1989 Queensland state election

Elections were held in the Australian state of Queensland on 2 December 1989 to elect the 89 members of the state's Legislative Assembly. This was the first election following the downfall of seven-term premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen at the end of 1987.

1989 Queensland state election

2 December 1989 (1989-12-02)

All 89 seats in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland
45 Assembly seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Wayne Goss Russell Cooper Angus Innes
Party Labor National Liberal
Leader since 2 March 1988 (1988-03-02) 25 September 1989 January 1988
Leader's seat Logan Roma Sherwood
Last election 30 seats 49 seats 10 seats
Seats won 54 seats 27 seats 8 seats
Seat change 24 22 2
Percentage 50.32% 24.09% 21.05%
Swing 8.97 15.55 4.55

Premier before election

Russell Cooper

Elected Premier

Wayne Goss

The government was led by Premier and leader of the National Party, Russell Cooper; the opposition was led by Opposition Leader and leader of the Labor Party, Wayne Goss, while the Liberal Party was led by Angus Innes.

The National government, which had been in power since the 1957 election and had governed in its own right since the dissolution of the state coalition at the 1983 election, was defeated; the election was a landslide win for the Labor Party, which gained 24 seats. Labor also won more than 50% of the primary vote. At the time, it was the worst defeat of a sitting government in Queensland history.


The Nationals' fortunes had dwindled significantly since the 1986 election. Soon after his attempt to become Prime Minister (the "Joh for Canberra" campaign), floundered, Bjelke-Petersen was deposed in a party room coup led by Health Minister Mike Ahern. After trying to hold onto power for four days, Bjelke-Petersen retired from politics, and Ahern was sworn in as his successor.

The shadow campaign began in late 1988 with television advertisements depicting Labor and its leader, Wayne Goss, as "The Only Change for the Better". A string of policy papers were released on a range of themes emphasising responsible economic management and efficient, honest administration. While they maintained a positive and professional public opinion and consistently led opinion polls, neither the media nor the electorate appeared to believe they could win.[1]

The Liberals, who had been on the crossbenches since the collapse of the Coalition in 1983, launched a series of newspaper advertisements in March 1988 under the banner "Let's Put It Right". They were in a curious position, however, as a collapse in National support in urban South East Queensland would more than likely deliver winnable seats for the party to Labor.[1]

On 1 April 1989, a non-partisan group called "Citizens for Democracy" gained some publicity by cutting a birthday cake to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Electoral Districts Act 1949, which had established electoral malapportionment in Queensland, which was seen as unfairly benefitting the Nationals. Both the Labor and Liberal parties favoured "one vote one value" electoral reform.

On 3 July 1989, the Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct (more commonly known as the Fitzgerald Inquiry after its chair, Tony Fitzgerald QC) handed down its report. It found links between criminal and political networks, and that corruption in Queensland's public life was widespread, commonplace and organised. It made numerous recommendations aimed at reforming the police and criminal justice system and at establishing independent institutions to monitor, report and act on reforms in the short term, and their operation on an ongoing basis. Ahern committed to implement the Report in its entirety.

Ahern sought to govern in a more consultative manner than Bjelke-Petersen, and worked to blunt the edges of what had long been one of the most unyieldingly conservative state governments in Australia. It was to no avail; by September, opinion polls were suggesting the Nationals had about half the support they had achieved at the 1986 election.

A Newspoll taken after the inquiry's release showed that the Nationals had tumbled to only 22% support, the lowest ever recorded for a sitting government in Australian history.[2] Additionally, the Nationals suffered large swings at three by-elections, most recently in Merthyr, where the Liberals had won the seat from the Nationals despite the latter putting forward a high-profile candidate and an expensive campaign. On 22 September, Police Minister Russell Cooper toppled Ahern in a party room coup, and was sworn in as premier three days later. Cooper billed himself as a traditionalist in Bjelke-Petersen's mould, and his supporters believed he could shore up National support in its rural heartland.

