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Hon Joh Bjelke-Petersen KCMG

1911 – 2005

Hon Joh Bjelke-Petersen KCMG, longest-serving Premier of Queensland from 1968 until 1987 was born in New Zealand in 1911. He came as a two-year-old to Australia and his family farmed at Kingaroy in Queensland. In 1947 he entered politics as the National Party MLA for Nanango, and from 1950 for the seat of Barambah, which he held until his resignation in December 1987. He was Queensland Minister for Works and Housing from 1963 until he became Premier in 1968.

Bjelke-Petersen's period as Premier was marked by the rapid economic development of Queensland and population growth occasioned by the abolition of death duties. His style was individualistic, attracting both intense devotion and ridicule. His oft-repeated line 'Don't you worry about that' has become an enduring phrase in Australian political memory. 'Expo '88' in Brisbane would have been his crowning achievement, but disunity in his party led to his resignation in December 1987.

In 1986, having won an election against the odds, Sir Joh was regarded by his supporters as a possible conservative prime minister. The 'Joh for PM' campaign was off and running but crashed when Bob Hawke called an early election in June 1987. Following his resignation in 1987 there followed a period during which the Fitzgerald Inquiry led to charges being laid against several of his former ministers and Sir Joh himself was subject to charges of perjury, withdrawn when the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Updated 2018