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Re Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

22 September 2017 41 views No Comment

From The Courier-Mail, September 22, 2017 by Terry Sweetman

As Queensland premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s savage use of defamation writs not only silenced his political critics, it made the media understandably gun-shy when it came to looking under rocks.

Not even history was safe from his baleful glare.

In 1984 when Professor Ross Fitzgerald published the second volume in his history of Queensland, the first print run had to be recalled and pulped because of defamation action threatened by Bjelke-Petersen’s government.

The alleged libel concerned the government’s pursuit of conservationist and schoolteacher John Sinclair, who fought for the protection of Fraser Island but was hounded out of Queensland by Bjelke-Petersen and bankrupted.

Fitzgerald was even threatened by the government with criminal defamation if the publication was not withdrawn.

But it was all true.

Ultimately, the truth caught up with Bjelke-Petersen and continues to hound him beyond the grave, as evidenced by claims from his successor, Mike Ahern, of callous cruelty towards indigenous people.

If that is the path (Gold Coast Mayor Tom) Tate wants to follow in the face of media scrutiny, so be it, but it will come at the price of increasing media curiosity.

The affairs of public office are not baubles to be selectively traded for media favouritism. Councillors, mayors and other politicians are transient stewards of the facts but ultimately they belong to the people.

The media’s role is to help the people find the truth.

The Courier-Mail September 22, 2017