Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

1986 Cabinet Documents Show Joh's Government at Its Height; Conflicts of Interest Presented No Problem to Ministers as They Decided Everything from the Trivial to Significant

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

1986 Cabinet Documents Show Joh's Government at Its Height; Conflicts of Interest Presented No Problem to Ministers as They Decided Everything from the Trivial to Significant

Article excerpt

Byline: Geoff Egan Geoff.Egan@apn.com.au

MINING disaster, Christopher Skase (below), new infrastructure and the tallest building in the world - Queensland Cabinet documents from 1986 reveal the Joh Bjelke-Petersen National Party government at the height of its power.

The documents, declassified today after 30 years, show a government having far less transparency than would be expected today.

Documents for cabinet decisions were often only showed to a select number of ministers and at times input from departments would not be sought.

Current Innovation Minister Leeanne Enoch said over the course of 1986 the cabinet deliberated 2526, "often trivial", submissions. She said modern cabinets only looked at a few hundred submissions each year.

The 1986 documents show decisions were being made about appointments and promotions that she said would not be made at a cabinet level today.

In 1986 ministers did not have to excuse themselves from cabinet deliberations if they had a conflict of interest. Cabinet even debated funding for the National Party's own Brisbane headquarters.

The lack of transparency allowed Mr Bjelke-Petersen to push for a pitch from developer Mainsel to build "the world's tallest building" in the Brisbane CBD, despite other proposals being cheaper and better funded.

Griffith University state politics expert Jennifer Menzies said cabinet members began to turn on the Premier when they found he would allegedly profit from the development.

But the first cracks in cabinet unity did not prevent the Nationals winning the 1986 election - the only time the National Party has won government in its own right in any Australian election.

On July 16, an explosion at the Moura No. 4 mine killed 12 underground coal workers and caused extensive damage. The documents show Mines Minister Ivan Gibbs initially found nothing out of the ordinary was reported before the disaster. …

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