Dispatch from Johburg II

bjelke.jpg

It was Joh’s 94th birthday today. Time to revisit the Dispatches from Johburg and share some random memories of my teenage years under the reign of Bjelke:

– as a young public service clerk, going up to the third floor of the Treasury Building with some friends and sitting in Russ Hinze’s enormous leather chair and drinking his scotch

– coming home every night during the Seqeb strike and reading by candlelight

– smoking dope on the dance floor of the unlicensed club downstairs on Elizabeth Street in the middle of town that was open twenty four hours

– being taken by my boss to the gambling joint over the road from the Gabba Dogs and discovering that the scotch and sandwiches and cab fare were free and that uniformed cops would come in to throw out people who complained the games were rigged

– the Joh for PM sticker that came free with the Saturday Courier-Mail one week

– watching Big Russ on tv declare “there are no illegal casinos or brothels in Brisbane – Terry Lewis drove me round the Valley last night and showed me where they weren’t”

– watching the cops arrest a priest in vestments and a one-legged woman on crutches and them being bundled into the back of a paddywaggon at a protest at Victoria Park

– the pile of stat decs for underage patrons at the ZZZ club in Roma Street where me and my mod suited friends used to go and listen to ska bands

– hearing on the radio in a Yellow Cab (typical cabbie opening line – “what do you think about that Joh, mate? lots of cranes on the skyline”) that Joh had resigned and the incredibly violent storm felt absolutely right

– the feeling of freedom that you’d get driving over the NSW border

– how nothing ever happened on Sundays and the buses stopped at 5pm

It’s funny how many memories of the Joh Era seem to be night time ones. But it was that sort of time. Pleasures were secret and hidden, and protesting was too hard sometimes in a sweaty Brisbane summer. Much easier to drink beer on the back deck. You can get a sense of the feel of the Joh years in Andrew McGahan’s excellent novel Last Drinks and Venero Armanno’s Firehead

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
This entry was posted in Life, Literature, Politics - national, Society, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
23 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
yellowvinyl
yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

“- watching the cops arrest a priest in vestments and a one-legged woman on crutches and them being bundled into the back of a paddywaggon at a protest at Victoria Park”

might have been me, Mark, I was arrested in a demo when I was 15.

agree re McGahan’s book too. love his sparse but evocative prose style.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

It could well have been, yellowvinyl! She had black hair. The priest of course was Fr Dick Pascoe, always referred to by the Courier-Mail as “Red”. Which suited Joh just fine.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Incidentally, I met Joh when I was working as a waiter at Christopher Skaise’s Xmas Party and another time at a charity thing and the stories about him being exceptionally polite were true. Couldn’t say the same for the Channel 10 weather guy.

Darlene
2022 years ago

Hmmmm, nothing like memories of the Joh years to make Queenslanders go over all nostalgic.

May I recommend Andrew Stafford’s Pig City as a book that contains some interesting discussion about said Joh years and how it impacted on the Brisbane music scene.

As I was just reaching adulthood when Joh got booted and not political at all, my most ‘profound’ memory of the Joh years is of my grandmother using swear words every time he appeared on the screen. Suffice to say she wasn’t a fan.

For some strange reason, I also remember seeing a picture in the newspaper of a noted Brisbane academic with a picture of Karl Marx on her wall.

Think it was taken during SEQEB strike.

Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

Another (interstate) memory – us southerners being referred to as ‘southern socialists’. As opposed to the agrarian version being implemented up north.

If you didn’t live under his rule, the guy was quite entertaining.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2022 years ago

I’m just trying to remember the Stranglers song I say on Rage, that was inspired by the absurdity of Johburg. It gave me a jolly good chuckle at the time.

gilmae
2022 years ago

I seem to remember university – I forget which one – students fighting to be able to install condom machines in the bathrooms.

viacollins
viacollins
2022 years ago

Mark,

Thanks so much for dropping a bookmark of sheer pleasure in my head – I read “Last Drinks”, immediately followed by Venero’s “The Volcano” two years ago, and felt like I’d become an honourary Queenslander!

Both books just sweat & ooze their subjects so well, fine evocative writing. Haven’t read “Firehead”, but will be nicking out at lunch to snare one.

Gaby
Gaby
2022 years ago

Agree about “Last Drinks” Mark. A fine book. Certainly evoked the oppresive mood that you alluded.

I found “Praise” unputdownable. Absolutely rivetting. I remember being out at quite a good party but leaving just after 1 to go home and try and finish it.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

Praise was indeed a fine novel. And no doubt I speak for Gaby as well in saying that the movie was a surprisingly good adaptation. I’ll seek out a copy of Last Drinks today (as if the stack of books on my bedside table wasn’t high enough).

