The Newman Government in Queensland is less than two months old, but already the hysterical claims of a return to the Bjelke-Petersen era have emerged. These loopy claims started just days a matter of a week or two before the election, when it became clear a landslide was on the cards, which did eventuate and was above and beyond the expectations of just about anyone, serious pundit or not.
Alas, these claims have again been unearthed over the last 24 hours with a furore over a tent embassy, this time in a Brisbane park- it’s certainly been quite a year for those types of establishments/protests.
The tent embassy, based in Musgrave Park has been established for just a couple of months and was began as a protest for the sovereign rights of the indigenous people
Today, Queensland Police were dispatched to the park in West End to evict the demonstrators who ignored an eviction order that was put forward by Brisbane City Council ahead of the Greek Panyiri Festival which has regularly been held in the same park that the protesters have occupied.
It is unclear what stance both parties are taking over the matter, the protest group and the festival organisers, with conflicting claims being aired over whether or not the Panyiri Festival administration were happy for the indigenous protesters to remain in the park while the festival goes ahead this weekend.
Like the protest on Australia Day, the demonstration, this time involving a short-term protest, compared to the decades long Tent Embassy in Canberra raises some questions about rights in Australia and whether or not they are or should be limited.
But first to the hilarious claims of a return to Bjelke-Petersen era politics in Queensland. This is utterly ridiculous and should be laughed at. In the Bjelke-Petersen era protesters were barely even allowed to organise before they found themselves the victims of completely abhorrent laws that were so draconian that Queensland, because of its history, has a terrible reputation around rights and freedoms.
Why are the claims of a return to the dark days of the Bjelke-Petersen era ridiculous in this case you ask? Well that has a lot to do with the fact that protesters in this case were free to commence their protest and have been allowed to since March. The protesters were also able to march on parliament, a n0-no under Sir Joh that would’ve attracted arrest.
What is different about this protest is that an eviction order was issued by the Brisbane City Council and this was flouted, regardless of what you think of the rights or wrongs of the lawful direction asking people to move on from the park facilities. Those involved defied those orders, again whether or not they are right or wrong.
This then still raises the question of whether or not rights should be limited.
We have found, particularly in recent years that freedom of speech in this country, an implied, not legally or constitutionally expressed right does have its limits and is at the whim of a subjective test in the courts.
There are many people that have supported the limited right to freedom of speech that we have in this nation. In this stand-off today, what we have are the same people who supported limiting freedom of speech, protesting against a limited right to freedom of assembly.
What this debate requires is some consistency across all fundamental human rights, whether they have been expressed in law or have been implied. If one right is limited, then we should not be surprised if others are too and should allow all to have limitations.
However, rights and freedoms should ideally be absolute or, where practically possible, with little or no limitation which impedes the rights and freedoms of the individual.
One right should not take precedence over, or be held to a different standard as other basic rights and freedoms accorded to the individual in a democracy. Can we please have some consistency on rights across all groups please?
It’s election time again tomorrow across Queensland, not for a re-run of the state election so emphatically won by Campbell Newman and the LNP, but for the race to control council chambers and mayoral positions in all urban and regional councils across the state. Most eyes tomorrow will be on the mayoral race in Brisbane with the incumbent Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, seeking to be elected by the public for the first time up against Labor candidate Ray Smith. Polls this week indicate that the results will go much the same way as those in the state election.
This week a poll conducted by research company ReachTEL showed that the contest for the position of Lord Mayor is well and truly over with the current serving Mayor attracting 58% of the polling vote compared to ALP rival Ray Smith who according to the results will be unable to crack 30% of the vote at 25.4%
Even further back in the race in third place is the Greens candidate, former Australian Democrat Andrew Bartlett who has only managed to attract 14.1% of the vote if the results of this poll are borne out on Saturday. The other two candidates, Chris Carson and Rory Killen would poll only 2.6% of the vote for mayor between them according to the ReachTEL survey with a sample size of 1085 participants.
The strong result for Councillor Graham Quirk in the position of Lord Mayor also points to a continuation of the majority held by the LNP, a result achieved by the now Premier, Campbell Newman during the last vote for City Hall positions.
A further polling question in the survey asked respondents whether the recent state election result for the LNP made it more or less likely they would vote for the LNP in the race to control Brisbane. The results show that 66.5% of those who participated in the survey were either ‘more likely’ to vote for the LNP (31.1%) or their position since the landslide LNP win remained ‘unchanged’ (35.4%).
These results point to another unpleasant night for the Queensland ALP machine, the second in just a month and will reinforce the need for soul-searching and renewal within party circles.