Accordingly, Cooper campaigned on traditional National focuses (law and order, social conservatism, and attacks on the federal Labor government, in particular related to interest rates) and produced a number of controversial advertisements, one of which alleged that the Labor Opposition's plan to decriminalise homosexuality would lead to a flood of gays from southern states moving to Queensland. Labor responded by satirising these ads, depicting Cooper as a wild-eyed reactionary and a clone of Bjelke-Petersen and/or a puppet of party president Sir Robert Sparkes.[3]

Logos Foundation, a fundamentalist Christian group in Toowoomba led by Howard Carter, controversially involved itself in the 1989 Queensland State election, running a campaign of surveys and full-page newspaper advertisements promoting the line that candidates' adherence to Christian principles and biblical ethics was more important than the widespread corruption in the Queensland government that had been revealed by the Fitzgerald Inquiry. Published advertisements in the Courier-Mail at the time promoted strongly conservative positions in opposition to pornography, homosexuality and abortion, and a return to the death penalty. Some supporters controversially advocated Old Testament laws and penalties.[4] This action backfired sensationally, with many mainstream Churches, community leaders and religious organisations distancing themselves from the Logos Foundation after making public statements denouncing them.[5] At times the death penalty for homosexuals was advocated, in accordance with Old Testament Law.[6] [7] The Sydney Morning Herald later described part of this campaign when they published, "Homosexuality and censorship should determine your vote, the electorate was told; corruption was not the major concern."[8] The same article quoted Carter from a letter he had written to supporters at the time, "The greenies, the gays and the greedy are marching. Now the Christians, the conservatives and the concerned must march also". These views were not new. An earlier article published in the Herald quoted a Logos spokesman in reference to the call for the death penalty for homosexuals in order to rid Queensland of such people, who stated "the fact a law is on the statutes is the best safeguard for society".[9]

Key dates

Date Event
2 November 1989 The Parliament was dissolved.[10]
2 November 1989 Writs were issued by the Governor to proceed with an election.[11]
9 November 1989 Close of nominations.
2 December 1989 Polling day, between the hours of 8am and 6pm.
7 December 1989 The Cooper Ministry resigned and the Goss Ministry was sworn in.
13 February 1990 The writ was returned and the results formally declared.


The result was a landslide win for the Labor Party. Brisbane swung over dramatically to support Labor, which took all but five seats in the capital.

Initially, it appeared that the Liberal Party had won the traditionally National hinterland seat of Nicklin, however, the Court of Disputed Returns overturned that result and awarded the seat to the National Party.

Queensland state election, 2 December 1989[12][13]
Legislative Assembly
<< 19861992 >>

Enrolled voters 1,780,785
Votes cast 1,623,637 Turnout 91.18% –0.07%
Informal votes 48,764 Informal 3.00% +0.83%
Summary of votes by party
Party Primary votes % Swing Seats Change
  Labor 792,466 50.32% +8.97% 54 +24
  Nationals 379,364 24.09% –15.55% 27 –22
  Liberal 331,562 21.05% +4.55% 8 – 2
  Democrats 6,669 0.42% –0.21% 0 ± 0
  CEC 6,610 0.42% +0.42% 0 ± 0
  Greens 5,206 0.33% +0.33% 0 ± 0
  Call to Australia 2,007 0.13% +0.13% 0 ± 0
  Grey Power 300 0.02% +0.02% 0 ± 0
  Independent 50,689 3.22% +1.34% 0 ± 0
Total 1,574,873     89  
  Labor 53.8% +7.8%
  National/Liberal 46.2% -7.8%

