Friday, October 3, 2014
A final sendoff
Paul and Susan have been going around saying farewell to various people individually and they came to see me late this afternoon.
I got three "Supreme" pizzas home delivered from Pizza Hut and also had a packet of New Zealand ginger nut biscuits on hand. Everything got eaten, with even little Elise tucking into pizza. I don't think she has got any teeth yet but she gummed it pretty well! I don't like Australian ginger nuts much but the NZ ones were definitely better.
We talked a lot about politics, as we usually do. Someone had been poisoning Paul's mind about Sir Johannes Bjelke Petersen KCMG, who ran Queensland from 1968 to 1987. "Joh" was always controversial and all these years later he still is. Much that was and is said about him is distortion, however. As a member of Joh's party at the time, however, I am in a good position to balance the account, which I did. The half-truth about Joh holding power only because of a gerrymander is particularly pernicious. Yet in In 1974, his government gained a remarkable 59% of the popular vote -- a majority so large as to be almost unheard of in a Western democracy. Only Ronald Reagan has done as well, as far as I know. Interesting that both Ronnie and Joh were known for crushing arrogant unionists
So how come? The fact of the matter is that some rural seats in Queensland were much less populous than most urban seats. They did however cover large geographical areas so the difficulty of getting around them was put forward as the reason for their being less populous. But that gerrymander did not originate with Joh. It went back at least to the premiership of Vince Gair and may have even gone back as far as Ned Hanlon. Gair and Hanlon were Labor Party premiers.
So why did the Labor Party favour country seats? Because they used to win most of those seats. With the Country party revival first under "Honest Frank" Nicklin and then Joh, however, almost all those seats swung to the conservatives. And since the Country party and the urban-based Liberal party always governed in coalition, the end result is that Joh's government always got a majority of the popular vote. Joh himself put it well when he was addressing a meeting of students at Sydney university. He asked them: "Do you think a party that gained only 45% of the vote at the last election should rule Queensland?" Resounding "Noes" were heard in reply. Joh then said: "Well, that's what the Labor party got last time". Embarrassment! The gerrymander disadvantaged the Liberal party, not the Labor party.
Much more could and has been said about Joh -- his "inarticulateness", for instance. But I have written on that before
Paul and I talked about other things as well -- deficiencies in the school curricula, why Ken and Paul disagree, the nature of Leftism -- but nothing that we haven't gone over many times before.
UPDATE: "Joh" made me proud to be a Queenslander. And even subsequent Labor Party governments have done little to erase his legacy (though the mismanagement of his big Wivenhoe flood-control dam is a disgrace). So maybe I should say more about something else that he is known for: He crushed the electricity workers union. They really thought that they ruled the roost until Joh showed them otherwise. They were a plague on Brisbane people with their cutting off of the electricity supply in support of their egregious demands.
But it could be argued that Joh's response was neither Left nor Right but Queensland. In the 40s there was a Labor party Premier of Qld called Ned Hanlon. In his youth he was a real red-ragger. But as he got older he went "so far right that he was almost out of sight" -- as they used to say of Syngman Rhee (you don't know who Rhee was? Look him up). So Ned used his police to break up strikes. Joh was milder. He just used threats. But the unionists were just blustering cowards so the threats worked.
Queensland electricity supply is very good these days. No more do people have to throw out the contents of their fridges and freezers.