G20: Over and out
Visions of Premier Campbell Newman steaming out of the Port of Brisbane to confront the Russian fleet were almost realised during the G20 summit. A fleet of four Russian warships were detected on Wednesday 12th, 2014, and had moved into international waters off Brisbane on Saturday to co-inside with the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
ABC reporter, Michael Rowland asked Newman what he made of the arrival.
“Sadly we gave up our Navy back at Federation so there’s not much I can do about it,” he replied.
On Thursday, a flotilla of fourteen police craft led by a tinnie powered down the Brisbane River in a display of force, as 4BC’s Nick Wiggins reported.
— Sarah Greenhalgh (@GreenhalghSarah) November 13, 2014
Streets were largely left deserted as most residents of Brisbane escaped the three day G20 summit for holidays on the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast. The city saw major disruption with motorcades, road closures and peaceful protests. Read more at our @NoFibs report, “Brisbane G20: Peace and protest”.
The passing of Goss the Boss
Former Queensland Premier, Wayne Goss passed away on Monday, 10th Novemeber 2014. Tributes flowed for the Labor premier who lead the party back to government after the political wreckage of the Joh Bjelke-Petersen National Party Government. The Nationals had ruled Queensland for 32 years until the Fitzgerald Inquiry halted their corrupt time in office.
Of Goss, now retired QC Tony Fitzgerald described him as “a man of uncompromising integrity” who provided essential support during the inquiry and transformed Queensland through his premiership. In a media statement, Fitzgerald also described Goss as a reformer who, “like most political reformers, he paid a heavy price.”
He was often compared to former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in his reforms but never at the frenetic pace. For Queensland, Goss implemented the recommendations of the Fitzgerald Inquiry and modernised the police service, including the disbanding of Joh’s spy network, the special branch. He removed criminality for homosexuality and banned uranium mining, the latter only lifted recently by the Newman Government. Through his time as arts minister, premier and later chair of the Queensland Gallery of Art’s Board of Trustees “he increased Queensland’s reputation in the international arts community”.
Goss passed away at his home only several weeks short of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his historic win on December 2, 1989. Despite holding an approval rating of 70 percent for most of his time in office, Goss’s political enemies inside and outside the party managed to paint him as arrogant. Labor managed to hold on at the 1995 election but lost power eight months later when a by-election caused a hung parliament and independent Liz Cunningham later sided with the National Party to form a new government under Rob Borbidge.
At his concession speech, he bade goodbye with, “Thank you Queensland, you’ve been good to me, I hope I’ve left you a better place.”
Chances of entering federal politics were dashed when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was to be plagued with them for seventeen more years up until his death.
However, not all praise was positive. Seemingly offended by the public denigration of the Joh era in the wake of Goss’ passing, Federal Agriculture Minister and National Party MP Barnaby Joyce took the opportunity to praise the benefits of Joh’s government.
“Let’s not deride the accomplishments of one because it befits our notions of the politics of the next,” he said.
“It was the envy of other states, the treasury was overflowing with money, it electrified central Queensland railways, it built the dams, it built the international airports, it had taken small towns to what would then grow to be major cities.”
While Joyce praised the Fitzgerald Inquiry reforms, he incorrectly attributed them to Joh.
“Absolutely, because who brought about the Fitzgerald inquiry, who called for it – Bjelke-Petersen.”
Premier Campbell Newman offered Goss’s family a state funeral and praised his reforms.
“The things he did in the six years he was in office were quite significant and have far reaching implications today in terms of a better Queensland,” he said.
Former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie who succeeded him as leader of the Labor Party, described him as “Mr Clean”.
“He was a very descent person with integrity. He was a Mr Clean of Queensland politics. He came into office at a very difficult time in the post-Fitzgerald period and he cleaned up Queensland,” he said.
Beattie later wrote, “A talented leader with integrity, he was the Mr Clean of Queensland politics and Labor’s best premier since TJ Ryan [Queensland’s first Labor premier] in 1915. Goss made a difference and Queenslanders owe him a great debt.”
Former Australian Treasurer and Goss’s campaign director, Wayne Swan said of him, “He gave truth to the saying that there is honour in public life. A man of tremendous integrity, a man of clarity of thought, a man of discipline who worked his guts out for the state.”
Former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh praised him as the moderniser of Queensland.
“The architecture that he established in his first term out of the Fitzgerald inquiry stands today as a hallmark of modern government. Everything that’s been achieved by every subsequent premier is built on the foundations that Wayne put in place,” she said.
“Make a difference” was always Goss’s goal. It is perhaps also a message for those who come after him.
Newman’s anti-graffiti laws net artist
In contrast to the Goss Government approach to the arts, the Newman Government has taken the big stick to graffiti art and in so doing has netted Brisbane artist Anthony Lister. Pulled over for a routine random breath test, police brought up 12 outstanding willful damage and graffiti charges dating back as far as 2009.
