen government turned the furore to its advantage, winning two by-elections, including the seat of Merthyr, won by Don Lane, a former Special Branch policeman.[36]

According to Lane, one of Bjelke-Petersen's closest ministerial allies, Joh saw street marchers as a menace who clogged up traffic, caused distress to pedestrians, motorists and shop keepers, and were mainly made up of grubby left wing students, Anarchists, professional agitators and trade union activists.[37][38] The government transferred 450 police from country areas to suppress anti-apartheid demonstrations.[39] Future Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, then a student protestor, witnessed police violently attacking peaceful demonstrators, including women.[40] Brisbane aboriginal activist, Sam Watson claimed the police wanted to "smash and cripple and destroy".[41] Bjelke-Petersen praised police conduct during the demonstrations and awarded them an extra day's leave. [42] Peter Beattie said that, "...if you went to a protest there was always photos being taken". "You know, you'd always pose to get your best side. (Laughs) And they had a dossier on everybody", Beattie said.[43]

Bjelke-Petersen rejected recommendations by the Police Minister, Max Hodges, and the Police Commissioner, Ray Whitrod, who sought an inquiry into an incident in 1976, where a police officer struck a student with a baton during a demonstration.[44] Bjelke-Petersen told Whitrod that the cabinet, not the Commissioner, would decide if an investigation was warranted. The Police Union sent a letter of thanks to the Premier and offered support. Hodges was replaced as Police Minister soon after.[44] The Police, secure in the knowledge that they had the Premier's backing, continued to act provocatively, most notably in a raid on a commune at Cedar Bay later that year.[45] The Police who had been looking for marijuana, torched the residents' houses and destroyed their property. Whitrod sought an inquiry but the results were never revealed.[45]

After seven years as Police Commissioner, Whitrod resigned saying he could no longer tolerate political interference and the Police Commissioner had become a political puppet. He was replaced by Terry Lewis who had been previously promoted to Assistant Commissioner, against Whitrod's recommendation, over the heads of 122 officers of higher or equal rank.[45] Whitrod had already told the new Police Minister, "everybody in the police force knows that Lewis is corrupt. Now if he's appointed assistant commissioner, it will nullify all my efforts', and the new Minister said, 'I will talk to the Premier'. And about an hour or so later the Minister rung me up and said, 'The Premier does not want to see you, nor will he allow you to address cabinet'."[46] Whitrod said that he hoped his resignation would send a message to the people of Queensland; "that something very seriously was going wrong with the Queensland police force and with their Premier".[47]

In 1977, Bjelke-Petersen announced that "the day of street marches is over... Don't bother applying for a march permit. You won't get one. That's government policy now!" Bjelke-Petersen said.[48] Liberal parliamentarians crossed the floor defending the right of association and assembly.[49] Colin Lamont, one of the Liberals, told a meeting at the University of Queensland that the Premier was engineering confrontation for electoral purposes. "Two hours later, he (Bjelke-Petersen) lunged at me across the floor of Parliament, waving a tape recorder and spluttered, 'I've heard every word. You are a traitor to this Government'", Lamont wrote later. Lamont said he learned the Special Branch had been keeping files on Liberal rebels and reporting, not to their Commissioner, but directly to the Premier. "The police state had arrived", Lamont added.[50]

The Uniting Church synod passed a resolution that "Queensland heads of churches to mediate between the State government and student and civil liberties groups to achieve better ways of expressing their differences." Bjelke-Petersen replied "If churches want to consort with atheists and communists dedicated to the elimination of religion, that is their problem."[51]

Bjelke-Petersen often accused political opponents of being covert communists bent on anarchy. "I have always found ... you can campaign on anything you like but nothing is more effective than communism... If he's a Labor man, he's a socialist and a very dangerous man."[52]

Aboriginal people

In June 1976, Bjelke-Petersen blocked the proposed sale of a pastoral property on the Cape York Peninsula to a group of Aboriginal people, because according to cabinet policy, "The Queensland Government does not view favourably proposals to acquire large areas of additional freehold or leasehold land for development by Aborigines or Aboriginal groups in isolation."[53] This dispute resulted in the case of Koowarta v Bjelke-Petersen, which was decided partly in the High Court in 1982, and partly in the Supreme Court of Queensland in 1988. The courts found that Bjelke-Petersen's policy had discriminated against Aboriginal people.

