Public forum – ‘Queensland’s War on Civil Liberties’

You are welcome to attend an upcoming meeting on civil liberties in Queensland.

Title: Queensland’s war on Civil Liberties.
7pm Tuesday 28 January
Jagera Arts Centre
121 Cordelia Street, South Brisbane

Three prominent activists, central to the 1970’s civil liberties campaign in Queensland, speak about the resistance to Bjelke-Petersen’s authoritarism.


Everyone welcome. Phone The Cloudland Collective on 0409 877 528 for more details.

Sam Watson, Aboriginal Elder, member of the Aboriginal Embassy in Canberra 1972, foundation member ATSI Legal Services.

Jennie Harvie, anti-conscription activist during Vietnam War, campaigner for peace, women’s liberation and human rights.

Jim Beatson, 1960’s radical activist, founder of 4ZZZ, journalist and researcher for Byron Bay Greens’ Mayor.

civil liberties meeting.doc

One thought on “Public forum – ‘Queensland’s War on Civil Liberties’

  1. In his talk jim beatson makes the outlandish claim that 4zzz brought down (or helped to) the Bjelke-Petersen government by putting the hard questions to government ministers, and doing the critical and investigative journalism that mainstream media of the day (Courier Mail, ABC etc) lacked.

    It may have looked like this from the outside – but in the 1970s zed was terribly conflicted by its need to have a higher power licence and to remain part of a music culture scene that dominated 4zzz’s broadcasting then and now.

    The claim was even more fantastic because, at the time, jim beatson (as UG Student President) opposed the street marches cos he feared that the uq senate or government would step in and kick Zed off UQ campus because of the controversy created by opposition on campus to the ban on street marches.

    his explanation at the civil liberties talk reported above was that the anti-uranium and democratic rights movements were sucked in by petersen who was looking for electoral advantage sufficient for the Nationals to rule without the Liberals. His claim was petersen was manufacturing dissent; petersen’s real aim was to cut down the growing organisation against the mining and export of uranium mining.

    Beatson’s claim is incorrect: as the street marches grew, so did the electoral swing against the government in metropolitan areas. For example there was a 10% swing against the government in the 12 November 1977 state election after 197 people were arrested in a street march on eve of the election. People were fed up with the attack on their democratic rights and the slogan ‘Joh Must Go’ caught the imagination of progressive people throughout the state, especially in metropolitan queensland.

    Beatson also claims in his talk that street marches were boring and did not get out to people. jim does qualify this by saying that we (myself and another person) organised some creative guerrilla marches. these were actually organised by the Civil Liberties Coordinating Committee (CLCC) – some of us did buy walkie talkies to allow better communication between the marshalls as the march progressed – and this did enable the marchers to outfox the cops.

    in a bizaare turn, at one such guerrilla march in early 1978, beatson turned up in Guyatt Park St Lucia and jumped on a megaphone to discourage any further march and recommended marchers return to the Uni.

    i doubt that jim wld contest my recollection of these events (as they are documented in video – see ‘if u dont fight u lose’ below), only my interpretation of them.

    anyway, our (the CLCC) objective was to mobilise outside the uni as well … and this did happen – this is reflected in the arrest records – arrests after 22 Sept 1977 were mainly unemployed workers, union members and people off campus concerned about issues like education, uranium mining, land rights, womens’ rights and democratic rights generally.

    people even formed an unemployed workers union at trades hall … and the CLCC organised a speaking tour of Qld in January 1978 – it was called the Summer Campaign and included extensive speakers notes about a range of issues including education, economics, democratic rights, uranium mining, unions etc. the CLCC obtained lists of alp branches in towns throughout Qld and people from the CLCC spoke at them … it was a shame that what organisation we had fell apart and by the mid-1980s the Left had dissipated into unions, the labor party, single issue campaign groups etc..

    by the time the goss labor government came along in 1990s what Left organisation had existed was subsumed into the ALP agenda with the curious result that demonstrations were always far smaller, the popular will was subverted when it should have found expression and grown.

    you see, it was not that people were wrong to defy the street marches, it was more that we did not know what we were doing, that our organisation was weak and that we allowed it to fall apart altogether so that by the time we were tested again in the SEQEB dispute we were found wanting and petersen defeated us with even more serious consequences than our defeat during the street marches.

    and jim, if it were true that 4zzz managed to expose the national party government and to help bring it down, how is it that a minor player in Qld politics, , a minor national party member and uq student union president, how is it that she alone managed to not only kick zed off campus but (for a time) off the airwaves altogether?

    ian curr
    feb 2014

    PS I wld not like readers to get the impression that jim beatson was not an activist – he was – he participated in the 1967 civil liberties marches and in the 1974 anti-freeway protests and sit-ins in Bowen Hills not to mention his involvement in the anti-vietnam war movement as documented in ‘Towards Peace – a workers journey‘ by waterside worker, Phil O’Brien:

    A massive action was to be held on 8, 9 and 10 May, 1970 in all capital cities and several smaller cities which had anti–war committees. As we came closer to May, weekly meetings were held at our Waterside Workers Club. These large meetings were fiery, as methods and tactics were discussed with strong participation by university students.

    All points of view were aired. At this period, Brian Laver, Mitch Thompson, Jim Prentice, Dick Shearman and Jim Beatson were the leaders of the students from the University of Queensland. The university had established its own anti–Vietnam war organisation. The Queensland Trades and Labor Council also had endorsed the May moratorium and had called on unions and members to take active roles. There was a contrast between the enthusiasm of the students and the caution of many trade unions. The young people full of enthusiasm and diametrically opposed to Australia’s involvement in the war in Vietnam considered that at the moratorium march, street sit–ins and mass actions against the US consul rooms in Queen Street were warranted.


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