Bob Katter, Prince Charles and Princess Di at the Big Pineapple, an aerial shot of Queensland Parliament House, Prince Charles and Princess Di on tour and Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
Bob Katter, Prince Charles and Princess Di at the Big Pineapple, an aerial shot of Queensland Parliament House, Prince Charles and Princess Di on tour and Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. QUEENSLAND STATE Archives

Qld in a state of deja vu - think 1983

THE similarity between two Queensland governments which held office three decades apart could not be more striking after the release of the 1983 Cabinet documents.

Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen had just won a record-breaking six successive state elections and Queensland was still basking in the glory of a hugely successful Commonwealth Games which were staged in Brisbane the year before.

The State Government at the time was keen to ride the wave of state pride ahead of Expo 88 when the eyes of the world would focus on Brisbane and Queensland.

Released Cabinet documents show Cabinet had started discussing the event and decided to establish the South Bank land Authority, South Bank Land Advisory Committee and the Expo 88 Operating Body in readiness for the event.

And now, 30 years on and the state is preparing for another Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and the G20 summit at South Bank.

Cabinet documents show that in 1983 the Bjelke-Petersen government was facing an all-to-familiar crisis with more than 50 shires and towns being declared drought-stricken resulting in the highly controversial cloud seeding scheme.

The State Government approved US$50,000 for a pilot "rain-making scheme" in central Queensland, where Dr Irving Krick, from

California, would use silver iodine particles in a ground-located generator in a bid to break the drought.

On a national level, Bob Hawke had just won the federal election in a landslide prompting Cabinet to issue a top-secret directive on how best to deal with "inter- governmental relations" now the Labor Party had taken control of the country.

The document warned "it would be necessary for all Queensland ministers and officials at official meetings to exercise considerable subtlety and sophistication in order to protect the interests of the state".

It warned "ministers and officials must be aware the High Court and the Commonwealth Constitution will no longer provide any great protection for the interest of this state in any contest against the Commonwealth".

One of the major health issues Cabinet discussed that year was a new "disease" sweeping across the world.

Cabinet minutes revealed Health Minister Brian Austin alerted his colleagues to the first cases of AIDS occurring in Australia and recommended "that AIDS be made a notifiable disease in Queensland".

The State Government also entered into a Natural Disaster Relief Arrangement with the Federal Government to assist drought-affected graziers through the scrub-feeding scheme.

However, it is the uncanny similarities facing the Bjelke-Petersen government in 1983 to what the current LNP Government and its leader, Premier Campbell Newman, is facing today which has eerie familiarity.

The 1983 State Government had to contend with a federal election, a review of school-based assessment, rising electricity prices, backlash over industrial relation policies, an ongoing war with unions, cuts to health funding from the Commonwealth, coal mining, a full-scale judicial review into the state's legal system and several MP defections.

Furthermore, the Bjelke-Petersen government made crucial decisions on casino operations in Townsville and Gold Coast, as well as approving a multi-million dollar overhaul for the government precinct.

Two decisions which separate the two governments were the 1983 Cabinet decision to export 18 koalas to Japan as a publicity exercise, and the allocation of $1 million for the "development of computer education."

Snapshot of 1983 Queensland

  • A young Bob Katter became a state minister for the first time
  • Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales visited and toured Buderim Ginger Factory and Big Pineapple
  • Cabinet approves the $1.4 billion Bradfield project to divert coastal water to inland areas
  • State Cabinet approves sex education lessons in Queensland schools
  • Electronics giant Phillips launches the first CD audio player
  • Queensland Coalition between the Liberal and National parties collapses after a 26-year union
  • The National Party was returned to office, one seat short of a majority. Labor also made gains, although not enough to challenge the continuing dominance of the Bjelke-Petersen government. The Liberals lost 14 seats including most of the members who crossed the floor of Parliament
  • Random breath testing was introduced in Queensland in a bid to reduce the state's road toll


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