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Joh's Stradbroke land-for-bridge plan

The Bjelke-Petersen government considered gifting 800 hectares of prime Crown land on North Stradbroke Island to developers in order to build a bridge across Moreton Bay, a 1982 cabinet document reveals.

Cabinet documents from 1982 reveal for the first time the depth of planning behind ideas to let the private developers raise the $45 million to build the bridge to Stradbroke Island.

The documents, made public this morning, give an idea of the beginning of the national conservation strategy, the strength of the union movement and planning for Brisbane's Commonwealth Games.

To build a bridge to North Stradbroke Island, then-premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen told cabinet on May 10, 1982, he had met a consortium from Western Australia and Korea.

A toll would not be "economically viable" to cover the expense, the documents show.

"Early this year I received a deputation representing a consortium of private developers which expressed interest in submitting a proposal to the government for private financing of a bridge in return for development rights to certain Crown lands on North Stradbroke Island," Mr Bjelke-Petersen wrote to cabinet colleagues.

"I am now in receipt of a proposal from the consortium ... including Keneba Pty Ltd, a company incorporated in Western Australia, and Seo Il Construction Company Limited from Korea."

Mr Bjelke-Petersen wanted cabinet to declare its support for the idea, even though no firm plan had been drawn up.

The broad idea was for a bridge near Russell Island, across to North Stradbroke Island and running north to Dunwich, based on a route investigated by the Department of Main Roads in March 1978.

Under the plan, freehold title for the 800 hectares of crown land near Point Lookout would have been "vest in the proponents", allowing the consortium to sell it in "super-sized" chunks of up to 100 hectares to "reputable developers".

About 50 hectares of "prime beachfront land", where thousands of holiday makers today walk uninterrupted, would have been set aside for commercial and high-density development.

The developers would have exclusive rights to develop land on North Stradbroke Island as part of the deal, the cabinet documents show.

"[The] proponents would expect to receive from the government undertakings that no further government or private sector releases would occur during the period of development of the land leased to the bridge financiers."

The broad idea received cabinet backing in October 1982 and advertisements appeared in newspapers.

However, after a concerted bid by conservationists and planners concerned at the impact on wetlands, fish breeding grounds and the impact of population growth, the idea fell from favour in February 1986 when Mr Bjelke-Petersen ruled the idea was not "financially viable".

Since then, a succession of government ministers have said the idea was not being revisited.

In 2005 Labor's then-Main Roads minister Paul Lucas ruled the idea out.

This week, a spokesman for Transport and Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson also ruled out a bridge to Stradbroke Island as uneconomic.

However, the southern Moreton Bay islands will come into the Translink network, allowing them cheaper ferry and boat trips, from mid-2013, the spokesman said.

The granting of Crown land to private developers was used by the Newman government last week when it announced that private company Cbus Pty Ltd would develop Crown land in William Street for a major government office building with a 99-year lease.

Police and the 1982 Commonwealth Games

Police Minister Russ Hinze sought indemnity for police who inadvertently caused damage to Griffith University grounds, adjacent to the QEII Stadium at Nathan, while protecting it from "radicals" or terrorists who threatened the Commonwealth Games.

Mr Hinze told ministers in June 1982 that this precaution was necessary in case "persons such as 'terrorists' or 'radicals' took control of university buildings", and further damage was caused by police seeking to "restore the status quo".

The Commonwealth Games were held towards the end of the age of street marches in Brisbane, and it was expected that Queensland's land rights issues would be raised by Aboriginal people.

Police exercised a restraint, realising any action would be viewed by an international audience.

In September 1982, the Australian National University described a land rights street march in Brisbane:

"On Sunday, 26 September some 3000 blacks and whites marched through Brisbane in a legal procession.

"However they showed a measure of defiance by holding two unscheduled sit-downs in the streets. Two days later they were marching again. The police had granted a permit at the last minute – it was the first weekday daytime march granted a permit since 1977.

"Again there were two sitdowns in defiance of permit restrictions. The police almost certainly relented on the daytime permit because militants had won the debate in the Aborigines' camp at Musgrave Park. The Black Protest Committee had resigned, making way for a new leadership called the National Black Unity Group, who were more prepared for confrontation.

"The protesters concluded the week's actions with an illegal march, which saw 500 people converging on the Games site at the Queen Elizabeth II stadium. After police arrested one demonstrator, FAIRA executive officer Bob Weatherall declared: 'I'm only guilty under white law. I'm not guilty under Aboriginal law. I have the right to walk on my own land.'"

Industrial Relations and the 35-hour-a-week campaign

The campaign to reduce the working week from 40 to 35 hours a week was one of the biggest union battles of 1982.

However, Mr Bjelke-Petersen made it clear in a cabinet briefing on February 9, 1982, that he would not reduce hours below 38 hours a week.

"Complete opposition and thus no scope for negotiation in respect of further reductions in working hours of classes of employees who are already working 38 hours or less," cabinet briefing papers say.

The cabinet paper from February 9, 1982, says workers for Brisbane City Council, the Port of Brisbane, the Townsville and Gladstone Harbour boards and the electricity industry were all campaigning for higher wages.

The cabinet papers show that is when many of the "trade-offs" which are now part of public sector life in Queensland were advanced as part of negotiation.

They included "the introduction of a nine-day fortnight", an arrangement giving all employees a "half day off per week", and having existing hours "inclusive of meal breaks".

16 comments

  • Yes Joh was apparently good at gifting from what I've heard over the years. Selling land to the Japanese for $1 per hectare was a tad hard to believe at the time but since then I've heard plenty so some of it must be more than rumour.

