Top 5 oddities from QLD politics in the early 2000s, and the bizarre similiarities with today

Lots of cool things happen when you write a book from a home office.

You get to wear shorts to “work” every day. Shaving is not mandatory. But building train tracks with your three year old son whenever he asks certainly is.

Some of the other pleasures I’ve discovered since starting work on the Campbell Newman book project are those moments when you stumble upon small gems of historical fact unearthed during periods of research.

GK and laptop

You never know which fascinating and long forgotten tidbit you’ll turn up as you trawl through archives and read countless paragraphs in the search for that specific fact you need to progress a chapter.

Campbell’s story spans nearly 40 years of Australian political history, so if the old saying “a week is a long time in politics” is anything to go by, there was always going to be a virtual library full of amazing anecdotes, events and quirky tales buried in the research throughout the writing process.

It’s been most intriguing to discover a range of historical events from the Queensland political scene of the early 2000s which bear striking similarities to more recent signposts dotted across the political landscape.

Here are the top 5 historical oddities from Queensland politics I’ve discovered after the past month or so since starting the book project.

When it comes to politics in Queensland, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same…

  1. Seat of Moggill attracts controversy

What’s up with the seat of Moggill? Back in 2003 it was the centre of a legal challenge and a Liberal Party rift over the preselection of Bruce Flegg.Flegg

The losing candidate Russell Galt launched the action amid claims of dodgy procedures. Three Queen’s Counsels were involved in providing legal advice, but Flegg’s candidacy was eventually confirmed.

  1. Attorney General gets in a fight with the legal fraternity

It was the early 2000s, and the Beattie Government was busy weathering storms on many fronts, from Merri Rose to Di Fingleton and other controversies besides, including a public brawl between the Attorney General Rod Welford and the legal profession.

In Budget estimates hearings in 2003, Welford told the committee he would not be “entirely unhappy” if some magistrates resigned after “the imbroglio in which the magistracy has been embroiled lately”.

Shortly after, Welford appointed a new chief magistrate from outside the bench – choosing barrister Marshall Irwin for the job. In between these two events, Welford drew fire from lawyers over his attempts to introduce more competition into legal services.

  1. Premier accused of bullying and interfering in independent audit office

Peter Beattie got into strife in the early 2000s amid claims he tried to bully the Auditor General Len Scanlan following a series of reports critical of his government.Len_Scanlan

Beattie claimed Scanlan was getting too close to the Opposition (led by Lawrence Springborg, naturally), and made threats to refer Scanlan’s work to a “reviewer of the Auditor-General’s office”, which didn’t actually exist at the time.

The feud got so heated and the media attention so fierce Beattie had to issue a statement denying there was a campaign against Scanlan, and was forced to declare the Auditor General had his “full support and confidence”.

  1. A Committee called for more Indigenous representation in ParliamentDeeral

At that point, the Queensland Parliament had only been home to one Indigenous MP in Eric Deeral, who was the Member for Cook from 1974 to 1977. The committee debated whether the parliament should mandate so-called “black seats” reserved for ATSI candidates, similar to the situation in New Zealand. The committee’s report ended up simply encouraging the two major parties to preselect indigenous people in safe seats.

  1. The same committee investigated MPs who jump shipWellington

The same committee undertook a second review, this time into MPs who shifted parties or became Independent. Ray Hopper’s move from an Independent to the Nationals was included in the review.

One member of the committee – the Independent Peter Wellington – wanted by-elections to be held if elected members changed their allegiance. He even put forward a private member’s bill to this effect, but it was defeated.