1987 Queensland Cabinet Minutes

Part One

Dec 31, 2017 · 35 min read

by Dr Tracey Arklay, Jennifer Menzies and Susan Horton

The Fitzgerald Inquiry

At the 25th May Cabinet meeting, the Police Minister and Deputy Premier Bill Gunn, who was Acting Premier, took a secret submission to Cabinet (Dec 51516) to appoint Gerald Edward Fitzgerald QC as a Commissioner to Inquire into Allegations Relating to the Queensland Police Force (also known as The Fitzgerald Inquiry). Responding to the Four Corners episode The Moonlight State, which aired on 11 May, Fitzgerald’s appointment would have far-reaching implications for the state of Queensland.

Tony Fitzgerald QC, Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct (The Fitzgerald Inquiry).

During the year, Cabinet considered a number of submissions relating to the Fitzgerald Inquiry. In June, they responded to a request from Police Commissioner Terry Lewis for the government to meet the costs for legal representation the Commissioners, the Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioners, as well as retired officers from those ranks, when they appeared before the Commission (Dec 51581). A later decision (Dec 50006) agreed that Cedric Hampson QC and a junior counsel should be retained to represent members of the Queensland Police Force at the Inquiry. In June, Ian Callinan QC was appointed the State Government legal representative at the Commission of Inquiry (Dec 51646).

On 22nd June, Police Minister Bill Gunn presented an oral submission to backdate the Terms of Reference for the Fitzgerald Inquiry to 1 January 1977 (Dec 51825), in order to look at retrospective allegations and to extend the scope of the Inquiry beyond the issues raised in The Moonlight State. At the following Cabinet meeting, a decision was made to set the remuneration for Tony Fitzgerald at $3,000 a day (Dec 51888).

In August, Cabinet agreed to a request to provide a number of secret and restricted Cabinet documents to the Fitzgerald Inquiry on ‘attempts made to reform the laws on gaming, betting, prostitution and related matters’ (Dec 52165). In October, Cabinet agreed to an amendment of the Police Complaints Tribunal Act to allow information regarding police complaints to be surrendered to the Commission of Inquiry (Dec 52666).

In early October, Cabinet responded to an approach by Tony Fitzgerald to widen the powers available to a Commission of Inquiry (Dec 52667). The Commission of Inquiry Acts 1950–1954 Amendment Bill responded to concerns that two witnesses, Jack Herbert and Ann Marie Tilley, had failed to appear before the Commission. The amendments, drafted by Fitzgerald, empowered the Chair of a Commission of Inquiry to issue a summons for a person to appear and a warrant for the search of premises and vehicles, as well as allowing the Commissioner to apply to the Supreme Court for approval to use listening devices and freeze assets. Cabinet was unsure of the validity of the amendments, but agreed to them in ‘view of the expectations raised by media comment, not to react favourably to his proposals and introduce legislation along the lines he has suggested’.

In November, Police Minister Bill Gunn submitted to Cabinet that the government’s legal representative Ian Callinan QC also represent Judge Eric Pratt at government expense (Dec 52903).

By 21st December, the writing was on the wall for a number of serving police officers, and Cabinet considered whether superannuation could be withheld from officers who are found to be corrupt (Dec 53235), but did not reach a decision.

Evan Whitton, ‘Can of Worms’, Fairfax Publishing, 1987.

Property development

Ministerial rezonings

During 1987, the Minister for Local Government, Main Roads and Racing Russ Hinze used his power to rezone land and usage on multiple occasions. Rezonings occurred to overcome opposition from local councils or community concerns, and many of the decisions directly benefited developers and members of the ‘white shoe’ brigade. For example, the Sanctuary Cove Resort Act was changed to add in 210 hectares of adjoining land for 500 more residential developments and an 18-hole golf course (Dec 52094).

Objections from local councils were overcome through ministerial rezonings. For example, Hinze proposed to override both the Mulgrave Shire Council and the Local Government and Supreme Court processes to rezone land at Trinity Beach for a tourist resort, despite the 4,000 objections received by the Council about the proposal (Dec 51799).

In April, Cabinet agreement to ministerial rezoning of the land bound by Queen, Albert and Elizabeth Streets, which was to become the Myer Centre. Hinze’s rationale was that the developer was concerned it would inevitably face ‘commercial objections’ if due process was followed, and ministerial rezoning would avoid the jurisdiction of the Local Government Court (Dec 51278). Cabinet also approved Hinze’s proposal for a ministerial rezoning of the Police Barracks on Petrie Terrace in Brisbane. There had been disagreement with the Brisbane City Council, so approval was given to an exemption from the City of Brisbane Act. The historic value of the buildings did not seem to be an issue and whether the Barracks building was retained would be at the discretion of the developer (Dec 50845).

Beach and tourism development

Government facilitated tourism development had long been a hallmark of the Bjelke-Petersen government, during 1987 this trend continued. In March, the process of managing large resort developments was brought firmly under the hand of the government with Cabinet approving the introduction into Parliament of the Integrated Resort Development Bill. It was decided that the Premier’s Department would be responsible for granting approval for projects to proceed under the Act (Dec 51096).

Again in March, Cabinet began consideration of a proposal from the Kern Corporation Ltd. to develop the Mooloolaba Spit, including a proposal to build a five-star Hilton Hotel (Dec 51026). After consideration by the Coordinator-General, it was concluded that the development of a hotel on the site would not be appropriate. After multiple deferrals by Cabinet, it was decided on 13 July that invitation documents to develop the vacant Crown Land on the Spit be prepared and advertised (Dec 51948).

