Drab Caricatures. "The Premiers of Queensland" by Denis Murphy et al (eds). [review]
Queensland's history is different in many respects from the older states, and similar only to Western Australia in features such as its vastness, its relative emptiness and its history as the last of the ‘frontier’ states. It is easy to caricature Queensland as historically and naturally conservative, even reactionary, by comparison to its more cosmopolitan, liberal and tolerant counterparts in the south-eastern corner of Australia. This is the state in which, if Henry Reynolds’s estimates are accepted (as they still generally are, despite the notorious efforts of Keith Windschuttle), half of the 20,000 Aborigines killed in violent conflicts with European settlers in Australia met their deaths. This is the state that gave us Joh Bjelke-Petersen and all the corruption that went with his government. And this is the state that was home to Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party, and that gave it twenty-three per cent of the vote and ten seats in the 1998 state election. But the distinctive features of Queensland politics are not all concerned with the forces of conservatism and reaction. Queensland saw the world's first Labor government, under Anderson Dawson, albeit one that lasted a matter of a week. It was the only state to maintain a Labor government in World War I, when Thomas Ryan's government stood alone and bravely against Billy Hughes and his Nationalists, and controversially fought Hughes’s demagogic pursuit of conscription. Labor maintained an almost continuous hold on office from 1915 to 1957, interrupted only by three years of Country Party government in the Depression, and ending only when the Labor premier was thrown out by his own party organisation. It was, moreover, the first state to dispense with its upper house when the Legislative Council, traditionally the preserve of the conservatives, was abolished in 1922.