This book is about politics in the state of Queensland. More particularly, it is about the National Party of Australia (Queensland). Even more particularly, it is about the tumultuous decade of politics in Queensland between 1973 and 1983. It was during the premiership of Joh Bjelke- Petersen and the presidency of Sir Robert Sparkes that the National Party achieved its aim of governing Queensland in its own right.
Circumstances brought a troubled Premier Bjelke-Petersen and new president Robert Sparkes together in 1970. The premier's concern was his short-term personal political survival; Bob Sparkes' challenge was the long-term survival of the organization he had only recently been elected to lead - an organization that appeared destined for political oblivion. Yet the developments of their period of leadership changed the direction of state and federal politics in Australia. Their considerable political acumen and stature won them wide acclaim and recognition, and the organization they gathered about them revolutionized conservative politics in Australia.
In recent years, many newspaper column centimetres and several books have been written about the exploits of Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Little, however, has been written about the contribution and vision of Sir Robert Sparkes and the importance of the National Party organization that has backed both men. This book is an attempt to redress this imbalance. It is also an attempt to put into context the historic collapse in 1983 of the National-Liberal coalition in Queensland, and to address the question of what lies in the future for the National Party, both federally and in Queensland.
In the months that have followed the 1983 Queensland state election, dramatic changes have taken place. A challenge has been mounted to the outcome of the poll in the seat of Maryborough, which threatens to whittle the Nationals' narrow majority. The socialist thrust throughout Australia has gained renewed momentum under the populist leadership of Labor Prime Minister Robert Hawke. The position of the federal Liberal Party has been greatly weakened by further retirements and the federal parliamentary leader of the National Party, Doug Anthony, resigned. A new federal National Party leader was elected amidst some of the most severe personal criticism ever inflicted on a federal leader of the party. The Queensland party has failed in its bid for the deputy leadership of the federal party, and the longstanding executive director of the Queensland organization, Michael Evans, resigned to pursue a future parliamentary career.
This book is not an official complete record of the National Party of Queensland, although it could not have been written without the close cooperation and encouragement of the State Management Committee of the party, the party's research staff, and Sir Robert Sparkes.
Thanks are also due to Mrs Barbara Campbell, widow of Alan J. Campbell, for access to her husband's Memoirs of the Country Party in Queensland, 1920-1974 (unpublished), which assisted greatly in the writing of the first chapter of this book. Special thanks also to my wife, Mary, who encouraged me to write the book and who performed the duties of constructive critic throughout the months of its compilation.
Many of the photographs in this book were supplied by the Premier's Department, whose assistance was greatly appreciated. The owners of other illustrative material have been acknowledged in the respective captions.