It was the 13th of June, 1998. It was the Medieval Faire in Musgrave Park, and the patrons were drunker than usual, and gloomier than the norm. But that was to be expected. There was a specter haunting the park: the specter of Pauline Hanson. It was also the day of the state election, and the polls were predicting a strong result for her new, virgin One Nation Party. Reports were coming in from the bush, - especially the festival goers who had travelled in from the country. They knew how popular she was. To be honest, I can't remember much of that festival apart from the wariness and the political conversations. And the beer. Lots of beer.
My real concern at the time was: what if One Nation held the balance of power? Or worse: joined in some sort of coalition government? To be honest, the real concern I remember having with them was that they would rollback the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Not that the Liberals and Nationals tried that under Borbidge, but One Nation sounded like the sort of dickheads that would wear their base, unreconstructed prejudices with pride.
It was the next few days that the results came in. Out of an assembly of 89: 43 an unholy melange of Liberals, Nationals, and One Nation Party personnel. 2 independents, with one - Liz Cunningham - a little bit too close to the Nationals for my taste. The other - Peter Wellington - a pretty decent man. And 44 Labor people lead by one Peter Beattie - then better known for backing the CJC and getting up Wayne Goss's nostrils. It was a hung parliament. Fortunately, Wellington gave the nod to Beattie, and he became premier.
And if Labor had got 43, or 42: what would have happened? I don't really know. Could there have been a coalition between the "Conservatives"? More to the point - would anyone Labor have done better that then greenhorn premier like Beattie? In 1998, I doubt it. Certainly not Wayne "Kill all the koalas" Goss, and not the seriously right wing "Old Guard" that Beattie battled in the eighties. I also remember respecting Beattie for sticking up for no preference deals with One Nation - but that ended up winning him five seats in the city from the Liberals. There were - and are - a lot of Liberal voters who despise what Pauline Hanson stood for.
Fortunately, that was the high-water mark for One Nation. As backbenchers, they bitched, and squabbled, and split into eleven little factions - one for each member of the party. By the time of the next election - 2001 - only four or five of them re-took their seats, and mostly as independents.
This Thursday, Peter Beattie will step down as Premier of Queensland. I'm a little sorry to see him go. It's not that I saw much of him; I spent almost half of his tenure overseas. But I'm glad he got the job in the first place, and I can name the reason why: Pig Iron Pauline. Thank you, Peter, for helping nip that nonsense in the bud.
Elsewhere: Mark Bahnish's take on what Beattie's departure means for the Federal Election. (Good for Rudd, it seems.)