Also in 1976, Bjelke-Petersen evicted a team treating trachoma, led by Fred Hollows from state-controlled Aboriginal land. Bjelke-Petersen claimed that Hollows' team had been encouraging Aborigines to enrol to vote.[54] In his visits to northern communities, Fred Hollows was accompanied by two respected Aboriginal spokesmen and civil rights activists, Mick Miller and Clarrie Grogan. With an election looming, and keen to shut down this source of independent information, the Premier simply ejected Hollows' team. Electoral office data refuting his claims that there had been a rush of voter enrolments in the wake of the trachoma team, was not released for public consumption.[55]

In 1978, the newly-formed Uniting Church became involved in a struggle between the rights of Aborigines at Aurukun and Mornington Island (former Presbyterian missions) and the Queensland Government, which was anxious to allow mining to proceed. Bjelke-Petersen granted a 1,900 square kilometre mining lease to a mining consortium under extremely favourable conditions. With support from the church, the Aurukun people challenged the legislation, eventually winning their case in the Supreme Court of Queensland. But they ultimately lost when the Queensland Government appealed to the Privy council in the UK.[56]

When learning of Eddie Mabo's emerging legal claim of native title over islands in the Torres Strait, Bjelke-Petersen and his government pushed through the Queensland Coast Islands Declaratory Act 1985 which declared that all native title (even though it had not yet been proved to a court) was extinguished.[citation needed] This law sidelined Mabo's claim, and required him and his legal counsel to get a declaration from the High Court that this law was invalid under the Commonwealth's Racial Discrimination Act 1975, as it clearly discriminated against Indigenous Queenslanders and did not affect any other group's proprietary interests. The High Court declared Bjelke-Petersen's law inoperative which laid the ground for Mabo's historic return to the High Court several years later in Mabo (No 2).[citation needed]

Role in the Whitlam dismissal

In 1975 Bjelke-Petersen played what later turned out to be a key role in the political crisis which brought down the federal Labor government of Gough Whitlam (who referred to Bjelke-Petersen as "that Bible-bashing bastard, Bjelke".) Whitlam's government did not have control of the Senate, whose members are elected as representatives of the individual states. Senators are normally elected directly, but if a Senate position becomes vacant, a replacement is appointed by the relevant State Governor. State Governors are also responsible for the issue of writs for elections to the Senate. Bjelke-Petersen twice used these practices to thwart Whitlam's attempts to gain control of the Senate.[57]

In 1974, Whitlam approached former Queensland Premier and then Senator for the Democratic Labor Party, Vince Gair, with the offer as a job as ambassador to Ireland as a way of creating an extra vacant Senate position in Queensland that Whitlam hoped would be won by his Labor Party. This arrangement became public before Gair had resigned from the Senate. The opposition played their cards to perfection, keeping Gair away from the Senate President (to whom Gair had to give his resignation) until the witching hour of 6pm. At five minutes past 6 the Queensland Cabinet met, and advised the Governor Sir Colin Hannah, to issue writs for five, rather than six, vacancies, denying Labor the chance of gaining Gair's Senate spot.[57] The next day Gair appeared in the Senate and claimed that by accepting this office of profit he had forfeited his seat. The Senate however voted on party lines that Gair was still a senator (Gair could vote, as that would have confirmed that he was still a senator. The convention in filling Senate vacancies, first proposed by Premier Gair in 1952, was that the Opposition would provide a short list of three names from which the Premier would have a free choice, thus meaning that the Opposition would have their senator, and the Premier would have the final say. When Labor Senator Bertie Milliner died, Bjelke-Petersen agreed that it was a genuine death, not a contrived death, and that the replacement should be a Labor man. All he asked was what Labor had asked previously, to have a short list of three nominees, from which he would pick one.[57] When the ALP refused to supply such a list, Bjelke-Petersen said that he would find another Labor man, and appointed Albert Field, an ALP member who was critical of the Whitlam government. The ALP tried to block the appointment by expelling Field, and announcing that it would expel anyone else who would accept the appointment in Colston's place, but Bjelke-Petersen went ahead with the appointment anyway.[57]

