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Queensland Dossier



by Jeune Pritchard and Luce Pelissier

Format: 3/4" colour video.

Length: approximately 1 hr.

Distribution: National Video Resources Centre, Paddington, PO Box 261. Phone: (02) 31 9025

The period of the Video Access Centres in Australia (c.1973-1979) was one in which video was seen as a valuable activist medium for both spreading the news and reporting on events and probing political ideas. Many of the people involved in the video access network were there because of the ready access to the means of production it provided.

In the late 1970s the government in Queensland was run by the National Party and was particularly inimical to left wing and union demands for greater democracy and for a reduced influence of capitalist and religious fundamentalism in education, aboriginal affairs and other aspects of the state apparatus especially the opposition to uranium mining.

Street marches were one of the primary means by which people could demonstrate against the state but, under the Joh Bjelke-Petersen administration, had been almost completely stopped through the use of draconian laws and police power. Two video-makers associated with the Paddington Video Access Centre, Jeune Pritchard and Luce Pelissier spent some time in Queensland with a portapak investigating the situation, recording the street marches, interviewing unionists and aboriginal people as well as some of the conservative protagonists. Queensland Dossier is the result of this work. It was edited in the facilities at Paddington Video Access and became an important tool in disseminating information to people who were concerned about the situation in Queensland.

In a review of its showing at the 1979 Video Mayfair, Tom Zubrycki comments: “Queensland Dossier combines a rigorous political analysis with a strong emotional impact. The tape links the [Queensland] government's ban on street marches with its concerted campaign to repress opposition to uranium mining and the land rights movement. The producers also attack the Brisbane Trades and Labour Council for taking a soft line on the marches thereby preventing a unified coalition of the left.”1

The following is an article from Access Video, vol.4, no.3, Winter 1978, written by Jeune Pritchard. It begins with an extract from 'Queensland Dossier' published by the Queensland Solidarity Group.


“On the 4th September, 1977, the Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, announced that there would be no more political marches in Queensland. On September 14th, an amendment to the Queensland Traffic Act, which regulates among other things, the system of permits for marches, was pushed through State Parliament, removing [the] right of appeal to the courts and putting power of refusal directly in the hands of the Police Commissioner.

On September 22nd, a demonstration of 2,000 people demanding that the ban be lifted was confronted by more than 100 plainclothes and Special Branch police, and 700 uniformed police brought in from all over South East Queensland. 32 people were arrested.

The campaign - the fight for the right to march without a permit in defence of the right to organise continues. The next mobilisation was planned for October 12th.

The reality of the political situation in Queensland has tended to be obscured since Bjelke-Petersen came to power in 1968 by the mythology of the irrational megalomania which has grown up around him. Queensland the Banana Republic, the Deep North, the large empty kingdom where the “Flying Peanut” rules a small obedient population of rural idiots.

By making it possible for anything that happens in Queensland to be explained away in terms of the irrationality of Bjelke-Petersen, it obscures the reality and the nature of particular political offensives like the present one.

Petersen's ban on street marches is not a random, isolated act, explicable only in terms of the mythology which has grown up around his "irrationality". Neither is it simply a further erosion of “civil liberties", affecting all individuals equally; nor is it just another signpost to a general “rise of fascism” in Queensland; nor is it part of an electoral strategy designed to provoke a “law and order” campaign - one need look only as far as the gerrymander and the recent electoral redistribution for it to be clear that Petersen does not need this sort of electoral assistance to retain power.

