1991 a year of political change

Published Saturday, 01 January, 2022 at 09:00 AM

Minister for Communities and Housing, Minister for Digital Economy and Minister for the Arts
The Honourable Leeanne Enoch

Today’s release of the 1991 Queensland Cabinet Minutes shows the continuing reform agenda of the Goss Government, and the further distancing of the government of the day from the controversial Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen era.

Digital Economy Minister Leeanne Enoch said the release of the 1991 Cabinet Minutes offered an insight into the Wayne Goss-led administration.

“Many reforms had already been implemented to cleanse Queensland of the police and political corruption that had become entrenched during the Bjelke-Petersen era,” she said.

“In April, the Electoral Districts Act was passed, which abolished the state’s gerrymander system.

“It had favoured regional and remote areas, where fewer enrolled voters were able to elect a member to Parliament.

“Queenslanders’ right to peaceful assembly and protest – previously banned under the Bjelke-Petersen regime – was reinstated with the Peaceful Assembly Bill.”

The Bill categorised the right to peaceful assembly as a ‘qualified right’, potentially subject to restrictions ‘in the interests of public order and public safety’.

Ms Enoch said 1991 was also the year pokies were introduced to Queensland.

“After lengthy public debate, a Bill passed Parliament in March to allow the gaming machines and provide regulations governing their operation,” she said.

“It was also the year Cabinet agreed to expand casino operations in Queensland, identifying three acceptable sites in Brisbane (including the old Treasury Building).

“Cabinet Minutes report consultation in Cairns showed besides ‘some’ local opposition, a casino operation in the city was ‘keenly’ welcomed and submissions were sought for a casino licence in Cairns.”

Following his famous Inquiry, Tony Fitzgerald QC also held a public inquiry into the conservation and land management of K’gari (Fraser Island) and the Great Sandy region.

“He recommended the island and surrounding region be protected ‘in perpetuity’ and given World Heritage listing,” Ms Enoch said.

“Cabinet agreed in September to stop logging on K’gari by the end of the year and the government committed to a multi-million-dollar financial assistance package for the region’s displaced forestry industry workers.”

Ms Enoch said in March Cabinet agreed to pursue anti-discrimination legislation that would ‘provide the right to be free from unjustified discrimination in all aspects of a person’s public life’.

“Cabinet opted initially to exclude sexuality as grounds for claiming discrimination but in September and October deliberated on this again, ultimately including it to make the laws consistent with Commonwealth statutes,” she said.

Ms Enoch said Cabinet also considered Parliamentary privileges of former and current Members of Parliament convicted of indictable offences.

“It was decided MPs convicted of such offences in the course of their parliamentary duties should have all of their parliamentary benefits, and privileges relating to air and rail travel, withdrawn,” she said.

A Criminal Justice Commission report on the misuse of Parliamentary travel expenses suggested several MPs had misused their travel entitlements.

Four MPs admitted to this, including Nationals leader Russell Cooper, Ministers Terry Mackenroth and Ken McElligott, and Deputy Speaker Clem Campbell.

1991 was the year Queensland celebrated its first female Party leader, with Joan Sheldon becoming Liberal Party leader. She was also the first woman to lead the Liberal Party at state, territory or federal level in Australia.

There was also a change at the Local Government level, with political ‘novice’ Jim Soorley surprisingly defeating incumbent Liberal Sallyanne Atkinson to become Lord Mayor of Brisbane City Council. Labor candidates also won a majority of the capital’s council wards.

High-profile trials of public, business and underworld figures, some arising from Fitzgerald Inquiry testimony, continued this year.

In April former National Party Minister Geoff Muntz was sentenced to 12 months’ jail for misappropriating public funds. Days later the Brisbane Supreme Court jury in Sir Leslie Thiess’s defamation trial against Channel Nine found the magnate had bribed former Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen with gifts to secure government contracts.

In June former Nationals Minister Russell Hinze died from bowel cancer before his corruption case went to trial.

Former Police Commissioner Terry Lewis was sentenced in August to 14 years in prison for forgery and taking bribes.

The most prominent of these cases began in Brisbane’s District Court in late September when Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen faced trial charged with perjury before the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

The trial ended with a hung jury and no verdict; it emerged that jury foreman, Luke Shaw, was a Young Nationals member.

The 1991 Cabinet Minutes will be available to the public at Queensland State Archives at Runcorn from Saturday 1January 2022 and on the State Archives website www.archives.qld.gov.au from Monday 1 January 2021.


Media contact: Bill Walker 0437 859 987