The redevelopment of the Cairns foreshore was also the subject of a number of submissions (Dec 51573, Dec 51588). In June, the McKellar Corporation was seeking security of tenure to develop the Trinity Point Hotel so they could negotiate with overseas partners Daikyo Kanko Pty Ltd, while at the same time the government wanted to undertake more work to assess the impact on wading birds and the potential for increased costs for dredging (Dec 51642). In June, Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, in an oral submission to Cabinet, decided that his Department be the contact and administering agency for this project (Dec 51718).

Government support for Christopher Skase’s Sheraton Mirage at Port Douglas continued when Cabinet decided to waive the normal circumstances of a developer paying the purchase price for a road to be permanently closed for the resort development. The road was transferred to freehold title at no cost (Dec 51772).

Redevelopment of the Port Office site

Throughout 1987, Cabinet continued to hear submissions regarding the redevelopment of the Port Office site. This particular development would be one raised during the trial of Joh Bjelke-Petersen when the developer Robert Sng Swee Lee admitted to handing over brown envelopes containing $200,000 to Bjelke-Petersen and former National Party president Sir Robert Sparkes.

The Cabinet records indicate that this was a problematic submission. Carried over from 1986, by 19 January 1987 (Dec 50529) Cabinet had agreed that Historic Holdings would be their chosen developer for the Redevelopment of the Brisbane Port Office Building and Site, as long as certain conditions were met. These included information on equity participation, placement of shares and evidence of debt finance being provided to the government. It seems Historic Holdings provided an incomplete submission but qualified on the basis that its representative, Mr Zecha, was meeting with the Premier.

In the submission, Minister Ivan Gibbs notes ‘however in the Cabinet recess and in the absence of the Premier, I am unable to ascertain the details of the discussion with Mr Zecha… Verbal advice from Cleary & Hoare, solicitors on behalf of Historic Holdings is that David Bryce and not Mr Zecha is proposed as a partner of Mr Sng.’ The Port Office redevelopment was subsequently raised numerous times in Cabinet, and was also deferred three times (Dec 50552, Dec 50599, Dec 50636). On 16 February, Cabinet rescinded its decision of 17 November 1986 (Dec 50201) and agreed that Historic Holdings would be nominated as the selected developer for the Port Office site in accordance with the submission requirements and ‘the submission dated 12 February 1987, from Cleary and Hoare’. This document is not attached to the submission (Dec 50636).

Other developments

At the start of 1987, approval was given for a Bill to limit the number of residential lots at Sanctuary Cove to 900 and to strengthen the powers and authority of the Principal Body Corporate in relation to secondary body corporates and residents generally (Dec 50589). The Bill’s introduction was approved by Cabinet on 30th March (Dec 51098).

Cabinet also approved a submission from Russ Hinze that proposed his taking direct action to rezone a parcel of land in West Burleigh, owned by Sanfam Pty Ltd, from Light Industry to Commercial Zone (Dec 50596). The rationale was that the company had faced protracted appeals to a proposed development, resulting in delays to its plans and financial losses. Representations had been made to both Hinze and the Premier during this period, and it was agreed that Hinze would facilitate the development — thus avoiding a ‘normal’ application with the Gold Coast City Council with its ‘inevitable appeals’ — and issue a ministerial direction. While the process still required public notification and was subject to appeals to the Director of Local Government, there would be no provision for objections to be lodged with the Local Government Court.

Decisions made in haste have a habit of unfolding — as was the case with Decision 52322 involving Leda Holdings, who were building a large shopping centre at Logan. It appears that the developers had met with Bjelke-Petersen and Hinze seeking government support to have road access built from the Pacific Highway. At the meeting, the Premier committed to funding for the work to be made available. The submission is an attempt to reverse this commitment. While it was brought forward by the Premier, it is likely that the submission was the result of departmental advice highlighting a lack of funds available and concern that this would be a terrible precedent for other developments. The submission was held over to 7th September.

Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Russ Hinze. QSA Item ID 436365 BW-3363 — used with permission.



The 24th May Premiers Conference had been disastrous for Queensland, with substantial and permanent cuts made to both the revenue and capital expenditure allocation for Queensland (Dec 51517). After its May Economic Statement, the Federal Government followed up with a $1 billion cut to the budget of States and Territories. The Queensland Treasury identified a projected deficit for 1987–88 of $289 million and clearly identified to Cabinet the need for a ‘substantial’ and ‘permanent’ reduction to the budget expenditure base. Treasury pointed out that Cabinet ‘must ‘bite the bullet’. Adverse public reaction cannot be avoided. However, it must be minimised.’ The decision was for all Ministers and Departments to ‘urgently review programs, functions and practices to provide for an overall permanent reduction in budget demands, such reviews to look at the relative priority of programs, with the reduction to be effected in a way that causes minimum public reaction’ (Dec 51644).

In July, Treasury identified that the deficit had blown out to an estimated $411.8 million, and that all Departments needed to reduce staff costs by 2% and to review programs and activities to see what could be reduced or eliminated ‘without public reaction’. Treasury however, used the crisis to point out that such savings wouldn’t fix the underlying structural problem of the budget and macro savings were required by moving to a ‘smaller government’. A review was to run concurrently with the above work for 1987–88, aiming to come up with a smaller number of government programs and to be completed by 31st December (Dec 52077).

For the rest of the year, a number of submissions struggled with the cuts needed to bring the budget out of deficit (Dec 52120, Dec 52226, Dec 52119, Dec 52262, Dec 52267, Dec 52333). Proposals included a secret plan to reduce retirement age under the State Service Superannuation Scheme from 60 to 55 as a way to meet the government’s need to cut expenditure and have zero staff growth. Even with a freeze on additional public servants in the Education, Health and Police Departments, as well as others, the deficit would remain.

Poor economy

In 1987, Queensland’s economy struggled with sustained high rates of unemployment. In April, unemployment in Queensland remained at 11% — the highest in Australia (Dec 51203). In March, for the first time, Queensland’s premise as a low-tax State was questioned and the need to boost investment in training and industrial development to the levels of other States was proposed. For example, numbers for public-sector trainee support programs were: NSW, 1,008; Victoria, 727; WA, 453; and Queensland, 21 (Dec 50955).

