Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1501

Mr WELLS(9.10) —Mr Deputy Speaker, since becoming a member of parliament, I have frequently taken opportunities to criticise the Queensland Government on a wide range of issues. I would like to inform the House of my motive for doing so. The motive is philosophical. The vehemence with which I oppose the Government of Johannes Bjelke-Petersen is the vehemence of one whose overriding and basic commitment is to democracy and who opposes a government which is operating on totalitarian assumptions. The Government of Johannes Bjelke-Petersen works on a variety of propositions which no democrat could accept. I will list just four of them.

First, the Premier believes that it is appropriate for the State to intervene without limit in the private lives of its citizens. For example, he believes that it is appropriate for him to circumscribe courses taught in schools. Some years ago two teaching materials, one called 'Man, A Course of Study' and the other called 'Social Education Materials Project', were banned by the Queensland Government. The Premier said that any teachers caught teaching from these materials would be sacked, notwithstanding public meetings at which teachers and parents insisted upon their right to have these teaching aids used for the benefit of their children. One of those teaching aids was developed by the Curriculum Development Centre here in Canberra. The Premier did not think it appropriate for parents to choose what their own children were to learn.

Education is the development of independent and rational thought. Indoctrination is the instilling of a body of information or beliefs. Educators are concerned to enhance the capacities of human minds. Indoctrinators are concerned to control the content of human minds. Education is a weapon of democracy. Indoctrination is a weapon of totalitarianism. Bjelke-Petersen used that totalitarian weapon.

A further indication that the Bjelke-Petersen Government does not believe that there is in principle any limit to the right of the state to interfere in the private lives of its citizens is its denial, from which in practice it has since resiled, of the right of freedom of procession. The freedom to march in the streets is a freedom which has been known at common law for hundreds of years and at statute law in various jurisdictions deriving from Britain for almost equally as long. It is a right which has been insisted upon by a wide variety of people including members of both sides of this Parliament and ministers of religion. For this insistence the Premier of Queensland has described archbishops in Brisbane as communists, and he has used the power of the state to suppress the inherited rights of Australian citizens.

Second, Mr Bjelke-Petersen is prepared to set aside the results of an election of the Australian people. In 1975, Senator Bert Milliner, that great Australian who resided in what is now my electorate, died. As all honourable members know, there was a long standing convention that, when a senator died or retired, he was replaced by a member of the party of which he had been a member. The reason for this convention is obvious. The balance established in the Senate was established by the Australian people. To replace a senator with a person of any other party would be to undo that balance. When Mr Bjelke-Petersen refused to follow that long standing convention and instead appointed to the Senate a man who was offered the position on the condition that he would vote to bring down the Whitlam Government, Mr Bjelke-Petersen substituted his own will for the wishes of the people of Queensland-wishes expressed at a general election. Understandably, the democratic majority of the Liberal Party in Queensland opposed Mr Bjelke-Peterson on this issue, as did every member of the Liberal Party who was a member of the State Cabinet. It would be impossible to think of a more undemocratic act than the act of subverting the expressed wishes of a democratic people.

The third anti-democratic and totalitarian assumption that I advert to is Bjelke-Petersen's belief that it is appropriate for the power of the state to be used to blackmail its own citizens. In 1977 Mr Bjelke-Petersen went to Mt Isa and he said to the good people there:

You have not had to pay a cent as interest or redumption for your dam and that situation will continue as long as Mr Bertoni is in.

A report asked:

Are you saying that if the people of Mt Isa do not vote for the National Party, then they will not get any further funding for the dam?

Mr Bjelke-Petersen replied:

You can read it that way if you want to.

All parties use electoral bribery, offering incentives and rewards to electors to vote in the right way. Electoral blackmail, however, consists in offering punishment to electors who do not vote the right way. The power to punish its own citizens for failure to vote in accordance with the wishes of the government of the day is a power which no democrat would use, is one which has never been used by any government in this place, and is one with which only a totalitarian would feel comfortable. Shortage of the time alone prevents me from multiplying instances of this sort of behaviour by the Bjelke-Petersen Government.

