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The bellwether state

by
May 2008, no. 301

A History of Queensland by Ray Evans

CUP, $36.95 pb, 328 pp

The bellwether state

by
May 2008, no. 301

Raymond Evans completed his History of Queensland on a Brisbane verandah in late 2005. The Howard government was still in power, and Premier Peter Beattie was grappling with regional health care. By the time of publication, John Howard was gone, and Beattie had resigned – though not before contracting Ross Fitzgerald to write the official state history for Queensland’s sesquicentenary in 2009.

Beattie’s successor, Anna Bligh, worked in the Office of Premier and Cabinet before entering state parliament. Kevin Rudd ran that same office after the Fitzgerald Inquiry helped Wayne Goss’s Labor government to power in 1989. The sober and fast-paced reform of the early Goss years now seems to have shifted to the federal level.

Queensland as trendsetter seems a less familiar theme than Queensland as a state of ‘extremes which can both lift the spirit and break the heart’. Its colonial frontier was almost certainly the most violent in Australia. Its economy cycled through frequent boom and bust, with political conditions as exaggerated as those of any Australian state, and society struggling ‘between Calvinistic stricture and hedonistic expression’. Governor Bowen declared the new colony ‘exceptional beyond precedent in the history of colonisation’. Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen echoed this to a Japanese trade mission: ‘I am here to say we are not Australian, we are Queenslanders.’ Queensland exceptionalism runs through Evans’s history. Yet a shadow theme is indeed Queensland as bellwether.

David Moore reviews 'A History of Queensland' by Ray Evans

A History of Queensland

by Ray Evans

CUP, $36.95 pb, 328 pp

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