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The Ayes Have It

The Ayes Have It: The history of the Queensland Parliament, 1957-1989 OPEN ACCESS

JOHN WANNA
TRACEY ARKLAY
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24h7kp
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  • Book Info
    The Ayes Have It
    Book Description:

    'The Ayes Have It' is a fascinating account of the Queensland Parliament during three decades of high-drama politics. It examines in detail the Queensland Parliament from the days of the 'Labor split' in the 1950s, through the conservative governments of Frank Nicklin, John Bjelke- Petersen and Mike Ahern, to the fall of the Nationals government led briefly by Russell Cooper in December 1989. The volume traces the rough and tumble of parliamentary politics in the frontier state. The authors focus on parliament as a political forum, on the representatives and personalities that made up the institution over this period, on the priorities and political agendas that were pursued, and the increasingly contentious practices used to control parliamentary proceedings. Throughout the entire history are woven other controversies that repeatedly recur - controversies over state economic development, the provision of government services, industrial disputation and government reactions, electoral zoning and disputes over malapportionment, the impost of taxation in the 'low tax state', encroachments on civil liberties and political protests, the perennial topic of censorship, as well as the emerging issues of integrity, concerns about conflicts of interest and the slide towards corruption. There are fights with the federal government - especially with the Whitlam government - and internal fights within the governing coalition which eventually leads to its collapse in 1983, after which the Nationals manage to govern alone for two very tumultuous terms. On the non-government side, the bitterness of the 1950s split was reflected in the early parliaments of this period, and while the Australian Labor Party eventually saw off its rivalrous off-shoot (the QLP-DLP) it then began to implode through waves of internal factional discord.

    eISBN: 978-1-921666-31-5
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Before Queensland was established as a separate colony in 1859 ‘separationist settlers’ in the Moreton Bay region had pushed for independence and self-rule. Ideas about self-government and the establishment of a local parliamentary democracy were important inspirations in the formation of colonial Queensland. Early settlers in the territory then known as ‘Northern Australia’, the ‘Northern Districts’ or ‘Cooksland’ showed a strong preference for separation from Sydney and New South Wales and campaigned vigorously for recognition as a new colony. Although nine representatives from the Moreton region sat in the NSW Assembly, separation from the ‘tightly-drawn’ strings of New South Wales...

  2. Part I
    • By the 1950s, Queensland had already earned the dubious distinction of being ruled predominantly by one party. Queensland was a Labor-controlled state—and seemed destined to remain so for the foreseeable future. Continuity in office rather than changes of government had become the norm. Labor had enjoyed office for almost 40 years since 1915 and had been out of office for only a single term during the Great Depression years of 1929–32. The Australian Labor Party (ALP) began its long reign as a popular party of the people, but over time had seen its electoral support decline. Pork-barrelling and...

    • Queensland’s Parliament during the early Nicklin years experienced considerable turmoil. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, successive parliaments did not resemble a traditional ‘two-party adversarial’ institution. The composition of the Assembly reflected the schisms of the 1957 Labor split and consisted of multiple parties together with independents or disaffected mavericks. The Parliament was a collection of disparate factions that had survived the tumultuous events of 1957. Many on the non-government benches were ex-ministers with long parliamentary experience and political acumen. Idiosyncratic individuals and a four-way party split were the most noticeable features of the era. Individual parties might have...

    • Premier Frank Nicklin served almost four terms as leader of the Coalition. Despite his age and gradually deteriorating physical condition, he was prevailed on to remain in the job after the 1963 election and to postpone plans to retire. There were no eager leadership challengers or anxious pretenders waiting in the wings. When the time came for a change of leader, seniority would determine the next in line—a promotion principle used generally by both Coalition parties in settling leadership questions. In the mid-1960s, the Coalition team was relieved to be in government and Nicklin was their most attractive asset...

    • Frank Nicklin led a conservative government that believed steadfastly in the power of the state and the responsibility of governments to govern. His governments undertook a relatively activist legislative program, which was maintained over four succeeding parliaments throughout the decade of his premiership, 1957–68. The government’s legislative appetite generally increased with its tenure in office, reflecting perhaps increasing confidence in incumbency or the tendency for modern governments to resort to legislative solutions. Increased legislation was also part of modern society—in particular, the policy areas under the justice portfolio had large increases in legislation as more areas came under...

    • Parliamentary opposition to the Nicklin government came from a host of diverse players in the decade between August 1957 and January 1968. Especially after the Labor split of 1957, opponents of the Coalition government were a dispirited and dishevelled band, most of whom appeared as individualistic dissidents. Each had their own particular fights to fight and wars to wage. Each had different enemies in sight. Labor’s Jack Duggan and the QLP’s Ted Walsh never spoke to each other again privately after the split, despite afterwards sitting together in the Assembly for more than a decade, and frequently interjecting against each...

    • With the retirement of Frank Nicklin as Premier in January 1968, the Queensland Parliament entered a period of turbulence and uncertainty. Nicklin had been the leader of the Country Party continuously since June 1941, accumulating a total of 26.5 years at the helm. He had been Premier for 10.5 years and had governed the state competently and conscientiously. He had stamped his own personal integrity and probity on the character of the government and had quietly maintained a guiding hand over the cabinet and party room. In the Parliament, he was uniformly held in high regard not only by his...