Field's appointment was the subject of a High Court challenge and he took leave in late 1975. During this period, the Coalition led by Malcolm Fraser declined to allot a pair to balance Field's absence. This gave the Coalition control over the Senate. Fraser used this control to obstruct passage of the Supply Bills through Parliament, denying Whitlam's then-unpopular government the legal capacity to appropriate funds for government business and leading to his dismissal as Prime Minister.[57] During the tumultuous election campaign precipitated by Whitlam's dismissal by Sir John Kerr, Bjelke-Petersen alleged that Queensland police investigations had uncovered damaging documentation in relation to the Loans Affair. This documentation was never made public and these allegations remained unsubstantiated.[57] As it turned out, Field was not needed in the Senate, as the opposition's numbers held firm, but if he had been, he could have been put back in ten minutes. First the Governor would have prorogued the Queensland Parliament. Then Field would have resigned, ending all questions about his eligibility. Then, with the Parliament in recess the Governor could have re-appointed Field under Section 15 of the Constitution.

Break-up of the coalition

In August 1983 Terry White, a Liberal minister, joined backbench colleagues crossing the floor to vote against the government in Parliament. The Liberal leader, Dr Llewellyn Edwards, sacked White from Cabinet, but instead White successfully challenged him for leadership of the Liberal Party. However, when Bjelke-Petersen refused to appoint White as deputy premier, White tore up the coalition agreement.[58][59][60] Joh had never really trusted the Liberals, since they drew most of their support from Brisbane. With White tearing up the agreement, he now saw a chance for the Nationals to win a majority in their own right. At the 1983 state election, Joh convinced many right-leaning Liberal supporters that voting Liberal would just put a Labor government into power. The Nationals won 41 seats, one seat short of a majority. Meanwhile, the Liberals were cut down to eight seats—a 14-seat loss[61] Following the election, Bjelke-Petersen openly invited Liberal MPs to cross the floor to the Nationals. On 25 October, following the election, two Liberal MLAs, Brian Austin (Wavell) and Don Lane (Merthyr) took Bjelke-Petersen up on his offer and defected to the National Party.[62] The National Party had formed a majority government for the first time at the state level in Australia. In 1986, the Nationals won an outright majority in an election for the only time ever.


"Joh for Canberra"

In 1987 Bjelke-Petersen launched a campaign for the Prime Ministership. The move attracted intense media attention across Australia. By early 1987 the Joh-for-Canberra push was attracting 20 per cent in opinion polls.[63]

The "Joh for Canberra" campaign was abandoned after a snap election was called by incumbent Bob Hawke.[64] Hawke took advantage of the fact that Bjelke-Petersen had forced federal Nationals leader Ian Sinclair to tear up the coalition agreement with the Liberals. Labor was able to sneak up the middle and win several three-cornered contests, netting its largest seat count ever in an election.

Fitzgerald Inquiry

Bjelke-Petersen with Russ Hinze

In May 1987, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation investigative journalism program Four Corners aired an episode entitled "The Moonlight State" alleging high-level corruption in the Queensland Police, including the receipt of bribes from owners of illegal brothels. At the time the program aired, Bjelke-Petersen was outside Queensland. In response to these allegations, Deputy Premier and Minister of Police Bill Gunn, who was serving as acting premier in Bjelke-Petersen's absence, announced an inquiry.

The two-year-long Commission of Inquiry into "Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct" was chaired by barrister Tony Fitzgerald and known as the Fitzgerald Inquiry. As it began, evidence of corruption was unearthed implicating not only Police Commissioner Terry Lewis, but also senior members and associates of the Bjelke-Petersen government.[citation needed] As a result of the inquiry, Lewis was tried, convicted, and jailed on corruption charges. He was later stripped of his knighthood and other honours. A number of other officials, including ministers Don Lane and Austin were also jailed. Another former minister, Russ Hinze, died while awaiting trial.

The Bjelke-Petersen government's decline in political standing prompted fierce conflict between his supporters and his detractors within the Nationals' partyroom. Sir Robert Sparkes, the State President of the party, who for decades had been Bjelke-Petersen's influential sponsor, withdrew his support and the two became enemies. Bjelke-Petersen then met with State Governor Sir Walter Campbell in an effort to restructure his Cabinet and purge dissenters from the ministry. Eventually, Campbell agreed to sack five ministers.

