‘’Woe to the inhibiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.’’
Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson, that figure of death and repression that terrified our state for three decades, has of late assumed a posthumous cult following among some delusional conservatives; his reputation is sadly undergoing something of a renaissance among the meth-addled freaks that make up the most conservative factions of the LNP. Last month, on the fiftieth anniversary of his seizure of power, tributes flowed for the man who set our state back decades and made the lives of Queenslanders a living hell. The Young LNP shared the following on Facebook: ‘’Sir Joh built Queensland, from the Gateway bridge to numerous airports, coal mines, power stations and dams. Thank you Sir Joh for your service to Queensland.’’ Given this collective retreat from reason and reality, it is necessary that someone remind everyone of the reality of Joh’s toxic, repressive rule. It is necessary that someone tethered to reality provide a proper accounting of the corruption, cruelty and horror of the Joh years.
It is vital as part of any analysis of the matter that we consider the history of Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson’s regime as objectively and dispassionately as possible. And looking at the history of Sir Joh’s rule in Queensland, it is impossible to come to any other objective conclusion but that he was a deeply corrupt, brain dead thug whose death we are all better for. In transforming Queensland into a repressive police state, he was probably the most crooked, evil man to ever be premier. With his Special Branch, he ran a spy state almost unparalleled in any other Western democracy. His secret police were reminiscent of the GDR’s Stasi in their reach and repression – they kept tabs on students and political opponents, harassing and intimidating those who would oppose Joh’s fetid regime. As the FitzGerald inquiry would eventually show, Joh ran a political system corrupt and rotten to the core. The police under Terry Lewis and Joh’s watch were basically nothing more than another organised crime gang intent on terrorising Queenslanders. Half of Joh’s cabinet would ultimately be jailed for taking bribes. His infamous Bjelkemander ensured that he ruled without popular consent, ignoring the will of the people. He was the ultimate expression of Australia’s darkest impulses, a racist hillbilly dictator who set our state back generations.
Under Joh Bjelke-Peterson’s dark regime, each new morn new sorrows struck heaven in the face. His vicious police force beat up young students and anti-apartheid protesters. Repressive state censorship stifled political expression and free speech. In keeping homosexuality criminalised in Queensland, he ensured our state was in league with medieval, backwards theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Even for a conservative politician of his time, Joh’s response to the HIV/AIDs epidemic was damning and disgraceful. He denounced gay people as deviants and tried to ban them from public spaces; he called on his deeply corrupt police commissioner to raid gay communities and he worsened the AIDs epic by banning condom machines and shutting down safe sex education campaigns. Joh Bjelke-Peterson was a violent thug, a monster, a criminal and a crook.
Some might say that it is wrong to so viciously attack a man who has been dead for a decade. But those who tried to speak out against him when he was in power were suppressed and censored, so we owe the man nothing. Joh has been lent too much respect in death. If there was any justice in this world Joh would not have been venerated with a state funeral; his body would have been burned in a trash bin or launched into the sea to be eaten by sharks. He was a ghoulish creep, a monstrous thug, a vicious bully and an evil tyrant. It is not too late for us all to collectively recognise this. The plot in which he was buried can still be salted so that nothing may ever grow there again. This would be the only fitting way to remember the terrorist who so brutalised our great state.