In 1991 Joan Sheldon paved the way for women in Qld politics

In the Queensland Speaks interview series, Ms Sheldon said that at the start of politics there was no induction for new MPs.

“I remember walking in and Denver Beanland – who was the leader of the Liberal Party – said, ‘Well, you have the shadow portfolios of health, native and island affairs, and family services,” Ms. Sheldon.

“And frankly, I didn’t even know where I was when I got out of the elevator!”

Ms Sheldon first established a women’s office in the Queensland Parliament, creating opportunities for women – and lifting the thorns of male MPs.

“The thing that was said was, ‘Where is the men’s office’? She reminded herself.

“We really made our ministers and officials think twice when they formed a board of directors, so there had to be female representation.

“It wasn’t equal, but it was a step in the right direction.”

Thirty years later, Queensland has been ruled by a woman for three consecutive terms. And Ms Palaszczuk is on the verge of becoming the state’s longest-serving Labor leader if she sees the term.

In 2022, eight women are ministers from Queensland and the governor of Queensland is Jeannette Young, the state’s former public health official. The Chief Justice and the Police Commissioner are also women.

The Prime Minister of Queensland and former Treasurer Annastacia Palaszczuk addresses the media in Parliament.Credit:Attila Caesar

The Office for Women launched by Ms. Sheldon is now part of the Attorney General department, owned by Shannon Fentiman and previously Yvette D’Ath, now Minister of Health.

Leeanne Enoch, Minister of Arts, Digital Economy, Communities and Housing, spoke about Ms. Sheldon’s accession to the leadership in 1991.

“She became Queensland’s first parliamentary party leader,” said Ms Enoch.

“And today we see that a large part of our leaders in parliament are now women. “

In 1991, Mr Goss was first challenged in government, according to University of Queensland political history expert Chris Salisbury.

Mr Goss was drawing criticism from public sector unions for his changes to modernize the civil service, and from industry groups as he planned to turn Fraser Island – now K’gari – into a World Heritage National Park.

“Goss has declared publicly that it is not a radical government; his sought to modernize the state, ”said Dr Salisbury.

“That year his administration was portrayed as ‘progressive conservatism’ or ‘progressive conservatism’.

A young Kevin Rudd – originally Mr Goss’ chief of staff – became head of the new Queensland office from July 1991.

Kevin Rudd as Chief of the Queensland Cabinet Office.

Kevin Rudd as Chief of the Queensland Cabinet Office.Credit:Adam smith

“It’s a historic decision [creating the Office of Cabinet], not just for the fools of politics and administration, but in the very makeup of the cabinet materials themselves, ”said Dr Salisbury.

“You can see almost from the beginnings of the cabinet office itself in July 1991 that the materials brought into the cabinet; submissions, information documents; reflects this new type of structure, ”he said.

“It really changed the way decision-making took place both in cabinet and in legislation passed by the government.”

1991 and the bill on the pacific assembly

One of the main promises of the Goss government in 1989 was to abolish the symbolic anti-street march legislation of the Bjelke-Petersen era.

In February 1991, the Peace Assembly Bill was finally introduced to the state parliament and became law in 1992.

The cabinet briefing note noted: “This [street march legislation] led to nearly two years of bitter clashes between demonstrators and the police, resulting in nearly 2,000 people arrested for various petty crimes.


“Queensland has been criticized across Australia for adopting draconian and brutal tactics.”

But first, discussions with the Lord Mayor of Brisbane (Sallyanne Atkinson, then, after the March 1991 council election, Jim Soorley) had to seek a compromise as the councils were responsible for the pedestrian malls.

Shopping centers were excluded from the bill.

“The result has been that the right to peaceful assembly is a qualified right subject to legal restrictions which are necessary and reasonable in the interest of public order, public safety and the rights and freedoms of others,” said the information note.

This right was tested and confirmed in 2019 by Brisbane Greens adviser Jonathan Sri.

1991 Cabinet discusses early North Queensland Cowboys

On September 9, 1991, Mr Goss in Cabinet asked then Sports Minister Bob Gibbs to advise a North Queensland Rugby League team to join the Broncos in the Rugby League competition of NSW.

A week later, Mr Gibbs indicated that a sports company, Top End Rugby League Inc (Top End), could raise $ 5 million in equity from the business sector in Queensland, mainly North Queensland.

Castlemaine XXXX also guaranteed a sponsorship of $ 300,000 and Mr. Gibbs donated the Willows Paceway in Townsville for the operations center and home games for the Cowboys.

However, there was not enough time to meet rugby league guidelines and the Cowboys, as the club became known, only entered the competition in the 1995 season.

Talks began in 1991, but 14 years later the North Queensland Cowboys celebrate their victory at Golden Point in 2015.

Talks began in 1991, but 14 years later the North Queensland Cowboys celebrate their victory at Golden Point in 2015.Credit:Cameron Spencer

Managing the 1991 AIDS pandemic

Queensland is part of a world gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, but in 1991 the health crisis was HIV / AIDS.

On January 31, 1991, a cabinet briefing revealed that 1,040 residents of Queensland were HIV positive.

The risk of spreading HIV among students was “considerable,” the cabinet said.


“Ten percent of the notifications are under 25, the majority of which were infected in adolescence,” the cabinet said.

“[The] prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents, suggest that the risk of HIV infection, for many young people, is considerable. Various surveys have indicated that first sex for young Australians begins as early as the age of 13, and up to 47% of 15-16 year olds are sexually active.

Cabinet called existing education programs “inadequate and becoming obsolete” and approved an ongoing high school AIDS education program that costs $ 75,000 per year.

1991 Trials and convictions for former characters of Bjelke-Petersen

  • April 1991: Former minister Geoff Muntz sentenced to 12 months in prison for embezzling $ 4,891 from ministerial expenses.
  • June 1991: Former minister Russ Hinze dies of bowel cancer before his corruption trial begins.
  • August 1991: Police Commissioner Terry Lewis is sentenced to 14 years in prison for accepting bribes.
  • September 1991: No verdict in the corruption trial of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and jury chairman Luke Shaw is identified as a member of the Young Nationals and a member of the Friends of Joh fundraising group.

The infamous role played by Mr. Shaw was examined in detail by the Criminal Justice Commission in 1992 and although there were flaws in the jury selection, no cases of “prima facie” corruption were found.

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