As well, Cabinet approved the fast-tracking of the $400 million Special Capital Works Program announced in the Premier’s election policy speech as a way of generating employment. The program was to use non-traditional methods of fast-tracking design and construction for new prisons, the new police headquarters and the first stage of the new Scientific Services complex at Nathan. Among the other funded projects was a toll road between Goodna and Loganholme (Dec 50594).

However, the economy was sound enough that when the State Government approached ratings agencies to seek a credit rating for borrowings by statutory bodies guaranteed by government, it was offered an A1 rating by Standard and Poor, and a P1 by Moody (the highest rating for each). For a long-term rating they were offered AA+ (second highest), which reflected the recent downgrading of the Commonwealth’s rating because of an account deficit (Dec 41715).


For a State where wealth had long been dependent on agriculture, 1987 was a watershed year. After unprecedented growth, for the first time mining outstripped the agricultural sector, as the State’s largest export industry. To consolidate that growth, Cabinet decided to invest in research to develop new products and processes based on coal, oil shale and natural gas (Dec 51866).

A major crisis hit Queensland’s cattle exports in 1987, when the United States threatened to ban the import of beef from Queensland because of unacceptable levels of chemical residue. Cabinet moved quickly to prohibit sale of DDT and other organochlorines for primary production with the ban to be immediate (Dec 51881). The was quickly followed up with amendments to the Stock Regulations Act 1935 to restrict chemicals that can be used near livestock or on feed. All known source properties of contamination were to be placed in quarantine (Dec 51886). Cabinet worked hard to save the beef export industry to the US (Dec 51943). As well, the United States Department of Agriculture registered their dissatisfaction with the levels of antibiotic residue in the meat, and Cabinet again amended the Stock Regulations Act 1935 to meet the stringent standards adopted in the countries that imported local meat (Dec 51944).

Queensland was expanding its relationships with existing and new trade partners. The Queensland Government Office in Los Angeles was formally approved by Cabinet in January, with Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen flying over to officially open it in May (Dec 50463).

Cabinet approved a draft Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen Queensland’s trade and technology links with the Fujian Province of China, and it was anticipated a joint trade cooperation council might be formed in the near future (Dec 50924, Dec 50679). On the other side of the ledger, Cabinet decided to close the Queensland Government Office in Bahrain because, although there had been considerable investment, there had been no measurable benefits (Dec 51063).


In August, the Premier, along with Departmental heads Sir Sydney Schubert and Sir Leo Hielscher, undertook a trip to Romania, London and Geneva with the trip reflecting the many byways the Premier was willing to travel. In Romania, the Premier met with Nicolae Ceaușescu, the country’s Communist leader (who was executed by firing squad in 1989), and invited the dictator and his wife to visit Queensland during Expo 88.

The real purpose of the visit was to sell two million tonnes of coking coal to the Romanians, who did not have enough money to pay but suggested a barter in which mining companies selling coal would take oil, fertiliser, steel, machines and locomotives instead. The challenge was to find local coal producers interested in the deal (Dec 52326).

In London, the Queensland Government officials met with Margaret Thatcher’s Policy Office on their privatisation agenda, and the Premier met with Dr Finniss, who advised he did not think the Commonwealth Government had the constitutional power ‘to close up North Queensland to the detriment of the Queensland economy and the people of North Queensland by placing the rain forests on the World Heritage List’. In Geneva, the delegation met with Swiss Banks to discuss Queensland borrowing from them, but they declined to go ahead.


As pointed out in the report of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, the government’s use of defamation actions was directed at political opponents of the government or media organisations and ‘the subject matter in every case concerned allegations which had been made of corruption . In 1986, Cabinet gave approval for the costs of certain defamation actions connected with their official duties to be paid by the Government, and this decision set off a flood of actions that continued unabated throughout 1987. Defamation actions included Bjelke-Petersen vs. Bob Gibbs and the ABC, vs. Warburton and the ABC, vs. Beattie and Queensland newspapers, and vs. Burns and the ABC (Dec 51519). Expenses were also paid for Minister Leisha Harvey in defamation against Turbo Industrial Developments (Dec 51523).

In February, Cabinet approved — on the basis of an oral submission — legal costs incurred by Bjelke-Petersen in his defamation action against Keith De Lacy and the Cairns Post (Dec 50808).

In March, Cabinet approved the Minister for Local Government, Main Roads and Racing Russ Hinze’s submission that the Crown Solicitor be instructed to act for and on behalf of his personal staff (specifically his private secretary). This action was related to media reports following evidence given by an accountant that he had been instructed by lawyers to give $20,000 in cash to Hinze’s secretary so that charges would not be laid against the directors of a company to which he was linked. The evidence was given at the Corporate Affairs Commission’s Jojoba Company Inquiry before Judge P. Shanahan of the District Court (Dec 51092).

The list continues, with actions by the Premier against David Syme & Co, Publishing and Media Services and Max Jessop (Dec 51358); Deputy Premier Bill Gunn’s was given approval to commence an defamation action against G Carey of radio Station 4BC (Dec 51359); Peter McKechnie, the Minister for Industry and Technology sought permission commence a defamation action against the Daily Sun newspaper due to comments contained in a recent editorial (Dec. 52388).

The government’s many defamation actions were prosecuted by the legal firm Morris, Fletcher and Cross, and in March the Premier informed Cabinet that future accounts submitted for payment of fees associated with defamation actions be paid upon certification by the firm that the fees were reasonable, and that the Solicitor-General’s certification was no longer required (Dec 51116).

In October, Cabinet largesse was temporarily turned off when permission was not given to the Premier to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court for a decision he had lost regarding defamation against Tom Burns and the ABC (Dec 52843).

