1989 Cabinet Minutes – three Premiers, a cabinet handbook and an end to chaos in Queensland

1989 Cabinet minutes released today show Queensland under three different Premiers, with the Sunshine State emerging from darkness into an era of decent, stable government following the historic election of the Wayne Goss Government.

Minister for Digital Technology, responsible for the Queensland State Archives, Mick de Brenni said the Cabinet minutes showed the internal conflict of the final days of the 1989 Ahern and Cooper Government, in the wake of the outcomes of the Fitzgerald enquiry, before the first Labor victory for 32 years.

“1989 started out as the most politically unsettled year in Queensland’s history,” Mr de Brenni said.

“After 32 years of National Party rule and the publication of the Fitzgerald Report, Queenslanders wanted a government that promised integrity and an end to corruption.”

Mr de Brenni said analysis of the Cabinet papers revealed that although the majority of the final Ahern and Cooper Cabinet meetings were often consumed with trivial matters, there were some other notable discussions had, such as the trial of daylight saving time that began at the end of October.

“When 1,645 Ansett and Australian pilots went on strike stopping all domestic flights Cabinet sent their Minister overseas to charter a Boeing 737 that they resolved to paint with a Queensland logo.

“The Nationals continued to battle against Bob Hawke’s proposal for the World Heritage Listing of the Wet Tropics even after it was inscribed on the UNESCO list in December 1988.

Mr de Brenni said whilst Premier Mike Ahern had promised to implement Fitzgerald’s recommendations, ‘lock, stock and barrel’, the resentment from his own party for those reforms eventually came to the boil when he was rolled by Russell Cooper in September.

“The tabling of the Fitzgerald report after years of National Party rule uncovered corruption that was entrenched, systematic and widespread in their government.

“It’s little wonder the Nationals were accused by Tony Fitzgerald of being consumed with the ‘detail of administration’, making up to 80 decisions each Cabinet meeting, rather than fixing the broader systemic issues of government.”

Mr de Brenni said the cabinet minutes spanning three Premiers continued to highlight the vast differences between Liberal National and Labor governments.

“There was an arrogance in the Cooper Government’s agenda and decisions of Cabinet, so much so that they showed absolutely no sign that they ever considered that they could lose an election.”

Mr de Brenni said it was on the promise of decent, stable government that led Labor’s Wayne Goss to an historic victory.

“The National’s failure to focus on the important transparency and accountability reform agenda demonstrated by the release of the Cabinet papers, shows it ultimately cost them the 1989 election.

“In stark contrast, the papers reveal that at his first Cabinet meeting on 11 December, the new Premier Goss submitted the first ever Queensland Cabinet Handbook and new Financial Guidelines, which are still used in cabinet to this day.

“Goss saw to it that Cabinet meetings were business-like, evidence based and only considered matters of major significance to the business of government and the citizens of Queensland, a feature that endures today.

“Goss was here to bring integrity to Queensland politics with the abolition of the political gerrymander, the introduction of merit-based appointments and protecting World Heritage areas.

“The Palaszczuk Government has continued on from Goss to further strengthen the integrity of Queensland politics through banning of developer donations and capping of election spending.”

The 1989 Cabinet Minutes will be available to the public at Queensland State Archives at Runcorn from Thursday 2 January 2020 and on the State Archives website www.archives.qld.gov.au from Wednesday 1 January 2020.

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