Seats changing hands

Seat Pre-1989 Swing Post-1989
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Albert   National Ivan Gibbs 13.1 -22.8 9.7 John Szczerbanik   Labor
Ashgrove   Liberal Alan Sherlock 2.0 -8.6 6.6 Jim Fouras   Labor
Aspley   National Beryce Nelson 4.1 -5.3 1.2 John Goss   Liberal
Barron River   National Martin Tenni 4.0 -11.5 7.5 Dr Lesley Clark   Labor
Broadsound   National Denis Hinton 2.0 -4.7 2.7 Jim Pearce   Labor
Cooroora   National Gordon Simpson 11.2 -12.2 1.0 Ray Barber   Labor
Currumbin   National Leo Gately 8.9 -9.8 0.9 Trevor Coomber   Liberal
Glass House   National Bill Newton 6.9 -8.5 1.6 Jon Sullivan   Labor
Greenslopes   National Leisha Harvey 4.2 -9.8 5.6 Gary Fenlon   Labor
Isis   Independent Lin Powell* 7.4 -7.5 0.1 Bill Nunn   Labor
Mansfield   National Craig Sherrin 5.5 -7.9 2.4 Laurel Power   Labor
Maryborough   National Gilbert Alison 0.7 -2.1 1.4 Bob Dollin   Labor
Mount Coot-tha   Liberal Lyle Schuntner 6.2 -13.2 7.0 Wendy Edmond   Labor
Mount Gravatt   National Ian Henderson 6.7 -8.4 1.7 Judy Spence   Labor
Mount Isa   Liberal Peter Beard 2.7 -12.8 10.1 Tony McGrady   Labor
Mulgrave   National Max Menzel 3.7 -5.4 1.7 Warren Pitt   Labor
Nerang   National Tom Hynd 9.9 -11.3 1.4 Ray Connor   Liberal
Nicklin   National Brian Austin 10.9 -19.2 8.3 Bob King   Liberal
Nundah   Liberal Sir William Knox 5.4 -13.4 8.0 Phil Heath   Labor
Pine Rivers   National Yvonne Chapman 3.6 -9.1 5.6 Margaret Woodgate   Labor
Redcliffe   Liberal Terry White 7.7 -9.7 2.0 Ray Hollis   Labor
Redlands   National Paul Clauson 3.8 -10.0 6.2 Darryl Briskey   Labor
South Coast   National Judy Gamin 13.7 -21.4 7.7 Bob Quinn   Liberal
Springwood   National Huan Fraser 6.2 -9.3 3.1 Molly Robson   Labor
Stafford   Liberal Terry Gygar 4.5 -12.1 7.6 Rod Welford   Labor
Toowoomba North   National Sandy McPhie 7.6 -8.5 0.9 Dr John Flynn   Labor
Townsville   National Tony Burreket 4.4 -9.5 5.1 Ken Davies   Labor
Whitsunday   Independent Geoff Muntz* 9.0 -9.0 0.03 Lorraine Bird   Labor
Yeronga   Liberal Norm Lee 5.7 -14.8 9.1 Matt Foley   Labor
  • Members in italics did not contest their seat at this election.
  • Members for Isis and Whitsunday were elected as National Party members, but resigned from the party and ran as Independents.

Post-election pendulum

Whitsunday Lorraine Bird ALP 0.03%
Isis Bill Nunn ALP 0.1%
Toowoomba North John Flynn ALP 0.9%
Cooroora Ray Barber ALP 1.0%
Maryborough Bob Dollin ALP 1.4%
Glass House Jon Sullivan ALP 1.6%
Mount Gravatt Judy Spence ALP 1.7%
Mulgrave Warren Pitt ALP 1.7%
Redcliffe Ray Hollis ALP 2.0%
Mansfield Laurel Power ALP 2.4%
Broadsound Jim Pearce ALP 2.7%
Springwood Molly Robson ALP 3.1%
Townsville Ken Davies ALP 5.1%
Greenslopes Gary Fenlon ALP 5.6%
Pine Rivers Margaret Woodgate ALP 5.6%
Fairly safe
Redlands Darryl Briskey ALP 6.2%
Ashgrove Jim Fouras ALP 6.6%
Mount Coot-tha Wendy Edmond ALP 7.0%
Barron River Lesley Clark ALP 7.5%
Stafford Rod Welford ALP 7.6%
Nundah Phil Heath ALP 8.0%
Mourilyan Bill Eaton ALP 8.2%
Salisbury Len Ardill ALP 8.5%
Rockhampton North Robert Schwarten ALP 8.6%
Cook Steve Bredhauer ALP 8.9%
Yeronga Matt Foley ALP 9.1%
Albert John Szczerbanik ALP 9.7%
Thuringowa Ken McElligott ALP 10.0%
Mount Isa Tony McGrady ALP 10.1%
Bundaberg Clem Campbell ALP 10.4%
Mackay Ed Casey ALP 10.9%
Caboolture Ken Hayward ALP 11.2%
Chatsworth Terry Mackenroth ALP 12.0%
Ipswich West Don Livingstone ALP 12.1%
Murrumba Dean Wells ALP 12.7%
Cairns Keith De Lacy ALP 12.9%
Everton Glen Milliner ALP 13.2%
Windsor Pat Comben ALP 13.2%
Rockhampton Paul Braddy ALP 13.8%
Manly Jim Elder ALP 14.0%
South Brisbane Anne Warner ALP 14.0%
Townsville East Geoff Smith ALP 14.3%
Port Curtis Bill Prest ALP 16.7%
Wolston Bob Gibbs ALP 16.9%
Sandgate Nev Warburton ALP 17.3%
Ipswich David Hamill ALP 17.8%
Brisbane Central Peter Beattie ALP 18.2%
Logan Wayne Goss ALP 18.2%
Nudgee Ken Vaughan ALP 18.6%
Bulimba Ron McLean ALP 19.0%
Woodridge Bill D'Arcy ALP 19.5%
Bowen Ken Smyth ALP 20.6%
Lytton Tom Burns ALP 22.5%
Archerfield Henry Palaszczuk ALP 24.3%
Merthyr Santo Santoro LIB 0.5%
Currumbin Trevor Coomber LIB 0.9%
Aspley John Goss LIB 1.2%
Toowong Denver Beanland LIB 1.3%
Hinchinbrook Marc Rowell NAT 1.4%
Nerang Ray Connor LIB 1.4%
Flinders Bob Katter NAT 2.1%
Tablelands Tom Gilmore NAT 2.4%
Fassifern Kev Lingard NAT 2.6%
Warrego Howard Hobbs NAT 3.3%
Mirani Jim Randell NAT 3.5%
Sherwood Angus Innes LIB 3.9%
Somerset Jim Randell NAT 4.0%
Callide Di McCauley NAT 4.3%
Landsborough Mike Ahern NAT 5.9%
Fairly safe
Moggill David Watson LIB 6.0%
Gregory Vaughan Johnson NAT 6.8%
Burdekin Mark Stoneman NAT 6.9%
Gympie Len Stephan NAT 7.0%
South Coast Bob Quinn LIB 7.7%
Nicklin Bob King LIB 8.3%
Carnarvon Lawrence Springborg NAT 8.9%
Toowoomba South Clive Berghofer NAT 9.1%
Peak Downs Vince Lester NAT 9.5%
Auburn Neville Harper NAT 9.6%
Burnett Doug Slack NAT 11.1%
Southport Mick Veivers NAT 11.1%
Surfers Paradise Rob Borbidge NAT 12.2%
Warwick Des Booth NAT 14.0%
Lockyer Tony Fitzgerald NAT 18.3%
Barambah Trevor Perrett NAT 21.4%
Cunningham Tony Elliott NAT 21.6%
Roma Russell Cooper NAT 23.2%
Balonne Don Neal NAT 23.9%
Condamine Brian Littleproud NAT 25.4%