Industry Assistance, Agricultural Development, Bailouts and Disasters

Commercialisation of State-owned assets

As canvassed previously, the government was concerned about the state of the Queensland economy as unemployment levels rose and economic conditions became more uncertain. The Bjelke-Petersen Government began a program of privatisation, and in 1987 put both the Queensland Fish Board and Q-Net to the market, as well as privatising the Gateway Bridge and Loganholme toll road. The Queensland Fish Board had been a government monopoly, and in May the Government advertised for expressions of interest to buy the enterprise (Dec 51404).

In August, legislation was introduced to privatise the Fish Marketing Board with the intention of updating regulations to allow marketing boards to have improved commercial operations and increased accountability (Dec 52325, Dec 52324). A Raptis & Sons fishing company was awarded the sale of the Board, but this decision was accompanied by controversy. Allegations were aired in the Federal Parliament accusing Mr George Raptis of A Raptis & Sons of making a donation of $250,000 to the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation, but this was strongly denied at the time (Federal Parliamentary Hansard, 2 November 1988).

The sale of Q-Net to private firm Parry/Icom was approved in September by secret submission. Other tenderers included Bond Media, British Aerospace and Telstra. It was decided that Parry/Icom, though a late bidder, was the best financial offer (Dec 52501).

Law and Order

Police and Crime

On 19th January, Cabinet approved the preparation of proposed amendments to the National Crime Authority (State Provisions) Act to reflect changes made by the Premier to Ministerial responsibility. (Dec 50498). On 27th January Cabinet approved the introduction of a Bill shifting responsibility for the NCA from the Attorney General to the Minister for Police (Dec 50579). Wayne Goss, then shadow Police Minister, raised substantial concerns regarding this shift in the parliamentary debate on this legislation. He questioned the lack of any reason given for the change and questioned Minister Gunn’s commitment to fighting organised crime, citing his lack of action on the findings of the Sturgess Report (31 March 1987). He had good reason to be concerned — Graeme Parker, the most senior officer to ‘roll over’ at the Fitzgerald Inquiry was the Queensland Police Force’s liaison officer with the AFP and the NCA. He attended and received minutes of NCA meetings.

This cautious, even hostile, approach to the Commonwealth’ role in policing was reflected in Bjelke-Petersen’s submission on 2nd February on Queensland’s approach to international mutual assistance in criminal matters. It noted the Commonwealth’s intention to establish treaties with other countries on criminal matters (alongside extradition arrangements). Consequently he proposed maximum cooperation to prevent the Commonwealth using external affairs powers in the criminal justice area (Dec 50621).

Cabinet had failed to seriously address public concerns regarding organised crime and systematic police corruption. Bob Gordon, the Courier Mail’s Chief of Staff had recently returned to live in Brisbane following a 13 year stint in Canberra wanted to know who owned Brisbane’s brothels. He assigned the task to Phil Dickie. Dickie’s first article on 12th January identified two groups as responsible for illegal gambling and prostitution. It also referenced the Sturgess Report and the lack of action by the Licensing Branch since its release in November 1985. A month after Dickie’s article appeared, Vince Lester, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Affairs brought a submission to Cabinet recommending a committee be formed to look at problems in the Valley. Brisbane’s Chinatown was growing and in this context, he recalls when the Valley was a place to ‘take one’s children for the glittering Christmas carnivals’ and wants the Committee to find ways to return to those halcyon days (Dec 50706).

On 5th May Cabinet agreed to seek an Executive Council Order that the Parliamentary Commissioner Act did not apply to the Police Complaints Tribunal (Dec 51349). Solicitor-General’s advice had been received indicating there was no exemption from the Ombudsman’s scrutiny. The Moonlight State specifically called into question the impartiality of the Police Complaints Tribunal.

Cabinet became more responsive to concerns about organised crime over the year — as more Dickie articles appeared, the Moonlight State was aired and the prospect of the Fitzgerald Inquiry loomed. On 20th July (Dec 52058) Cabinet approved the preparation of major amendments to the Criminal Code in response to the findings of the Sturgess Report. It also looked at acknowledging rape within marriage as an offence but chose to keep the exemption of rape by husbands within a marriage and only acknowledge it as rape if the marriage has broken down and the woman has taken steps to bring her marriage to an end.


Northern rainforests

The management of the environment in Queensland remained a flashpoint issue between the Bjelke-Petersen Government and the Federal Labor Government of Bob Hawke. The Hawke government was re-elected in July, and they moved quickly to nominate Queensland’s northern rainforests for World Heritage listing. In July a copy of Hawke’s letter to the Premier outlining his intention to list the northern rainforests as a world heritage site was submitted to Cabinet. The Queensland Government was concerned they didn’t know what the boundaries would be and the impact on existing industries within those boundaries. Hawke expressed his disappointment that he wasn’t able to come to a ‘cooperative arrangement’ with the State (Dec 52064).

In August, in a secret submission Cabinet decided to fund a Northern Rainforest Ministerial Council with $500,000 a year to fight the proposed nomination to the World Heritage. The main concerns by the government were that the nomination would see the end of the logging industry in the area, as well as any future development, and the loss of State sovereignty over 10,000 square metres of land. Tactics to be undertaken included waging a PR war to steal the thunder of the Commonwealth; to convince authorities that world heritage listing isn’t required; to discredit information around the Commonwealth proposal making it go on the ‘defensive’ (Dec 52385).

In September work is underway by the Ministerial Committee on the socio-economic impact of the nomination and the Premier reminded Ministers that ‘our principal tactical weapon is access to detailed information on land use and management. Our most immediate need is to ensure that this information is used to best advantage by the Government. It is also essential that the Commonwealth Government be denied access to any information which may assist in progressing their nomination’ (Dec 52551).