The banning of street marches at this particular point in time is aimed specifically at opposition to uranium mining. On September 1st, three days before the ban was announced, Petersen was asked in the House what response his government would make to Fraser's call for State-Federal co-operation over the gathering of information on political activists. After saying that his government would of course assist in any way it could, Petersen went on to report to Parliament on the political composition of the anti-uranium demonstration on August 20th. This demonstration, at Hamilton Wharf in Brisbane, where uranium was being loaded for export, was very violently broken up by police. Petersen named each of the left organisations - and others, including church groups and individuals with professional links with the ALP - present at the demonstration, and denounced the anti-uranium movement as "communist

Two days after the ban was announced, Petersen said. “We were warned that anti-uranium demonstrations like the one in Sydney today were planned in Brisbane. That's why this action has been taken.(Courier-Mail, 6/9/77)

But to recognise that the particular thrust of the ban is directed against the anti-uranium movement does not mean that Petersen's action is not part of a wider strategy, a strategy that goes beyond simply getting uranium out of the ground and out of the country, a strategy with a significant relation to Fraser's own response to the present economic crisis.

High unemployment and the fall in the level of real wages are by-products of the process of re-organisation the Australian capitalist economy is currently undergoing.

The significance of uranium mining for Petersen lies in the fact that it stands in a sense for the interests of mining capital as a whole. Queensland does not have very large known uranium reserves. It does have very large deposits of most other ores and minerals,

The significance of uranium for Fraser lies in the fact, first of all, that the Federal Government is backing the Ranger project to 72% of total outlay. Ranger will be the first new uranium mine to go ahead, and the Federal Government has already spent as well as pledged a considerable amount of public money. Crucially, however, the projected energy needs of the world capitalist economies have dropped by almost 50% in the past nine months, because the original estimates were made prior to the international capitalist recession, and the rate of recovery has been considerably slower than expected. Coupled Coupled with a significant re-orientation with a significant re-orientation of industry in Germany and other highly industrialised capitalist economies towards low energy intensive forms of production, this means that not only will it be effectively unnecessary for Australian uranium to be mined before 2000 AD, as currently projected needs can be met by mines already in production, but also the price of uranium will fall drastically by 1985. Therefore Fraser must get Australian uranium, particularly the Ranger project, out and sold as quickly as possible to make current investment profitable.

Petersen and Fraser fear a number of things about the uranium movement. They fear the possibility of united action by opposing organisations on any question; they fear the possibility of continuing growth of the anti-uranium movement, even if it results only in an electoral swing away from Fraser, at federal level; and they particularly fear a campaign based on united action by a popular mass movement and the unions.

The ban is aimed specifically at preventing this unity, by ensuring that unions, and particularly the left wing of the unions, who could use weapons specific to them as workers - strikes, bans, etc - could be isolated from the support of a broad based mass movement whose major political weapon is the right to march.

The right of unions to organise in defence of the economic interests of workers is not a basic Democratic right in the sense that freedom of assembly is, but a hard-won gain. And the right of unions to organise is under severe attack in Queensland, in other States and at federal level.

Significantly, however, Queensland is leading the way. Amendments to existing industrial legislation enacted in 1974 made it possible for employers and government to bring civil actions for damages against unions. Both Utah and Petersen are presently bringing an action of this kind against the Seamen's Union, over the Hay Point dispute, Ted Zaphir, a Toowoomba SPU organiser, was convicted on a criminal charge “causing a detriment to an employer, the first time that such a charge has been laid in Australian history, for merely acting on the basic principles of trade union organisation. Five other union organisers are presently facing similar charges. Petersen is currently seeking the deregistration of the Seamen's Union, specifically, over its dispute with Utah, although the dispute is technically at an end.

Why is Petersen spearheading the offensive? Because of the structure of the Queensland economy, which is increasingly dependent on mining, with little heavy industry and declining rural production. Bjelke-Petersen is well placed to conduct an offensive which will benefit capital as a whole on behalf of that particular section of capital whose interests he represents - mining capital. Fraser cannot afford to take the lead because he is in a far more vulnerable position electorally. But he will follow.

From 'Queensland Dossier', Second Edition.

Queensland Solidarity Group,

232 Castlereagh Street, Sydney 2000.

Ph. (02) 827-3857.

Queensland Civil Liberties Co-ordinating Committee,

PO Box 99, St. Lucia, Qld. 4067.