The fourth totalitarian proposition to which the Bjelke-Petersen Government manifestly subscribes is that it is appropriate for the Premier to give detailed instructions to the police in the performance of their own duties. Adolf Hitler thought it was appropriate for him to give detailed instructions to the Gestapo and the SS, but in democratic communities we believe that the police, like the courts, are there to enforce justice and the law, not to act at the bidding of the person who happens to head the government. Yet Mr Bjelke-Petersen said:

We have a very good police force and I am glad we have got them. I don't have to ring him up--

that is, the Commissioner of Police-

and tell him to do this or that.

All of this demonstrates that Mr Bjelke-Petersen is acting on a set of anti- democratic and totalitarian assumptions. But there is worse to come. I want now to demonstrate that Mr Bjelke-Petersen is not just working on a totalitarian ideology but that he is in fact a caricature totalitarian. I do not wish to make much of the electoral gerrymander in Queensland. I would, however, like to draw attention to what Mr Bjelke-Petersen says about the basis of his mandate to govern.

In Westminster democracies, we believe that the Prime Minister and Cabinet derive their right to operate as the executive arm of government from the fact that they command a majority on the floor of the parliament. We believe that the legitimacy of the parliament derives from the fact that it was chosen by the majority of the people. The voters elect the parliament and the parliament elects the Cabinet. The Cabinet therefore does not authorise or legitimise the parliament. The parliament authorises and legitimises the Cabinet, particularly with regard to expenditure of public funds. In this area it is the parliament and not the Cabinet which has the right of determination. Yet in 1978 there arose a dispute between Mr Bjelke-Petersen and the parliament which he had himself so carefully gerrymandered. On that occasion, the Speaker of the House, a member of the National Party-a member of his own party-made a statement with which no member of this House would disagree. The Speaker of the Queensland Parliament, a National Party member, said:

The expenditure of funds within the headings and sub-headings of the appropriation are not and cannot be subject to the dictates of Cabinet. Neither Cabinet nor any individual Minister, no matter how highly placed, can claim authority in this matter. Such a claim would amount to a takeover of Parliament by the Executive. The Premier's attitude completely fails to acknowledge the fundamental principle of the supremacy of parliament.

So said the National Party Speaker of the Queensland Parliament. Mr Bjelke- Petersen, however, thought differently. He said:

There is no argument that Cabinet has the right to lay down procedures for the spending of public money. Clear guidelines . . . were laid down by Cabinet in a number of letters to successive speakers.

Mr Bjelke-Petersen then clearly thinks that his authority transcends the Parliament to which we who believe in the Westminster system would have thought him responsible. Where then does Mr Bjelke-Petersen think that he derives his authority? I would like now to read, by way of explanation, two quotations, one from Adolf Hitler in 1937 and one from Johannes Bjelke-Petersen in 1978. In 1937 , Adolf Hitler said:

Over and above parties' confessions and classes, we have set the German people, and it is only as a people, not as a group of individuals or parties, that it can survive. Above all, we have worked out in Germany a single will . . . He who represents this will should be respected in his will.

That was Hitler. In 1978, Johannes Bjelke-Petersen said:

Only one body is supreme in Queensland-the people. Parliament, government and executive are merely instruments of the people and accountable to them and I am running the parliament, not the Speaker.

In other words, both Hitler and Bjelke-Petersen stated that they derived their authority not from the elected representatives of the people, of which elected representatives each was merely one, but rather that they have a mandate, personally, from the people, which mandate does not derive from the votes of the people at the previous election. This principle-that is, that the votes of the people do not really count but that what counts is the ability of the leader to intuit and articulate the mystical will of the people, even when that alleged will contradicts the wishes of the people as expressed at the last election-was known in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s as 'the Fuehrer principle'. Mr Bjelke- Petersen recently enunciated this principle at a National Party Conference when he said:

We have got to get away from this talk about majority rule. It just does not add up.

Mr Spender —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Surely this kind of attack of likening the Premier of Queensland to Adolf Hitler transgresses what is permissible in debate without a substantive motion.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! I rule that there is no point of order.

Mr WELLS —The ideology on which the Bjelke-Petersen Government is operating in Queensland is an ideology which thousands of Ausralians have fought to prevent from taking over this country. It is an ideology which my father spent five years risking his life to prevent from taking over this country. Thousands of Australians have lost their lives in an endeavour to keep totalitarian ideas out of this nation. Now is not the time to end the fight against this totalitarianism, and it would be a mistake to think that just because the rot is homegrown it is any less real.