“I was actually driving away from a person’s house where I’d been asked to paint a wall,” he said. “My hands were completely covered in paint.”
He was incarcerated in the Brisbane watchhouse for the night where he waited out the 10 – 12 hours, “freezing, hungry and bored.”
“In other cities, people stand around, take photos and clap when I’m painting – here, people try to grab me and think I’m a criminal, I don’t have time for that,” he said.
Lister’s art can sell for up to $10,000. Strangely enough, it was Labor’s former Brisbane deputy mayor David Hinchliffe who gave him his start through the public art project of painting traffic signal boxes. In an example how far the Liberal National Party dominated council has moved against this form of art, it recently ordered one of Lister’s murals at Milton painted over, a piece it originally commissioned.
Further indications of the LNP purge on street art was the 2013 changes to laws by the Newman Government to jail “vandals” for up to seven years. Lister could face jail time, just for doing his job.
High Court challenge to VLAD Laws
The High Court of Australia this dismissed a challenge to the Newman Government’s anti-association laws, the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment bill. The plaintiff, Stefan Kuczborski had not actually been charged under the laws so the bench dismissed that part of the claim. The second component, the claim that the courts were doing the bidding of the parliament when it comes to sentencing and bail was also dismissed by a majority of the bench.
Premier Campbell Newman took the decision as the courts siding with his government.
“The anti-association elements have been upheld which is an interesting… decision by the court as well to go that bit extra to get behind those parts of these strong measures,” he said.
He also called for other states and territories to follow his lead and implement similar laws.
“I do indeed, respectfully, suggest to other state jurisdictions that they have a good look at this now.”
The dismissal may mean lengthy court battles ahead for those charged with the crime of association such as librarian Sally Kuether. Kuether was arrested after meeting at a local pub with two men who the state alleges were criminal bikies. Read more at our @NoFibs report, “Campbell Newman is Eliot Ness”.
The full High Court ruling can be read here, “Kuczborski v Queensland  HCA 46 (14 November 2014)”.
Brisbane Times state political reporter Amy Remeikis also wrote a good assessment of the VLAD laws and the challenge, “High Court rejects challenge to Queensland’s criminal gang laws”.
Cash for rezoning: Seeney and Dickson’s caravan adventure
As they have done on numerous occasions for sand mining and gravel quarries, the Newman Government again intervened to reverse a decision. This time it was Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and Racing Minister and LNP MP for Buderim Steve Dickson using influence to change a local council zoning for a caravan park owned by LNP donor SEQ Properties. The chief executive officer confirmed to ABC’s Mark Willacy that the company had attended paid LNP fundraisers.
The Sunshine Coast caravan park caters for over fifties and pensioners. The council deemed that the park’s zoning should remain unchanged but SEQ Properties insisted it be changed to “medium density residential”, which would allow the building of millions of dollars worth of townhouses and units. It then lobbied Seeney’s office to seek his assistance in changing the council’s mind. Initially, Seeney’s senior advisor told the company that his boss could not involve himself in local council matters.
Within days, local MP Dickson was involved and a letter appeared to council from Seeney instructing the rezoning take place.
Planning expert, Dr Laurel Johnson from the University of Queensland said the intervention required better grounds for involvement and harped back to the days of the Bjelke-Petersen Government.
“This reminds me of the days of ministerial zonings in the 1980s under the conservative government of that time,” she said.
Seeney denied he was overstepping his boundaries and told the ABC he had intervened because the council was, “potentially jeopardising the future of the park’s 240 residents”.
However, as park resident Stan Lonsdale confirmed, no one onsite had been made aware of all of the decisions being made around them.
“We’re sort of second class citizens, I think really. We have a lot of really, really old people in this place and if they had to move they just couldn’t afford to,” he said.
No doubt this will sit on the pile with other questionable Newman Government decisions until some day, someone with authority examines them all.
Age of entitlement still raging
In times of record high unemployment in Queensland, MPs are not shy in spending their annual allowances. The generic and wide ranging taxpayer funded bucket can be used for anything from electoral material to travel expenses.
Brisbane Times state political reporter Amy Remeikis revealed;
“The annual review of the state’s allowances system revealed the majority of Queensland’s 89 MPs spent between 80 and 100 per cent of the three allowances granted to them above their base salaries. An analysis of how allowances were spent showed 63 MPs spent between 80 and 100 per cent of their electorate allowance, while 16 went over by up to 20 per cent and five spent more than 120 per cent. The biggest expense for most MPs was production, publication and distribution of material, which cost just over $1 million.”
A September report also showed that Queensland MPs spent $2.2 million in allowances for the year.