The Queensland Tapes were begun after initial contact with two of the individuals involved in the Queensland group; but to offset any criticism of them as bourgeois individualists, the tapes were not begun at their bequest but rather inspired by their commitment. The tape makers, Luce Pelissier and Jeune Pritchard secured a grant from the AFC, $5,300 to cover air fares, colour portapak hire, stock and edit costs. The project has grown with each flight into Queensland. The more information, the broader the tape.

We began covering street marches, having our equipment bashed by Special Branch, which put us out of action for the remainder of that day. From here we moved into talking with organisers for the Seamen's Union, the history of the dispute with Utah, covering the picket lines outside the Utah Building, and talking with Australian seamen when they docked at the Brisbane wharves.

Within the tape we have attempted to cover the following areas of repression under the National Party in Queensland. These include the areas of unions, education, women and health, Aboriginal land rights in Aurukun and Mornington Island, and the development of civil liberties groups in smaller townships (the town we chose was Mt Isa. The choice of Mt Isa also enabled us to refer back to the industrial unrest of 1964-65 when Bjelke Petersen was then Police Minister).

The areas of information had grown so broad during the course of the shoot that we did consider making several separate tapes; but have decided to stick to the original decision of presenting a broad picture of the current political nature of Queensland and attempting to relate this to the rest of Australia.

What did come through quite strongly in the course of this tape was the disunity of the left, the divisions between the Socialist Workers Party, the Communist Party, the various Trades and Labour Councils, splits between unions, women and Aboriginal groups. The Civil Liberties Co-ordinating Council has been unable to achieve a unity between parties opposed to National Party policies. The tape only begins to explore these splits, the divisions are articulated but not really analysed.

More time proportionally has been spent on the Aurukun/Mornington Island segment of the tape. The Aurukun segment is shot several days prior to the threatened takeover of the reserve, when politicians flew in hourly promising to stand by the people, not to allow the takeover. The rest is media history. The Federal Government backed down in the face of National Party pressure and the two reserves are now under the jurisdiction of Mr Russell Hinze, Minister for Local Government in Queensland. The future of the two reserves, now designated shires, is anything but secure.

In the tape we've tried to explore the motivations of both the federal body, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) and the State Department of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs (DAIA).

This is countered with extensive interviews with the Tribal Council and local tribal people. It seems as though it may be possible to release the Aurukun/Mornington Island segments as a separate tape with the material that has already been shot.

The following extract from Queensland Dossier indicates the treatment of Aboriginal people in the state.

When justifying the over-crowding of state accommodation for Aboriginals last year, Mr Bjelke-Petersen stated that blacks from all over Australia were migrating to Queensland because they envied the conditions Queensland痴 Aboriginal population lived under.

Blacks do get special treatment in Queensland. They are the subject of special legislation, the notorious Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Acts. The Acts provide for the aboriginal reserves dotted throughout Queensland - reserves invariably managed by state appointed white staff. Although the Government makes much of Aboriginal Councils elected by the reserve communities, one has only to examine the power of the state-appointed managers to see the reality of Council decision making.

Blacks can only remain on reserves at the discretion of the manager, even if their family has lived there for generations. To stay there, they need a permit issued by the manager - a permit which can be revoked without appeal. Under the legislation, white officials can control the reserve aboriginals' finances so that they can't get any money from bank accounts or wages without permission. And, thanks again to the Acts, the wages paid are set by the State Government outside and far below Australian Arbitration Commission rulings. As a result, on the Yarrabah reserve in 1973 cooks got $10 a week, tractor drivers $10, office assistants $8, and truck drivers $18.

As well, the manager was empowered to select occupations: “All able-bodied persons over the age of fifteen years residing within the community reserve shall, unless otherwise determined by the manager, perform such work as directed by the manager or person authorised by him.”

If they didn't do as they were directed, there was always the Aboriginal police - appointed and subject to dismissal by the manager.

