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JOH (The Hon Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen)
, c. 1987

by Noel Stapleton

synthetic polymer paint on canvas board (frame: 84.2 cm x 59.0 cm, support: 72.6 cm x 50.8 cm)

Hon Joh Bjelke-Petersen KCMG (b. 1911), former Premier of Queensland, was a beef and peanut farmer before he entered politics in 1947. From 1950 until he resigned in 1987 he held the seat of Barambah for the National Party. Meanwhile, he became Premier in 1968. His style, encapsulated in his famous phrase 'don't you worry about that' was both aggressively conservative and individualistic; his premiership was marked by rapid economic and population growth in Queensland. In 1986 he emerged as a possible prime minister, but the 'Joh for PM' roadshow crashed when Bob Hawke called an early election in June 1987. Bjelke-Petersen resigned later that year. The ensuing Fitzgerald Enquiry into corruption in Queensland led to the laying of charges against several of his former ministers. He himself was charged on several counts, but tried only for perjury. The charge was dropped when the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Noel Stapleton, commercial artist, began his career in Brisbane in 1944. At the age of 22 he turned freelance and moved to Sydney, where he has worked ever since, achieving considerable success in advertising and other promotional work. Stapleton painted this portrait to serve as a fund-raiser for the 'Joh for PM' campaign. The work travelled widely around the country as a centrepiece for the campaign, and many autographed copies of it were sold. Stapleton was asked to appear on 'The Mid-day Show' to promote sales, but refused, stating that as an ex-Queenslander he was happy to take Joh's money for doing the work but wanted nothing to do with the campaign. When the campaign folded in 1987 he requested the return of this original, and it came back to him in its travelling case.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2003
Accession number: 2003.130