Bjelke-Petersen also wanted Campbell to dissolve parliament with a view toward holding elections a year early. However, three of the ministers he'd sacked—Gunn, Austin and Mike Ahern--told Campbell that Bjelke-Petersen no longer had enough support to govern. Under the circumstances, Bjelke-Petersen was forced to announce he would retire as premier in August 1988.


Bjelke-Petersen denied his National Party opponents the opportunity to confront him by refusing to call a meeting of the party's parliamentarians. Eventually, the organisational wing of the party intervened and called one. Bjelke-Petersen's request that Nationals MPs join him in a boycott went unheeded, and the caucus deposed him in favor of Ahern.[65] However, Bjelke-Petersen initially refused to resign as premier. After a lengthy standoff, Bjelke-Petersen resigned on 1 December 1987 and retired from politics.[66] Announcing his resignation as premier and parliamentarian, he said:[67]

The policies of the National Party are no longer those on which I went to the people. Therefore I have no wish to lead the Government any longer. It was my intention to take this matter to the floor of State Parliament. However, I now have no further interest in leading the National Party any further.

In the subsequent by-election in April 1988, the seat was won by Trevor Perrett representing the Citizens Electoral Council against the endorsed National candidate, Warren Truss. Perrett ultimately joined the National Party in December 1988 and later became a minister in the Borbidge Ministry.[68]

Under Ahern (1987–89) and Russell Cooper (1989), the Nationals were unable to overcome the damage from the revelations about the massive corruption in the Bjelke-Petersen government. In the 1989 state election, Labor finally overcame the Bjelkemander and handed the Nationals the worst defeat of a sitting government since responsible government was introduced in Queensland.

Perjury trial

In 1991 Bjelke-Petersen faced criminal trial for perjury arising out of the evidence he had given to the Fitzgerald Inquiry (an earlier proposed charge of corruption was incorporated into the perjury charge). Evidence was given to the perjury trial by Sir Joh's former police Special Branch bodyguard Sergeant Bob Carter that in 1986 he had twice been given packages of cash totalling $210,000 at Sir Joh's office. He was told to take them to a Brisbane city law firm and then watch as the money was deposited in a company bank account.[citation needed]

The money had been given over by developer Sng Swee Lee, and the bank account was in the name of Kaldeal, operated by a trustee of the National Party, Edward Lyons.[69] John Huey, a Fitzgerald Inquiry Investigator later told Four Corners: "I said to Robert Sng, "Well what did Sir Joh say to you when you gave him this large sum of money?" And he said, "All he said was, 'thank you, thank you, thank you'."[70] The jury in the case remained deadlocked. In 1992 it was revealed that the jury foreman, Luke Shaw, was a member of the Young Nationals and was identified with the "Friends of Joh" movement. A special prosecutor announced in 1992 there would be no retrial because Sir Joh, then aged 81, was too old.[71] Developer Sng Swee Lee refused to return from Singapore for a retrial. One unproved estimate of Bjelke-Petersen's extortions was at least A$6 million.[72]

In 2003, the Queensland Labor government rejected a $353 million damages claim by Bjelke-Petersen seeking compensation for loss of business opportunities resulting from the Fitzgerald inquiry. In his advice to the government, tabled in parliament, Crown Solicitor Conrad Lohe not only recommended dismissing the claim, but said Sir Joh was "fortunate" not to have faced a second trial.[73]


Bjelke-Petersen remained a popular figure with rural conservatives in Queensland. For a while he pursued business interests in Tasmania while trying to pay off debts said to have been incurred during his perjury trial. In fact, Bjelke-Petersen had previously incurred serious losses from monies borrowed in Swiss currency.[74] [75] Bjelke-Petersen's memoirs, Don't You Worry About That: The Joh Bjelke-Petersen Memoirs, were published in 1991.[76]


