With friends like Joh, politics had its bruising costs

Remembering Joh's costly bid for Canberra - it was doomed from the start

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Chairman of Moree Joh for Canberra committee John Uebergang at a press conference in northern NSW with the Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen rallying support for his unconventional push into federal politics in March 1987.

Chairman of Moree Joh for Canberra committee John Uebergang at a press conference in northern NSW with the Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen rallying support for his unconventional push into federal politics in March 1987.

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'My perspective of Joh's plans were somewhat coloured by having seen first hand the way he and his Queensland Cabinet worked. It was a disgrace.'

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Much to the disappointment of Queensland Nationals, one of Ian Sinclair's most bruising political fights, and wins, was an ill-fated push from within the party by Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen who sought to move into federal politics and grab control at a national level.

The ambitious "Joh for Canberra" campaign lasted less than five months in 1987, losing momentum when an early federal election was called in May just as his own government came under heightened scrutiny from a Royal Commission into corruption.

However, the Queensland Premier's brazen assault split the Nationals and the Coalition, fracturing the unity required among non-Labor forces to beat Bob Hawke at the polls.

Although Sir Joh then quit politics six months later, Queensland's Nats, which had broken from the federal organisation early in the year, continued attempts to oust Mr Sinclair from the leadership for some time.

"My perspective of Joh's plans were somewhat coloured by having seen first hand the way he and his Queensland Cabinet worked when I attended some of their meetings," Mr Sinclair said.

"It was a disgrace.

"Discussion was minimal. He spent a lot of time reading or dealing with correspondence, while the party chairman, not the state's elected MPs, seemed to be actively dictating government policy."

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Mr Sinclair, the federal party leader at the time, said the policies Sir Joh promoted in Queensland were also not necessarily what appealed around Australia.

"I could not validate his argument to be a national leader from just a Queensland base," he said.

"He was welcome to come to Canberra - there were federal seats available in Queensland which he could have won - but he had to be elected first."

Mr Sinclair said Sir Joh's 21-year run as Queensland Premier had initially brought massive changes for good, and maturity for the state, successfully capitalising on the potential of its regions and resources, abolishing death duties and even leading to a change in the Country Party's name to National Party.

"But he was given a lot of status we didn't necessarily go along with," he said.

"There was also a develop-and-win-at-all-costs mentality which didn't fit with wider public opinion."

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The story With friends like Joh, politics had its bruising costs first appeared on Farm Online.

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