My first political memory is the election of the Goss government on December 2, 1989. I recall the growing sense of excitement in my family about the potential election of a Labor government and how we kept the famous “Goss the Boss” front page of the next day’s Sunday Mail. I’d turned 11 that year, so for my generation, it is easy to take for granted what was achieved in 1989 and in the following years.
We need to venture back to the 1970s and ’80s. Institutionalised corruption and cronyism flourished in the public service and police force, with environmental vandalism and heritage destruction, the suppression of public discontent and workers’ rights, the targeting of political opponents and a political system designed to keep the Nationals entrenched. It lasted 32years, but we should never take for granted that it was an easy task to dismantle it and set about the task of modernising Queensland.
Enter Wayne Keith Goss. Bright, energetic, determined, professional and disciplined would describe the then Opposition leader.He built a loyal and politically talented team: the old-school Labor scrapper in Tom Burns as his deputy leader; hard-headed parliamentary operator Terry Mackenroth and reformers in David Hamill, teamed with a back-room operation of Wayne Swan as campaign director and Kevin Rudd as chief of staff to win that election and then go on to reform the state.
The first two decisions Goss made in government was to abolish the Imperial Honour System and disband the Special Branch,which were at the heart of so much corruption, cronyism, abuse of power and targeting of political opponents.
This wasn’t an act of symbolism; this was the start of good governance in Queensland. There was so much to do, but a cautious state to take with you.
I got to know Wayne in the years after he had left politics. Those characteristics that earned him the trust of Queenslanders remained: he demanded high standards and a relentless work ethic.
As a party official, I could see how he would have driven his ministers and government. He led a Labor Government for all of Queensland: economically careful, focused on improving social services, made up for lost time on the environment and restored integrity and accountability to government in Queensland.
While Premiers Beattie, Bligh and Palaszczuk deserve credit for what they and their governments achieved in their own right, I am certain that the Goss government provided a platform for the Labor Governments that have come since and all that has been done to create the modern Queensland we enjoy today.
Antony Chisholm was elected to the Senate for Queensland in 2016 and has been a member of the Australian Labor Party since 1995.
First published in the Courier Mail on 30th November 2019