Cabinet considered strategy on a number of occasions (Dec 52718, 52726, 52772) and all departments were asked to prepare details on possible effects on department’ activities of the inclusion of North Queensland areas on World Heritage listings. Many concerns about the ‘unilateral’ nature of the listing and the lack of consultation with stakeholders who would be affected. In October, this material had been collected and Queensland’s Statement of Objection to the listing was forwarded to the Commonwealth (Dec 52782).

Guerrilla warfare between the State and the Commonwealth continued with the Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Gareth Evans rejecting the Shelburne Bay Silica Project under the foreign investment approval because he thought ‘the economic and commercial advantages flowing from the proposal were insufficient to offset the overall adverse impact on the conservation of the Cape York Peninsula’ (Dec 52827).

On 11th December, Federal Environment Minister Graham Richardson unilaterally announced the boundaries for the Northern Rainforest listing and demanded immediate cessation of logging in the nominated area. New Premier, Mike Ahern wrote to Prime Minister Hawke outlining his objections to the listing without consultation and the Queensland Cabinet agreed to prioritise the development of a legal challenge to the Federal Government’s listing (Dec 53189).

Great Barrier Reef

Along with the northern rainforests, the Great Barrier Reef was also a flashpoint issue with the Hawke Government. Early in 1987 there was concern by the Premier that the draft zoning plan by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for the southern section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park would diminish Queensland’s sovereignty for all areas to the landward side of the reef and that the Commonwealth Government was trying to claim jurisdiction over the surrounding reef areas of these islands (Dec 50736).

The issue of the use of the reef had been controversial and the Premier’s support of a floating hotel once more brought the Commonwealth into play with their intention to proceed with Sea Installations Act which would override the existing state legislation and give Commonwealth control to installations on the reef (Dec 50975). Despite two letters to the Prime Minister with no response it appears the Commonwealth is determined to go ahead with their bill despite the duplication of existing Queensland legislation (Dec 52565).


The Hawke Labor Government was pragmatic and secular in its policies to respond to the HIV-AIDS epidemic. Neil Blewett, the federal health minister was focused on providing the public with reliable information on preventing HIV and AIDS. There was a commitment to engaging with at risk communities in a non-judgmental way.

In May, the Queensland Cabinet considered the outcomes of an Australian Health Ministers’ Conference, solely focused on dealing with the AIDS epidemic. State and Territories agreed to a cost sharing arrangement with the Commonwealth for a pilot program to supply AZT to people suffering from AIDS. There was also concern about AIDS transmission through intravenous drug use and the States were asked to consider introducing needle and syringe exchange programs (Dec 51433). Queensland Health subsequently estimated that funding of $2,260,000 was needed for the financial year to fund AIDS treatment and prevention programs in Queensland. On 13th July, Cabinet determined it was not prepared to fund at this level. Because of ‘financial difficulties’ facing the government, Queensland requested a cost sharing arrangement with the Commonwealth contributing $500,000 (Dec 51971). At the same meeting, Cabinet approved an education package for IV drug users (Dec 51972). In October, Cabinet noted the Commonwealth’s agreement to provide further funding, subject to the state’s agreement to cost sharing on a 50/50 basis for salaries of health practitioners (Dec 52689).

Condoman, Commonwealth Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH)

One of the key preventative strategies was the promotion of safer sexual practices, especially the use of condoms. Making condoms more available was a simple, high impact public health measure to reduce levels of HIV infection. On 28th April, Cabinet noted the outcomes of a recent Corrective Services Ministerial Council where it was recommended condoms be available in prisons to prevent the spread of HIV-AIDS. Queensland was the only state not prepared to agree (Dec 51546).

The government’s intransigence to widening the distribution of condoms extended to university students. The Health Act prohibited the sale of condoms through condom vending machines and in September 1987, police raided student unions at the University of Queensland and Griffith University to remove machines. By December when Ahern became Premier, Cabinet noted advice from the Solicitor-General there was insufficient evidence to prosecute and the machines had been returned to both campuses. A submission from the new Health Minister, Leisha Harvey, referenced the National AIDS Strategy and proposed lifting the prohibition on the sale of condoms. The submission was withdrawn (Dec 53222).

Mike Ahern was Health Minister for most of 1987. There were tensions between him and Bjelke-Petersen about how to respond to the HIV-AIDS epidemic. There are reports of Bjelke Petersen shaking with rage as he yelled at Ahern for his reluctance to take action against student unions with condom vending machines. The Cabinet record provides some insights into how these tensions were managed in relation to AIDS education in schools. In early March, Cabinet endorsed the after hours sex education program provided in Queensland schools. However, they also requested the development of a joint submission from both the Education Minister Lin Powell and Health Minister Ahern (Dec 50854). This latter action was not recommended in the submission and presumably arose from discussion within the Cabinet room.

On 27th April, Ahern and Powell brought a joint submission and Cabinet approved an AIDS Prevention Program to be delivered to all state high school students, by teachers, through existing curriculum arrangements (an evaluation was to be undertaken after 6 months). Non-government schools would be encouraged to participate (Dec 51285). The following week, on the basis of an oral submission from Bjelke Petersen, Cabinet approved representatives from Education and Health to develop the AIDS education program for schools. (Dec 51357) A submission on the program was brought to Cabinet by Powell on 3rd August but deferred (Dec 52158) until 10th August when Cabinet could consider it in tandem with a submission from Ahern — the commitment to a joint submission seemed to have disappeared. Powell’s submission noted the program would be ‘unique in Australia in that while recognition has been given to the significance of this health problem, the approach has sought to maintain a balanced perspective, giving due regard to community sensitivities and the deeply moral issues’. Cabinet agreed to this submission and Ahern’s submission which included the script for a video which included the stark claim ‘you won’t survive if you get AIDS (Dec 52185). The claim appears contradictory to the Government’s agreement in May to contribute to the AZT trial.

