How IA helped save Queensland from Joh 2.0

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The Queensland election was decided by such a slim margin, if it wasn't for Independent Australia and other independent media, it is quite likely the LNP would have won a second term, writes Alex McKean.

THE RECENT Queensland election was about the closest-run thing you could ever hope to see. Just a few hundred votes going the other way in a handful of electorates would have seen Labor fall short of 44 seats, meaning they could not have achieved the magic 45 with the assistance of the Independent Peter Wellington.

Just one seat falling the other way would have seen the LNP able to govern, providing it obtained the support of the two seats held by the Katter Australia Party.

If the LNP, under its recycled leadership team, is silly enough to try to dig the voters of Ferny Grove out of bed on some future Saturday by successfully challenging the result in that seat in the Court of Disputed Returns, this result is still theoretically on the cards.

There are any number of factors which may have seen the election go to the LNP, albeit with a much reduced minority. The LNP leadership was ready for this eventuality. There is no indication a vote bringing the LNP majority down from its historically high 2012 levels to a razor’s edge would have reduced, in any way, the level of arrogance with which the LNP would have ruled in its second term.

Indeed, there are strong indications to the contrary.

A cynical observer might say that the LNP had saved up a suite of ugly, divisive and unfair policies, shelved during the "Operation Boring" phase after the 2014 Stafford by-election wipe out.

These were to be trotted out and foisted upon an unsuspecting public by a returned LNP, perhaps under the leadership of Jeff Seeney, the former deputy premier, now reduced to an embittered opposition backbencher.

While it is difficult to isolate any of the factors leading to the loss by the LNP as being decisive, it can be said with some confidence, given the narrow margin of that loss, that the removal of any one of those factors may easily have seen the result go the other way.

Chief amongst the factors leading to the LNP’s demise was of course the arrogance and over-reach of the LNP in government. The willingness to nakedly subvert and attack any and all institutions tasked with keeping government to account, or individuals critical of the government, was perhaps the most disturbing aspect of that arrogant approach, particularly for those able to recall the stifling demagoguery of the Joh regime.

While there was a significant degree of push back against the unrestrained thuggery of the Newman Government from a variety of sources, it was very unfortunate to see that the only major daily newspaper in Queensland, the Courier-Mail, took every opportunity to defend the Government’s indefensible actions and policies.

The palpable bias on display at that vastly diminished publication reached its nadir (or zenith) when images of a front page linking Labor to bikie money funneled through unions were plastered over the approaches to polling booths.

The tantrum at the Courier-Mail since the LNP election loss has been an unedifying spectacle of which anyone claiming the title journalist should be ashamed.

The Queensland LNP was the most cashed-up political party in Australian history, with the only daily newspaper in town singing its praises and steadfastly refusing to hold the Government to account for its incompetence and corruption. How then were the people of Queensland convinced to vote Newman and Co out?

One important factor was the existence of an independent media accessible in Queensland. The internet did not exist back in the Joh days. It can only be imagined that Joh would have been inimical to the idea of a medium for the free exchange of ideas incapable of censorship. Perhaps, he simply would have issued more publicly funded defamation suits in an attempt to stop criticism of his corrupt government.

It is tempting to speculate that Joh’s regime would not have survived as long as it did in an age where any citizen can photograph a brown paper bag being handed across a table in a fashionable Brisbane restaurant and publish that information to literally millions of people, instantaneously.

There can be little doubt independent media played an important role in the defeat of the Newman Government.

From the very early days of Newman taking power in Queensland, Independent Australia was reporting on the ‘striking resonance between the decisions of Premier Newman and those of Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

From that point onwards, Independent Australia continued to expose the mendacity and power-lust of the Newman government, providing in-depth analysis of the trashing of democracy and civil rights, and the re-emergence of a police state.

When Premier Newman and Attorney-General Bleijie signaled their intention to defenestrate the Crime and Misconduct Commission, the peak anti-corruption body in the State, Independent Australia provided detailed analysis of the dangers of such a move.

Meanwhile, the Courier Mail was content to be a willing tool of the LNP regime, publishing the sycophantic drivel of the stooge placed at the head of the CMC to oversee its destruction. Worse, the then premier’s chief media adviser, a former Courier-Mail employee, played handmaiden, introducing the controversial chair of the CMC, Dr Ken Levy, to the least subtle of Murdoch’s dinosaurs in Queensland — the inimitable Mr Des Houghton.

Independent Australia ran a strong series of articles about proposed and actual destruction of the Queensland environment by the Newman Government, including now-scrapped plans to dump dredge spoil from Abbott Point on the Great Barrier Reef, and the risk posed to fragile North Stradbroke Island ecosystems by the "cash for legislation" deal, which would see sand mining potentially extended until 2035.

A series of articles entitled Here we Joh again! explored the resurgence of corruption, lies about Government achievements and profligate cash-splashes on Government spin, which had become the norm in Newman’s Queensland.

The importance of the contribution of independent media outlets became crucial in the lead-up to, and during, the brief snap election the Premier called, in desperation, for 31 January 2015.

While the Courier Mail pushed the LNP agenda in a series of shameless front pages and editorial puff-pieces, Independent Australia refreshed the memories of the electors concerning the arrogance and incompetence of the Newman regime; exposed the truth about the impact of anti-bikie laws on crime statistics; and even gave Mermaid Ray Stevens a platform to show off his moves.

In the wake of the LNP defeat at the polls, the Courier-Mail does not appear inclined to amend its ways, continuing to uncritically boost the LNP and give undeserved oxygen to what passes for a thought bubble from three-time loser and newly installed premier in exile, Lawrence Springborg.

It remains of paramount importance that sites like Independent Australia continue to contribute to the otherwise superficial and facile level of political debate in Queensland, keeping politicians of all stripes to account.

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