By the way, Mark, the Channel 10 weatherman in those days was Paul Bungiorno.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

I started with Buongiorno and then inadvertently eliminated the wrong vowell.

Jethro
Jethro
2022 years ago

” seem to remember university – I forget which one – students fighting to be able to install condom machines in the bathrooms.”

I think (memory a bit hazy now) there was a raid at UQ in 1986 or so, where the cops removed a condom-vending machine from the toilets under the refectory.

xerxes
xerxes
2022 years ago

Bjelke-Petersen forever!
Bjelke-Petersen forever!
Bjelke-Petersen forever!
For the gerrymander makes us strong!

Gaby
Gaby
2022 years ago

James, I’ll have to hunt down the film now. Haven’t seen it, but remember now that I wanted to.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Darlene, I gave ‘Pig City’ a bit of a plug on this thread:

http://troppoarmadillo.ubersportingpundit.com/archives/008070.html

The lyrics to the song can be found there.

My grandmother, by contrast, loved Joh though she also thought that Bob Hawke was a “rather nice man for a communist”.

gilmae, it was all three universities – UQ, Griffith and QIT. I was there at UQ when the cops came in and smashed the condom vending machine off the toilet wall.

James, in defence of Paul Bongiorno, it was the weekend weatherman.

On the film of ‘Praise’, its gross was smallest in Brisbane of all capital cities. At the time it was suggested that was because it wasn’t filmed in Brisbane – a point highlighted very prominently by the Courier-Mail and that Andrew McGahan has spoken about in interviews. I agree it’s a great film, though.

If you want to read something truly depressing but evocative, try some of Andrew McGahan’s short stories as well.

blank
blank
2022 years ago

Nitpick, nitpick.

Queensland did not have a gerrymander, it had malaportionment – the zonal system of the Hanlon labor government.

Joh’s version was actually more democratic than Hanlon’s.

Labor’s other gift – no upper house – also help Joh.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2022 years ago

Praise was quite a good adaptation, it was an inspired decision to include The Dirty Three’s music. It really added an extra texture to the intense self-loathing that was quite evocative in the film’s representation of the main relationship – that strange gravity of passions that often sparks such jarring collisions between individuals.

Actually, I heard a rumour that the Dirty Three are touring, not being able to afford seeing much I have tended not to scan the street press as much. I don’t really want to know what great bands I can’t afford to see.

I did however make an exception with Radiohead, but that was paid for in better times. Who knows if I land this job I could be one of the RTS refugees. Hmmmm, maybe I should fork out the forty/fifty-odd dollars I don’t have for a night with Warren Ellis and co. They always put on quite a show, and “Everythings Fucked” would make the perfect theme song to this portion of my life.

peter kemp
peter kemp
2022 years ago

I remember well all the jokes and Jerry Connolly, the Joh impersonator, who rocked up at an ALP function as a paid entertainer to be greeted by many with outrage ”Who invited you?” Jerry was that good.

Also the daylight saving and Queensland knocking generally ie on the plane to Brissie ”Ladies and gentleman we are approaching the Queensland border, turn you watches back 50 years.”

Classic Joh-speech and logic:
”I oppose the policies of the Whitlam government for 2 reasons:
Firstly they are wrong
Secondly they couldn’t be right.”

Polly
Polly
2022 years ago

Stephen – Triple J Live at the Wireless Monday 8PM to feature Dirty Three recorded live at Meredith Music Festival last month.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

blank, “Queensland didn’t have a gerrymander”. Not quite true. There were a number of instances where (Labor-voting) Indigenous communities were excised from the seat they were in and included in a neighbouring Labor seat. In addition, boundaries were drawn so as to swamp mining towns with Nat voting areas.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

That Dirty Three mob are really something. Trying to listen to an entire CD with only one track on a car player which kept skipping and starting again was surreally frustrating.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2022 years ago

Thanks Polly I’ll definitely be tuning into that. I’ll have to remember to get a tape ready.

Zoe
Zoe
2022 years ago

Me too! I love Andrew McGahan and the Dirty three! (Some of whom played with Nick Cave at the State Theatre in Sydney a couple of years ago, which was amazing).

And re Joh-ness, a Queenslander friend told me about coming back from a couple of years overseas and driving his parents’ flash car around. He got pulled over and after they checked his licence, they said “I see you’re a SHP”

“A ship?”

“No, a suspected homosexual person.”

He told them to confirm it, and thus make him a chip.

Welcome home, son.

My absolute favourite police story though, was told by a mate originally from Cherbourg mission. He was walking in the Valley with a white mate and a black mate when they got checked for no reason (apart from the obvious). The white guy had a warrant out so got taken in. The others actually fell off the lounge laughing so hard that he had got into the police car without blueing and – the most irrestible part – PUT HIS OWN SEATBELT ON!