In early 1990, the former Premier and leader of the National Party, Mike Ahern, resigned his seat of Landsborough, and the Liberal Party candidate, Joan Sheldon, won the subsequent by-election. Angus Innes, the former leader of the Liberal Party, also resigned his seat of Sherwood, and the Liberal Party won the subsequent by-election which was held on the same day as the Landsborough by-election. Joan Sheldon led the Liberal Party to the 1992 election.

A major change to electoral legislation saw the zonal system of electoral distribution abolished in favour of a system largely resembling one vote one value in time for the 1992 state election.

See also


  1. Coaldrake, Peter (December 1989). "Australian Political Chronicle: January–June 1989". Australian Journal of Politics and History. 35 (3): 452–455. ISSN 0004-9522.
  2. Salusinszky, Imre (29 October 2010). "Kristina Keneally leading the most unpopular Labor government in history". News.com.au. Retrieved 26 March 2011.
  3. Coaldrake, Peter (August 1990). "Australian Political Chronicle: July–December 1989". Australian Journal of Politics and History. 36 (2): 243–248. ISSN 0004-9522.
  4. Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1990, "Sex Scandal - Bible Belt", p.74
  5. https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:8027/HARRISON_eprint_.pdf
  6. https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:8027/HARRISON_eprint_.pdf, p.3
  7. "Sex Scandal - Bible Belt", Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1990, p.74
  8. Roberts, G., Sex Scandal Divides Bible Belt, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 October 1990
  9. Lyons, J., God Remains an Issue in Queensland, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 November 1989
  10. "A Proclamation". Queensland Government Gazette. 2 November 1989. p. 292:1635.
  11. "Untitled". Queensland Government Gazette. 2 November 1989. p. 292:1637.
  12. Australian Government and Politics Database. "Parliament of Queensland, Assembly election, 2 December 1989". Retrieved 22 February 2009.
  13. Hughes, Colin A. (2002). A handbook of Australian government and politics, 1985-1999. Federation Press. p. 325. ISBN 978-1-86287-434-3.
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