Queenslanders were deeply saddened to hear news of the recent death of Wayne Goss, a life member of the Australian Republican Movement. The loss of this incredible man and proud Queenslander has left a gap in the ranks of those working towards securing an independent Australia, writes history editor Dr Glenn Davies.
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO on 2 December 1989, 32 years of conservative rule in Queensland was brought to an emphatic end when 38-year-old lawyer Wayne Goss claimed victory in a Labor won landslide. Goss and Labor scored a 24-seat swing, the worst defeat of a sitting government up until that time in Queensland. Voters had clearly grown tired of the Joh era and the stench of corruption uncovered by Tony Fitzgerald QC. With the election of Goss and Labor, Queensland was rescued from the deep chasm of corruption, self-indulgence and arrogance it had fallen into.
Wayne Goss’s victory brought a breath of fresh air to government in Queensland. It brought light to the dark corners of government where corruption had taken root and led to a raft of reforms to rebuild the state and restore transparency to Queensland’s political system.
Once installed in office, he presided over the implementation of many of the reforms of the landmark Fitzgerald Inquiry into police corruption. He was absolutely driven to reform Queensland in terms of ridding the state of corruption and restoring the integrity of the electoral system. Establishing the Electoral and Administrative Reform Commission to abolish the electoral gerrymandering that had defined the state’s political environment throughout the Bjelke-Petersen years returned democracy to the people. His initiatives, in areas such as education, health, the environment and accountability, set new and higher standards for Queensland.
Like Gough Whitlam, Wayne Goss fought extremely hard to correct social injustices and bring about major progressive reforms such as decriminalising homosexuality, appointing Queensland's first female Governor, and abolishing the Queensland Police Special Branch.
Wayne Goss surrounded himself with people who would go on to have significant political careers. His chief of staff at this time was Kevin Rudd, later leader of the federal Labor Party and Prime Minister of Australia and his 1989 campaign director was Wayne Swan, subsequently treasurer and deputy prime minister of Australia. Also instrumental in his team in the early days of his premiership was Glyn Davis, who was appointed in the early 1990s to the Republic Advisory Committee.
Wayne Goss was a life member of the Australian Republican Movement.
The Queensland branch of the Australian Republican Movement was launched in 1993 during his Premiership. It was reported in 'Coalition sparks as Libs embrace republic', The Canberra Times, 30 March 1993, that Goss announced plans to remove references to the Queen and the Crown from all state oaths, affirmations and legislation. This was the beginning of an ongoing Queensland campaign.
On 28 April 1993, a new ministerial oath removing reference to the Queen was taken for the first time at the swearing in of the Attorney-General, Michael Lavarch.
The Queensland federal politician Lavarch promised to
“... well and truly serve the Commonwealth of Australia', instead of 'well and truly serve Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law."
Michael Lavarch was later elected as a Queensland Constitutional Convention delegate for the ARM.
Goss stated in the ARM newsletter, 29 April 1993:
'There is no foreign power or benevolent monarch in some other part of the world watching over us. Australia’s on its own now and we must have a structure of government and a national identity that reflects that we are independent and we are Australians first and we are no longer attached to, or an appendage of, the British royal family.'
On 29 November 1995, Wayne Goss was guest speaker at a major ARM dinner at the Gateway Hotel, Brisbane. This marked his first major step in the republican debate.
At this dinner Goss outlined
“... a plan to consolidate the Queensland Constitution and then to consult widely to prepare the constitution for a transition to a republic.”
~ (Armlet, Summer 1995/1996, p1)
ARM (Qld) supporter Gary Shadforth recalls how in May 2004 he
“... had the privilege of meeting Wayne at a Republic Upstairs function held many years ago in an old Brisbane pub held by the Queensland Branch of the Australian Republican Movement. Wayne was the keynote speaker. So many interesting and enlightening anecdotes with that deep rich voice. He certainly was a man who stood out in a crowd."
The last time Queensland republicans heard that “deep rich voice” was at the ARM (Qld) AGM held in the Red Chamber (old Upper House), Queensland Parliament on 24 November 2011. The guest speaker that evening was Courier Mail reporter Paul Syvret. Wayne Goss, as always, sat at the back of the chamber, however on this evening he was in full flight contributing his observations on the current political situation. His voice, as always, was a delight to hear.
Wayne Goss resigned as Premier and Leader of the Labor Party on 19 February 1996 and assumed something of an "elder statesman" role from the back benches.
He retired from politics at the 1998 Queensland state election. After his retirement from politics, Goss served in a variety of community and business roles.
Goss battled a series of brain tumours for 17 years, undergoing four operations to remove them. He died on 10 November 2014.
In a condolence speech to the House of Representatives on 26 November 2014, former Treasurer Wayne Swan said:
“With the passing of Wayne Goss, Queenslanders have lost one of their finest leaders. Wayne changed Queensland, the state we love, for the better. He dragged it into the sunlight after 32 years in the darkness. He was a leader of deep integrity. He was someone that we will all miss a lot. I remember Wayne as a role model for leadership and integrity and as a man who always held humble Queenslanders close to his heart.”
Wayne Goss was a premier worthy of celebration.
Vale, Wayne Goss.
Find out more about the Australian Republican Movement at ouridentity.org.au.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License