There was some pragmatism in Queensland’s response. A meeting of senior police and health officials proposed an amendment to the Drugs Misuse Act to allow medical practitioners, pharmacists and nurses to issue needles and syringes to drug dependent people. On 21 April, Cabinet approved preparation of such an amendment (Dec 51224) but limited the provision to doctors. Cabinet’s authority to introduce the amendment (Dec 52264) included a provision for pharmacists to supply, on the authority of medical practitioners.

Indigenous Affairs

Deaths in custody

In the months of March and April 1987, four young Aboriginal men died in custody in North Queensland. On 13th April, federal minister Clyde Holding referred the matter of Aboriginal deaths in police custody to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. Progress was limited when the federal election was called and consequently Holding referred the matter to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission for its consideration. The Queensland Government initiated its own inquiry with Minister Katter appointing Eric Law and Pearce Powder, both Aboriginal Coordinating Council officials. Their report was publicly released on 3rd August. Cabinet recommended the adoption of the report but unfortunately the Cabinet record does not include its recommendations (Dec 52162). Veteran journalist, Tony Koch covered their investigation and on 18th July in an article headlined ‘Black Leaders Blame White Sly Grog ’he noted the ‘total apathy’ of most North Queensland towns to the deaths: ‘Most comments are racist’.

On 10th August, Hawke announced the formation of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. On 3rd September Cabinet agreed to Bjelke-Petersen’s proposal that the government would respond to Hawke’s request the proposed Inquiry: the Queensland Government would cooperate with the Royal Commission; it supported Justice Muirhead as chair; but it would not cost share or bear any costs related to the Inquiry (Dec. 52391). This position was reiterated in a subsequent response to another request for cost sharing. Bjelke-Petersen was clear: the Commission was a Commonwealth initiative and Queensland wasn’t consulted about the decision to establish it and therefore was not prepared to contribute to its costs (Dec 53010).

Land rights

Two claims from Torres Strait Islanders were considered by Cabinet in 1987.

On 30th March, Cabinet approved an additional $160,000 to legally oppose Eddie Mabo’s land rights claim. (Mabo & Others v State of Queensland and Commonwealth of Australia) $200,000 had been allocated already. (Dec 51033)

During the year, Cabinet considered land claims by the Mills Family. Initially Cabinet agreed to a proposal that they be granted a Deed of Grant in Trust to Nagir Island. (51851) But on 14 September this decision was rescinded (Dec. 52466). Cabinet agreed to the granting of a priority lease to the Mills Family. The issue of excluding roads, air fields etc. from the lease was considered a fortnight later. Cabinet also noted the Mills family was not claiming Pole and Burke Islands which were apparently subject to a claim by the St Paul’s Island Council. (Dec 52626).

Equal pay

In September 1986, Cabinet decided award wages would be paid to Indigenous workers employed by the Department of Community Services from 31st January 1987. Cabinet decided that given reduced funding to Queensland from the Premiers’ Conference, the Aboriginal Coordinating Council be advised award wages could not be introduced (Dec 51969). A reading of the 1987 Cabinet record reveals these issues did not seem to have an impact on the many, many funding decisions made to assist business and other government departments. The Department of Community Services, mostly staff from Killoran’s administration, originally briefed Katter that it was not possible to pay award wages without a significant injection of funds. Killoran, the former Director of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs and sometime National Party candidate was a firm ally of Bjelke-Petersen. According to Katter, his ‘private research’ undertaken showed the advice to be inaccurate. It is possible that Killoran acolytes influenced the ultimate back down from a commitment to equal wages in 1987.

Commonwealth/State relations

On 11th July, the Hawke Government was re-elected and quickly moved to implement their election commitments, a number of which put them on a direct collision course with the Bjelke-Petersen government. The list of policies of concern to the Queensland government were outlined in a Cabinet submission in July (Dec 52065).

High Court challenges

Queensland had spent most of 1986 opposing the introduction of the Hawke Government’s Fringe Benefits Tax. In early February, the High Court handed down their decision and ruled against the state by a margin of 5 to 1 (Dec 50689).

In June, the traffic to the High Court reversed with the Commonwealth launching a challenge in the High Court against the Queensland Industrial Appeals (Commercial Practices) Act. The Commonwealth wanted elements of the Queensland Act such as secondary boycotts, prohibition of some industrial action and pecuniary penalties for those seen to contravene the Act declared invalid because it was inconsistent with a number of Commonwealth acts. Queensland was to engage senior counsel to oppose (Dec 51933).

Industrial Relations, Industrial Disputes

The Queensland cabinet was increasingly concerned about Federal intrusion into State industrial affairs, particularly with the encroachment of the Federal Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Commission seeking to replace State awards with Federal awards. The submission also identified a number of pieces Federal legislation which cover areas which were not previously subject to Federal regulation such as the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, the Sex Discrimination Act, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, affirmative action legislation, superannuation and the trend of unions to seek federal award coverage (Dec 50677). This was further exacerbated with the Introduction of Commonwealth Industrial Relations Bill that overrode the provisions of the Queensland Act (Dec 51456).

SEQEB dispute

The issue of electricity supply was vexatious and drawn out. It remains one of the most bitter industrial confrontations in Queensland history — solidifying the Premier’s tough leader image and resulting in over one thousand electricity workers losing their jobs while the State suffered nightly disruptions to its power supply. While these events occurred in 1985, the year 1987 saw various decisions being brought to Cabinet for approval, many dealing with voluntary employment contracts. On the 27 January (Dec 50595) Cabinet approved preparation of a Bill to amend the Electricity Authorities Industrial Causes Act to address the issue of representation of power workers, following the sacking of SEQEB workers in 1985. There had been court action taken by the ETU and others challenging an earlier measure. The proposed legislation would provide for the declaration of the Queensland Power Workers Association as a trade union and direct the Industrial Registrar to register it as such under the industrial law.

