Text from the spoof newspaper article poster that has started anonymously appearing around Brisbane, Queensland:
DEMOLITION WILL HONOUR SIR JOH BEJELKE-PETERSEN
An unnamed source within the Brisbane electorate today accused Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s LNP government of secretly planning the demolition of the new Cloudland. The destruction of this venue would be seen by many as a tribute to former Queensland Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
There is some doubt as to the validity of this claim but the rumours are indicative of the extent to which Premier Newman’s actions have raised the spectre of Bjelke-Petersen. Premier Newman may not intend to associate himself with the Bjelke-Petersen period, however his actions since winning the state election in March invite comparison with the ‘deep North’.
Last week Aboriginal protesters were forcibly removed from Musgrave Park for the first time since Bjelke-Petersen was in power. The deployment of 200 police officers to evict peaceful protesters in an Aboriginal tent embassy echoed displays of force common to the Bjelke-Petersen period.
Premier Newman has also been accused of Bjelke-Petersen style cronyism following a significant number of LNP appointments to apolitical boards and key public service roles. The positions were not advertised.
The late Bjelke-Petersen would surely approve of a Bill introduced by LNP Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie last week to amend the Industrial Relations Act. The proposed changes will give the Attorney-General authority to control wages and to terminate legal industrial action.
Premier Newman is yet to approximate Bjelke-Petersen’s environmental record, but he has made a solid start by dismantling Queensland’s carbon reduction schemes, winding back wild rivers legislation, attempting to halt funding for a solar thermal power plant, seeking to open National Parks and recreation reserves to tourist vehicles, allowing kill permits for flying foxes and dismissing protections for koalas in Queensland as ‘mindless green tape’.
Premier Newman’s decision to cancel the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards signals a Bjelke-Petersen era disregard for the arts. Funding cuts to social service targets including Sisters Inside, The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities and Family Planning Queensland are reminiscent of the social conservatism of the Bjelke-Petersen era.
Mass redundancies in the public service, the cancellation of hundreds of contracts in departments such as Queensland Health, a hiring freeze on all non-frontline staff and the nebulous definition of ‘non-frontline’ recall the high unemployment levels that characterised the Bjelke-Petersen years.
Similarities between the policies of Premier Newman and Bjelke-Petersen have been remarked upon by commentators across Australia. Premier Newman was sworn in less than two months ago. In this time he has demonstrated more Bjelke-Petersen traits than Bjelke-Petersen had himself at the same stage of his Premiership. Should Premier Newman wish to distance himself from the Bjelke-Petersen period and the climate of fear associated with it, he would be well advised to demonstrate this distance before the two men are inextricably linked in the public mind. And go easy on the bulldozers.
Premier Newman could not be contacted for comment.
Lots of Queensland political history referenced here, including the tragic demolition of Cloudland, which was famously mentioned in Midnight Oil lyrics, and the scary days of Sir Joh’s rule in the state.