Bjelke-Petersen died in April 2005, aged 94, with his wife and family members by his side. He received a state funeral at which the then Prime Minister, John Howard, and Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie were speakers.[77] Beattie, who himself had been sued by Sir Joh for defamation and was arrested during the 1971 Springbok Tour protests said "I think too often in the adversarial nature of politics we forget that behind every leader, behind every politician, is indeed a family and we shouldn't forget that." As the funeral was taking place, approximately 200 protesters gathered in Brisbane to "Ensure that those who suffered under successive Bjelke-Petersen governments were not forgotten". Protest organiser Drew Hutton said "Queenslanders should remember what is described as a dark passage in the state's history."[77]

Bjelke-Petersen is buried "beside his trees that he planted and he nurtured and they grew"[77] at the family property "Bethany" at Kingaroy.[78]


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  2. ^ "Sir Joh, our home-grown banana republican", The Age 25 April 2005.
  3. ^ "Joh Bjelke-Petersen", Courier Mail Birth of our Nation, 2001.
  4. ^ a b c Mccosker, Malcolm (2005-04-28). "Early business ventures of Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland". Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  5. ^ "Bio at website". Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  6. ^ a b June 15, 2008 12:00AM (2008-06-15). "New Premier gets away to a flying start | Courier Mail".,23739,23862386-5008700,00.html. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  7. ^ Vote by Party at Past Queensland Elections, ABC Queensland 2006/2007 election guide
  8. ^ It's an Honour
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  10. ^ Wear, op cit, p. 132
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  12. ^ "Sanctuary Cove Act" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  13. ^ Kelly, Paul. The End of Certainty, Allen & Unwin, 1994, pp. 291, 294
  14. ^ "Burke, Matthew. "The Pedestrian Behaviour of Residents in Gated Communities"" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  15. ^ Kelly, op cit.
  16. ^ Joh, Japanese developers and communist hacksCrikey
  17. ^ "About South Bank". 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  18. ^ ABC News coverage in re Thiess' conviction[dead link]
  19. ^ Wear, op cit, p. 164
  20. ^ "Terry Gygar; Rewind, ABC Television". 2004-10-17. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  21. ^ Hugh Lunn "The Life and Times of Joh Bjelke Petersen" University of Queensland Press, 1987 P295
  22. ^ ""Study examines Sir Joh's life and times" UQ News Online". 1999-06-04. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  23. ^ Wear, op cit.
  24. ^ Cunningham, et al. Contemporary Australian Television, UnSW Press, 1994, p. 61
  25. ^ ""Don't you worry about that! - The Joh Bjelke-Petersen Memoirs" Australian Politics Books". APB. 199-06-04. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  26. ^ Ross Fitzgerald, ABC website
  27. ^ Quentin Dempster ABC website
  28. ^ "NAA website". Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  29. ^ Queensland cabinet minutes 1975
  30. ^ Semper Floreat 1973
  31. ^ "Police violence in Queensland". Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  32. ^ "Springboks Brisbane march". Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  33. ^ Lane, Don. Trial and Error, p. 63
  34. ^ "State of emergency declared". Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  35. ^ Wear, op cit, p. 137
  36. ^ Lane, op cit, p. 64
  37. ^ Trial and Error, Boolarong Publications, Brisbane, 1993
  38. ^ Trial and Error, Boolarong Publications, op cit.
  39. ^ "Allan Hall". 2004-09-26. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  40. ^ Peter Beattie, ABC website
  41. ^ Sam Watson, ABC website
  42. ^ "Australian Biography website". Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  43. ^ "2004 "Springbok Tour", ''Rewind'', ABC". 2004-09-26. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  44. ^ a b Wear, op cit, p. 201
  45. ^ a b c Wear, op cit, p. 202
  46. ^ "Ray Whitrod". Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  47. ^ "Whitrod, op cit". Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  48. ^ Rae Wear, op cit, p. 159
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  50. ^ Lamont, op cit.
  51. ^ ""Launch and Dedication Of The Uniting Care Queensland Centre for Social Justice", Jesuit Social Justice Centre". Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  52. ^ "''Sydney Morning Herald'', 2005". 2005-04-25. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  53. ^ cabinet memo dated September 1972, quoted in Koowarta v Bjelke-Petersen.
  54. ^ Ros Kidd, "The Colour of Democracy"
  55. ^ Kidd, op cit, supra
  56. ^ "Uniting Church, ''Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders''". Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
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  59. ^ Reynolds, Paul (2002). Lock, stock & barrel: a political biography of Mike Ahern. University of Queensland Press. pp. 51–72. ISBN 9780702232947. 
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  61. ^ "ABC News (Australia) reporting on 1983 election". Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  62. ^ "Australian news coverage of two Liberal MLAs' defection to the National Party".,20867,19288923-601,00.html. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  63. ^ "Farewell, Sir Joh, the great divider – National". 2005-04-25. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  64. ^ Dickie, Phil (2005-04-24). ""Death of a populist", ''The Age''". Melbourne: Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  65. ^ "Australian Political Chronicle: July – December 1987". Australian Journal of Politics and History 34 (2): 238–242. August 1988. ISSN 0004-9522. 
  66. ^ Whitton, Evan. "When the Sunshine State set up a scoundrel trap", The Australian, 12 May 2007
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External links