In relation to how the workers would be paid, many submissions were brought to Cabinet throughout the year. For example (Dec 50980) on 16th March was one such submission that would return to Cabinet throughout the year (see also Dec 52163; 52459). Dec 50980 saw the Minister, Brian Austin seek Cabinet’s approval for Executive Council’s approval of a contract of employment of SEQEB with systems control staff of that board. Reference is made to how it compares with Voluntary Employment Agreements as mooted in the Green Paper released on 9th March. The contract would include a 38 hour week, 19 shifts in a 4 week period and less generous overtime provisions.

Young Socialists Flyer, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Later in the year, a secret submission Dec 52424, that dealt with Proposed Amendments to the Electricity Authorities Industrial Causes Act 1985 and Electricity (Continuity of Supply) Act 1985 was brought to Cabinet. The issue at stake was ensuring the Minister remained the prescribed authority — in cases of strikes and also suggests that there is little risk in repealing the continuity of supply Act. Largely by August in 1987, most of the heat had gone out of the issue as far as the government was concerned.


In 1986, the Bjelke-Petersen government vigorously opposed the Wages Accord where unions agreed to modify wage claims in exchange for a superannuation benefit of 3% of their income. This issue continued to be controversial in 1987.

In February, Cabinet considered a submission dealing with unions taking action to have superannuation included in award arrangements (this sub specifically related to liquor trades union). Queensland had a different regime than the rest of Australia. (Dec 50613). Later in February, the submission was reconsidered and it was noted the Queensland government was ‘vigorously opposing at every opportunity both the awarding of a 3% productivity increase and the authority of the Industrial Commission to address superannuation arrangements’. Queensland had its own superannuation legislation and had been providing informal ‘approval’ of trust deeds, Cabinet decided to discontinue this practice, monitor super proposals, refer enquirers to gain legal advice and only invoke the legislation if it suited them (Dec 50769).

In March, Cabinet approved a Bill (secret submission) to amend superannuation schemes for public servants, police and parliamentarians and provided for improved death benefit arrangements (Dec 50979).

By September, urgent legislation was being introduced into the Parliament to provide for optional early retirement for public servants decreasing the age from 60m to 55. This was in response to the challenges facing the State budget and was to be announced in the Premier’s budget speech 9th December (52433).

World Expo ‘88

The government continued to plan for World Expo ’88 throughout the year. Numerous submissions were brought to Cabinet including those relating to the extension of appointment of members of the Authority scheduled for consideration that despite being deferred until 27th January saw all appointed (Dec 50551). In January Cabinet approved the inclusion of an official visitors program and a business visitors program (Dec 50540; 52259).

World Expo ’88

The appointment of a property consultant for the sale of the Expo site was considered by Cabinet in November 1986 (Dec 50206) when it was agreed the Queensland Government would be responsible for the calling of tenders for the development of the land. The Premier brought a submission to Cabinet on 19th January (Dec 50459) in which the Expo and Southbank Redevelopment Authority proposed Jones Lang Wootton as the official property consultants for the sale. It was deferred to 27th January, when consideration of the submission was again deferred ‘pending receipt of a plan, recommendations on the future use of, sale and development of the Expo Site’ (Dec 50550).

In early February (Dec 50681) an updated submission was brought by the Premier again recommending Jones Lang Wootton as the property consultant to manage the sale on behalf of the BESBR Committee. Attached to the submission was the plan called for at the previous meeting. This sets out the parameters of the plans for the site. It is a detailed document, highlighting the strategic significance of the site and anticipates an overall development scheme with due regard to riverfront open space with maximum public access, encouragement of active and passive public use, inclusion of a tourist attraction, architectural integrity complementary to QPAC and the historical buildings. It was certainly much more detailed than many of the developments occurring around Brisbane at the time.

On 9th February, Cabinet approved Fred Maybury’s appointment as Commissioner for Queensland for World Expo — reporting directly to the Premier (Dec 50688). Maybury had worked as a National Party strategist, and was later CEO of Dreamworld.

In April, (Dec 51303) Cabinet noted Sir Llew Edwards’ report on Expo that explained how construction was ahead of schedule; Expo was on budget; a security firm had been appointed; staff training; uniform design was selected; 27 countries committed and 42–43 Governments expected on site; entertainment division had organised 14,000 acts over six months. All going well, arrangements were in place for the Premier to publicly purchase the first ticket on 30th April as a marketing strategy. It was also decided (Dec 51513) that the World Expo 1988 Authority would not issue Ministers with free tickets for the event so Cabinet agreed to the purchase of season passes for ministers and their wives, which was later rescinded in an oral submission from the Premier (Dec 51716). It seems that Ministers had to pay for their own tickets after all.

Other submissions included (Dec 51719) an oral regarding $100,000 for the Pavilion of Promise; (Dec 51790) which floated the idea that a World Trade Centre is one of the proposals for use of the Expo site post 1988; and (Dec 52421) noting the Queensland Pavilion fit out costing $350,000 tenders approved. Dec 52883 — lurid description of the joys to be found in the Queensland Pavilion.

The demise of Bjelke-Petersen

Former Governor of Queensland, Sir Walter Campbell AC QC

In the final months of 1987, the revelations from the Fitzgerald Inquiry were taking their toll on individual Ministers and the government, though the business of Cabinet continued with little reference to this turmoil. The Premier was increasingly isolated. By late November he had stopped speaking to most of his ministers and had attempted to persuade the state governor, Sir Walter Campbell, to sack nearly a quarter of the Executive. Finally he was successful in removing three senior ministers, Ahern, Austin and McKechnie, replacing them with two supporters. His victory would be short lived as the replacements would have just seven days sitting on ministerial leather. As the end of his reign came closer, the Premier bunkered down in his executive building office stalling what was now the inevitable end. Still Cabinet meetings continued throughout November.