    Development on crown land in exchange for a bridge. The LNP and developers in each others's pockets might be a better way of putting it !!

    Commenter
    Neal
    Location
    Cairns
    Date and time
    January 01, 2013, 2:30AM
    • Whatever happened with Joh and developers ended up helping people, there wasn't a housing shortage until Labor came in. Even young people on a single average wage could afford to buy a home under Sir Joh. I bought my first home in 1986 at age 22 in Cooparoo for just under three times my gross yearly wage. A 22 year old these days at the same job would be lucky to be on $40k? Imagine telling a 22 year old these days that you can buy a three bedroom home near the city and public transport for $110k? Time to bring back Sir Joh so our young people can have a future that isn't 30 years of double wage debt to buy a dump.

      Commenter
      Robert
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      January 01, 2013, 9:39PM
    • No offence but I doubt even you believe bringing back Joh will bring down housing prices. The banks were regulated back then and the same applied to other states. The land taxes and various other stamp duties were introduced by "Sir" Joh later in his term and so saw the upward spiral of prices.

      He also invested nothing in the state for 31 years and labor had to borrow to meet the demand of a massive population growth, a crippling drought and a total lack of infrastructure to meet demand. To do this they need to borrow, just like any business. I's unfortunate that you think doing shady deals is acceptable in government. Gordon Nuttall is proof that it is NOT.

      Commenter
      Neal
      Location
      Cairns
      Date and time
      January 02, 2013, 10:31AM
    • Neal: I don't think Robert was talking about Labor's great debt or stamp duty. The core issue behind the current housing shortage is the over-regulation of zoning and development by State Labor and the local councils. The banks have nothing to do with it as people don't borrow extra for something that there isn't a shortage of (ask yourself why car prices went down relative to inflation as the banks were deregulated??). In Brisbane there are currently very few new housing estates thanks to zoning regulations. I remember in the early 1990's that there were well over 100 housing estates in Brisbane (probably around 200) .. now there's only 29 on realestate.com.au. More regulation means less competition and higher prices. Gone are the days where a family company could subdivided land and sell it for $20k a block.

      Commenter
      Michael K
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      January 02, 2013, 5:11PM
    • You need to look locally and beyond the state to see why housing prices soared. Councils made it impossible or rather prohibitive for an individual to split his 5 hectares into a subdivision and gave all the power to westfield and the like. The result was the buying up of huge chunks of estate land and then the consequential jacking up of land prices. Then add 10% for a GST on what was essentially a tax free item prior to the introduction of the tax. There were only two items in a house taxed previously. The hotwater system (6%) and if fitted a spa bath (22% luxury tax). Everything else was entirely free of tax. State labor in Queensland introduced land taxes and other fees to help fund the necessary infrastructure from a mass influx of people. It had to come from somewhere.

      On top of that the mining boom has driven up labor costs. The surge in housing prices prior the GFC had absolutely nothing to do with state labor and was price v's demand. it occurred right across the country. Housing prices jumped 300% within 5 years in many areas. The problem being of course that people borrowed accordingly.

      The market is currently over valued by at least 100%. However people are reluctant to lower their price to sell whilst still holding a massive mortgage. The result is a lack of interest in a subdued market from potential buyers who are waiting for prices to fall further. It's a catch 22. Meanwhile the population is growing and the rental rogues are cleaning up.


      Stand alone homes will at some point escalate in price once again as land runs out close to cbd's and highrise living becomes the norm!

      Commenter
      Neal
      Location
      Cairns
      Date and time
      January 02, 2013, 6:02PM
  • Originality is not only the art of concealing ones sources says Pancho-n-Co, Dear Daddy O Joh and our very own Deputy Grandpappy regularly demonstrated how easily originality could be attuned to enact the Monkey See Monkey Do creed of my bunch of Punks-n-Drunks .

    Commenter
    Geronimo
    Location
    Yippee Yi Yo
    Date and time
    January 01, 2013, 6:48AM
    • The construction of bridges to the islands would over at least three of the Newman election pillars.
      Construction, this would add quite a few jobs. Forget the out dated ferry service at extortionate prices, a more equitable tolling service would be much better.
      Mining, this would assist mining in that ferries would not be required and trucks can be used to transport the sand mined.
      Tourism - greater number of tourists would flock to the islands. JOBS JOBS JOBS
      A toll would pay for the bridge in no time. Look at the great opportunities that would abound with such projects.
      Residents can then start thinking of how much their properties will rise in value.
      Then we could open up the Redland Bay to many more housing and shopping centre proposals rather than that wasteful acreages that pollute that area. Build the Koala Road that Goss promised.
      An opportunity beckons Campbell. Take the lead, sound off like you have a pair and get on with it.

      Commenter
      Clarke Griswald
      Location
      Wally World
      Date and time
      January 01, 2013, 8:53AM
      • ....and when all that's done it will destroy what makes the place great now. Just like everything else that has been over developed in Queensland.

        Commenter
        Neal
        Location
        Cairns
        Date and time
        January 01, 2013, 11:34AM
      • And in the immortal words of Joni Mitchell:

        "Don't it always seem to go,
        You don't know what you've got till it's gone.
        They paved Paradise, and put up a parking lot".

        Commenter
        Greg Platt
        Location
        Brunswick
        Date and time
        January 01, 2013, 12:35PM
    • I wish you hadn't printed this article - it's likely to give Campbell Newman ideas.

      Commenter
      Mike
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      January 01, 2013, 9:10AM

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