  3. Part II
    • The ‘swinging Sixties’ was a time of cultural change and challenge to the Establishment. Political protests and popular dissent took on a generational schism; social movements and mass demonstrations were inflamed by a distrust of government and a resistance to conscription and the Vietnam War. The ‘New Left’ was on the rise in university campuses. Student liberation seemed a potent force. ‘Drop-outs’ were in; hippies and flower power spread across the globe; and the drug culture and rock music became palliatives to the disenchanted. Assertive slogans came to symbolise a new generation: ‘do it’, ‘free love’, ‘peace’, ‘make love, not...

    • The Parliament resumed after a break of seven and a half months—a relatively long intermission but by no means unusual in those days. When an election was due in the new year (from March to June), it was common practice for the Parliament to adjourn in late November or early December (before Christmas) and to not reconvene for another six to eight months. This was the pattern followed throughout the 1940s to the mid-1950s and again from 1962 to 1972. The thirty-ninth Parliament would run from 5 August 1969 to 10 December 1971 (202 sitting days in the three-year...

    • The fortieth Parliament began its first session on 1 August 1972. It would run until 1 November 1974, sitting for 193 days in the two and a half years it existed. Fifteen new members made their appearance in the House—almost one-fifth of the Assembly. They included, from the ALP: Tom Burns, Bill D’Arcy, Roy Harvey, Kevin Hooper, Gerry Jones, Ken Leese and Les Yewdale; from the Country Party: Des Frawley, Bill Gunn, Lindsay Hartwig, Donald Neal, Ted Row and Bruce Small; and from the Liberal Party: Dr Llewellyn Edwards and Dr Norman Scott-Young.

      The Country—Liberal Coalition had been...

    • With Whitlam now gone—replaced by the Fraser Coalition government in Canberra—the Bjelke-Petersen government could ostensibly look forward to better relations with the Federal Government. Yet although relations had improved, they remained frosty rather than poisonous. The Premier never warmed to the new Prime Minister and within a few years was accused of having ‘traded Gough Whitlam for Malcolm Fraser’ in the demonisation stakes in order to appear the strongman of local politics. Federal spending was also being trimmed and the ample largesse of yesteryear that states enjoyed was no more. The economic recession of the mid-1970s was steadily...

    • Between 1968 and 1989, the Queensland Parliament passed a total of 1715 legislative acts—an average of 81 pieces of legislation a year. While most of the bills presented were routine amendments to existing legislation, 500 entirely new statutes (principal acts) were also passed. The first full Parliament under Bjelke-Petersen’s term as Premier (sitting from August 1969 to December 1971) saw 162 legislative acts introduced, but this rose steadily throughout the 1970s and 1980s, culminating in the forty-fifth Parliament (1987–89)—largely outside Bjelke-Petersen’s time in office—when 316 pieces of legislation were introduced. This late flurry of activity, which...

    • By 1968, after 10 years in opposition, Labor was finally getting its act together, presenting itself as a viable alternative to the government. While Labor had regrouped and seen off the rival QLP–DLP challenge, the Coalition government had entered a period of instability. In 1968, Frank Nicklin, the ‘Gentleman Premier’, had finally retired and his successor, Jack Pizzey, died suddenly after only six months in office. The new Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, had difficulties convincing his colleagues that he had the wherewithal to lead the government and be electorally competitive. Labor had replaced the veteran Jack Duggan with Jack Houston,...

    • In 1980, backroom plans had been already entertained for a stand-alone National Party government supplemented by a few Liberal ‘ministerialists’—opportunists who would cross over and side with whatever the next ministry turned out to be in order to remain part of the next government. Historically, ‘ministerialists’ were typically senior parliamentarians who, forgoing party loyalties, decided to collaborate as individuals in the formulation of a new government. After the 1980 election, however, any such musing was put on hold as the two conservative parties lapsed back into coalition. This time, the Nationals clearly imposed their dominance, taking the prime portfolios...

    • The 1983 election ended the ‘constitutional crisis’ by providing the Nationals with exactly half the seats in the Parliament (41) and the opportunity to supplement their ministry with Liberal ministerialists who would agree to join the new government. The Premier had a number of options to secure his majority. Many of the surviving former Liberal ministers were not generally regarded as ‘anti-coalitionists’ in the previous government. The six potential ministerialists who might have been persuaded to change allegiances were: Norm Lee, Bill Lickiss, Brian Austin, Don Lane, Colin Miller and even Bill Knox. According to the Courier-Mail (15 July 1983),...

    • The revelations of the Fitzgerald Inquiry hung over the ‘besieged’ Ahern government from its initial day in office: 1 December 1987 (Reynolds 2003: 348). The revelations and fallout from the inquiry would plague Ahern’s Premiership until he was replaced by Russell Cooper at the demise of the Nationals’ government in December 1989. These two years were some of the most dramatic in the state’s history. Day by day, sensational allegations and admissions were exposed as senior police and informers turned state’s evidence and, for full confessions and cooperation, received immunity from subsequent prosecution. Whistleblowers emerged from the woodwork; once one...

    • The Queensland Parliament is an inherently political and adversarial institution—vibrant in some areas, moribund in others. Under the Constitution, it is principally its own ‘boss’ and has all the strengths and weaknesses that concept implies. If perhaps not Australia’s most reformist parliamentary institution, it nevertheless is not a static institution in any way. It changes over time as circumstances change; it is refreshed with new personnel and procedures; it can be analytical or banal; it can display prudence or excess; it can be characterised by goodwill or enmity; it can be a workhorse or it can be symbolic. In...