The Premier’s last Cabinet meeting was on Monday 30th November — the day before he officially resigned. The submissions to that meeting were unsurprising, giving no hint to the drama unfolding outside. While in an earlier meeting Bjelke-Petersen had presented an oral submission regarding the legal costs of his Transport Minister Don Lane appearing at the Fitzgerald Inquiry (Dec.52952), the Cabinet record doesn’t show that the issue of entitlements were raised before Bjelke-Petersen left office.

The submission regarding what provisions should be granted to former Premiers was left to new Premier Mike Ahern, who on 21st December in a secret submission raised what before then was a lack of general provision entitlements for long term Premiers. It was agreed that Premiers who had served three or more terms would be entitled to an office in the city, a stenographer, a phone at home, a car and 12 first class trips a year (not to be used for business of any kind) (Dec. 53254). Bjelke-Petersen’s last submission (Dec. 53086) to Cabinet dealt with the mundane matter of what to do with surplus funds ($42, 615) left over from the failed Brisbane Olympic bid. Cabinet assigned the surplus to fund a scholarship to support Queensland’s aspiring athletes.

Cabinet under Ahern

On the 7th December, Premier Mike Ahern chaired his first meeting of Cabinet. Though much of the material being presented to Cabinet was similar to the Bjelke-Petersen cabinets there were some marked change of direction. Reforms to the process of managing the budget were soon apparent with the decision to establish a Budget Review Committee with an Expenditure Review Committee to sit under it (Dec 53127). The ERC was to deal with the long term structural issues of the budget as identified in the 1988–89 budget process (Dec 53261). The establishment of these committees broke the autocratic power that had accrued to Bjelke-Petersen as both Premier and Treasurer and allowed for the more deliberate consideration of the budget difficulties besetting Queensland.

The day after he was sworn in as Premier, riots broke out at the Boggo Road jail. In response, Mr Justice Einfeld and Brian Burdekin of the Human Rights Commission visited Boggo Road and declared the detention unit fell short of human right standards. Cabinet decided that the detention unit would no longer be used to accommodate prisoners and the construction of a new detention unit at Boggo Road was authorised as a matter of urgency. (Dec 53109).

In addition, Premier Ahern had no problem in putting a hold on the long running Turkish Gaza project of the ‘previous Cabinet’. Queensland officials had long been flagging the insurmountable problems with the projects that they saw as ‘sub-commercial’ (Dec 53163).


Saving ‘God Save the Queen

In early March Cabinet approved the Premier’s recommendation regarding the playing of the National Anthem (Advance Australia Fair) and the Royal Anthem (God save the Queen) (see Dec 50932, 50818, 50877). It was the ‘policy and desire’ of the Queensland Government that preference be given to the Royal Anthem. For example, the Royal Anthem continued to be used in schools. However the Queen had indicated her preference (via the Commonwealth) that she only wanted the royal anthem played in the presence of the royal family. Cabinet discussed how this severely limited the use of Defence Force bands (who were subject to this direction) at Queensland state and ceremonial functions. So the Premier recommended that the National Anthem be played at all functions for and on behalf of the Queensland Government where Defence Force bands were used, except of course when a member of the Royal Family was present when they could revert to his ‘desire’.

Queensland Unlimited

Queensland Unlimited, a television program, appeared every weekend across all commercial stations, promoting the activities of the government. On 19th January, (Dec 50542) Cabinet approved the 1987 series of Queensland Unlimited to be aired for 48 weeks on Channels 0,9 and 7 in the Brisbane Metropolitan area and all provincial commercial stations at a weekly cost of $15,337. Later (Dec 52706) on 12th October saw a refocusing of the program. It was to decrease in time significantly — a three minute spot with the estimated savings to be around $150,000 which would be redirected to the public relations and media office.

Public holidays

And in a case of the more things change (Dec 51909) which was deferred until a later date — considered the option to change the date of ‘Labour’ day until October. It was acknowledged that this was likely to be ‘vigorously opposed by the Labour and trade union movement’. In July (Dec 51953) Cabinet decides to publicly announce the government’s intention to consider changing the date to test community reaction.



Tracey Arklay is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University and a Research Fellow with Griffith’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy.

Tracey is the author of Arthur Fadden: A Political Silhouette(Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2015) and co-author of The Ayes Have It: A History of the Queensland Parliament 1957–89 (ANU Press, 2010).

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Jenny is Senior Associate in the Policy Innovation Hub at Griffith University. Jenny has over 25 years experience in policy and public administration in both the State and Commonwealth Governments.

As a senior executive within the Queensland Department of the Premier and Cabinet she developed the government’s strategic policy agenda including the Smart State Policy.

She was Cabinet Secretary from 2001 to 2004 and the inaugural Secretary for the Council for the Australian Federation from 2007 to 2009 and a member of the Commonweath Grants Commission 2011 -2016. She publishes in the fields of caretaker conventions, federalism and intergovernmental relations.

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Susan Horton

Susan’s thirty-five year career in the Queensland Public Service included a substantial period in the provision and management of service delivery to children at risk, young people and their families; managing the implementation of Freedom of Information legislation in a welfare department, including notably the release of documents to former Children in Care. She was a senior executive within the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and was responsible for Commonwealth State relations, Social Policy and the development of infrastructure for policy and performance improvement. Susan was Cabinet Secretary from July 2006 to October 2007.

The Machinery of Government

Independent analysis from Australia's best political scientists and policy researchers with a focus on politics, policy, and governance.


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Independent expert analysis and insights from Australia’s best political scientists and policy researchers.

The Machinery of Government

Independent analysis from Australia's best political scientists and policy researchers with a focus on politics, policy, and governance.

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