Vietnam and the Right to Organise

“When Petersen first became Premier, he was virtually a non-entity. (The previous Premier, Pizzey had died after a few months in office, after the retirement of Frank Nicklin. Jack Pizzey was in his fifties when he died.) … Petersen had one vital thing that was missing from his predecessers. · He possessed a native understanding of the needs of international capital.”
Queensland: Live to Fight, Fight to Live 1978.

On 1 November 1966, during the Vietnam war, Jack Pizzey the Queensland Police Minister and later Premier drew attention to how his government had placed limits on the simplest of protest tools – the use of the placard to communicate political opposition.

We note that it is currently unlawful to carry a placard in protest outside refugee detention centres in Victoria. This places severe restriction on people’s ability to organise. Pizzey gave the speech after 26 people were arrested on 5th October 1966 using placards to voice their opposition to the Vietnam war.

From the camera of Grahame Garner came images of placards, banners and posters to give voice to the anti-war movement. Here are some from the 1960s. They show how important the image is in organising for peace.

Ian Curr
October 2020

Queensland Police Minister on the right to organize in Queensland

[Parliamentary Debates [Hansard] Queensland Legislative Assembly TUESDAY,1 NOVEMBER 1966]

Mr. Jack PIZZEY (Country Party – Police Minister and later Premier of Queensland):

Jack Pizzey

Someone mentioned the need to obtain permits to hold protest meetings. The Inspector in charge of traffic has not denied any person his right to protest. It is a shocking state of affairs when young people say, “I don’t like this law. Because I don’t like it I am not going to obey it. I am going to carry on irrespective of what the law of the land is”. It is the duty of the Police Force to ensure that the law is obeyed. People have been able to get permits. As a matter of fact, we supplied a police escort down to Centenary Park. I think people would be granted permits to register their protest, as long as they do not interfere with anyone else while they are doing it. But is it right that they should be given a permit to protest on a busy corner where thousands of people are waiting to catch buses and trams? Is it right that they should be allowed to deny other people freedom of movement? I do not think so, but hon. members opposite would suggest that because we stop people from holding a demonstration this is a police State.

If someone disobeys the police, would hon. members opposite suggest that the police should let him go? I think the police should use as much firmness as is required to deal with the situation. That is what they do. If a person struggles, twists and kicks, do hon members opposite suggest that the police should say, “We cannot handle him. Because he is going to be a bit rough we will let him go. We will let him break the law.”

People have to realise that there is one way to change the law, and that is to change the Government if they do not like the law. They cannot take the law into their own hands. If the law says that a permit is required before they can march in a procession, then they should apply for a permit. If they do not get it, they know that it is denied them only because they would be interfering with some­ body else’s liberty.

Fred Bromley

Mr. Fred Bromley (ALP Buranda): Ten shillings a placard is a bit high.

Mr. PIZZEY: That might be so; but it still is the law, and while it is the law it must be obeyed. People can come to me by way of deputation. The matter can be raised in Parliament on Grievance Day, or questions can be asked in the House. Nobody can countenance lawlessness in our community, especially by people of that age. People must learn that they have an obligation to obey the law. I think I have the support of hon. members when I say that.