Parliament of Queensland
Preceded by
James Edwards
Member for Nanango
1947 – 1950
District abolished
New district Member for Barambah
1950 – 1987
Succeeded by
Trevor Perrett
Political offices
Preceded by
Harold Richter
Minister for Works
1963 – 1968
Succeeded by
Max Hodges
Preceded by
Gordon Chalk
Deputy Premier of Queensland
Succeeded by
Gordon Chalk
Premier of Queensland
1968 – 1987
Succeeded by
Mike Ahern
Preceded by
Llewellyn Edwards
Treasurer of Queensland
1983 – 1987

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  • Joh Bjelke-Petersen — Sir Johannes Joh Bjelke Petersen (13 janvier 1911 23 avril 2005), est un homme politique australien né en Nouvelle Zélande qui a été le 31e premier ministre du Queensland, celui qui a occupé le plus longtemps ce poste et celui qui a vécu le plus… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bjelke-Petersen — is the name of an Australian family of both Danish and Swedish descent. The common ancestors of the Australian family is Georg Peter Bjelke Petersen, a Danish farmer and master builder, and his wife Caroline Vilhelmine (maiden name Hansen). They… …   Wikipedia

  • Bjelke-Petersen — /ˌbjɛlki ˈpitəsən/ (say .byelkee peetuhsuhn), /ˌbjɛlkə ˈpitəsən/ (say .byelkuh peetuhsuhn) noun Sir Joh(annes) /dʒoʊˈhænəs/ (say joh hanuhs), 1911–2005, Australian National Party politician, born in NZ; premier of Qld 1968–87. Joh Bjelke Petersen …   Australian-English dictionary

  • Florence Bjelke-Petersen — Florence Isabel Bjelke Petersen (born 11 August 1920), Lady Bjelke Petersen, Australian politician, was a member of the Australian Senate from 1981 to 1990, and is the widow of the longest serving Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen.… …   Wikipedia

  • Marie Bjelke Petersen — Marie Bjelke Petersen, 1927 Born 23 December 1874 Copenhagen, Denmark Died 11 October 1969 Lindisfarne, Hobart …   Wikipedia

  • Johannes Bjelke-Petersen — Sir Johannes Bjelke Petersen Sir Johannes „Joh“ Bjelke Petersen KCMG (* 13. Januar 1911 in Dannevirke, Neuseeland; † 23. April 2005 in Kingaroy, Queensland, Australien) war ein australischer Politiker der …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Koowarta v Bjelke-Petersen — Infobox Court Case name=Koowarta v Bjelke Petersen court=High Court of Australia date decided=May 11 1982 full name= Koowarta v Bjelke Petersen Ors; Queensland v Commonwealth citations= [… …   Wikipedia

  • Petersen — is a common Scandinavian patronymic surname, meaning son of Peter . There are other spellings. Petersen may refer to:Family name name = Petersen imagesize= caption= pronunciation = PE ter son , PAY tur son meaning = stone region = Scandinavia… …   Wikipedia

  • Joh for Canberra — The Joh for Canberra or Joh for PM campaign was the 1987 attempt by the Queensland branch of the National Party of Australia to install Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen as Prime Minister of Australia.The campaign was announced some time… …   Wikipedia

  • Joh — noun a) A diminutive form of the male given name Johannes. Nationals shake off Joh era. The Australian, December 29, 2006 b) (Australian politics) The common abbreviated name for former Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen …   Wiktionary

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