The police are backed by special courts for Aboriginals, which are established on the reserves and which have similar powers to the magistrates courts. The powers might be the same, but the procedures are different. Under the legislation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement Department District Officers can represent blacks in court - whether the blacks agree or not. In places like Normanton, Cloncurry or Croydon, the local District Officer is also the local policeman. It follows that an Aboriginal defendant can find that both the defence and the prosecution are police. Not many get off.

Jeune Pritchard


Queensland Dossier was shown at:

1: Videozone: Ozone Cinema, Paddington Town Hall, July 9, 1978.

2: Video Mayfair: Film-makers Co-op, May 4-20, 1979.

3: Videotapes From Australia, travelling exhibition, November 1979 – mid-1980.

1: The video was launched at Videozone in July 1978, although I am sure it was already well in use before then. Gabrielle Dalton reviewed the video shown at VideoOzone for Camera & Cine, August, 1978, 65-67.2 Her comments on it are extracted here.

“Jeune Pritchard has been for some time making independent video tapes on current political and social issues. With Jennifer Neil, she made “In Moral Danger” as a visual submission for the Human Relations Commission; “Keep The Politicians out of our Panties for the Victimless Crimes Seminar; and “Sandra Wilson” for the Women Behind Bars protest about her case.

"The Queensland Dossier" Part I, a sixty minute tape, was shown for the first time at Videozone. (Part II is still in production). It is a documentary, on which she has been working since late 1977, which aims at recording the political situation in Queensland as it is happening now; a situation which will have significant effects on the whole Australian political situation in the future. It was made with assistance from The Australian Film Commission, the only video to have received such a grant.

While there is quite a lot of written work being done in this area, there is very little independent visual material outside the news coverage, which captures the more sensational aspects - in short, fragmented clips. Part I of “The Queensland Dossier” deals with Aboriginal rights, Womens' rights, education, and the Civil Liberties Movement. “The tape attempts to analyse the failure of the opposition to effectively combat the National Party's rise to power.” It is comprised of definite segments on each issue, giving the people concerned the opportunity to state their feelings, their political reactions, and the possible future repercussions they foresee.

Aboriginal people from Arukun and Mornington Island, and the State and Federal authorities involved in the issue, were interviewed. On Mornington, children were shown gathered under trees, learning the songs and dances of their culture from the Elders, a part of the school programme which the people themselves have instigated. Annie Chong explained: “If we ever lose that - the knowledge to be able to go out bush, then we lose everything. It will mean all these things will be lost from our children, because then they will step right into European styles. Points were clearly made about the bauxite deposits of Arukun and Mornington, and the obvious motivations for trying to contain the Aboriginals in small towns, to stop them spreading into their own tribal lands.

The march for civil liberties was shown with the subsequent violent police arrests, with a quote from the Premier superimposed: “The day of the street march is over. Don't bother applying for a permit. You won't get one.”

The Education issue revolved around the Right Wing movement which has effectively opposed new educational programmes (notably S.E.M.P.), which were recommended by the State Minister for education but rejected by the Premier. The leader of the movement, supported by Mrs Bjelke Peterson, epitomizes conservative Queensland society. Her book, “New Education: The Radicals are After Your Children", has been launched as part of her campaign. Interviewed, she expressed herself against the teaching of “pagan cultures” in schools, and cited an example of teaching about Eskimos in a comparative context with Western society. She further elucidated: “Freedom is the invitation to sin.”

The video brought all these issues together in a very forceful summing-up sequence. Clearly showing the inter-relationship of all these issues, John Freeland of the Queensland Teachers Federation, stated: “There is a capitalist crisis in Australia, which is geared to a winding up of the mining industry ... corresponding to the downfall in our manufacturing industries. The big companies are looking toward mining possibilities in Queensland in the future - therefore the immense capitalistic political motivations behind all these repressions being exercised by the Government at the moment. They have beaten down trade unionism, and aim at a totally docile conformist society with a complying workforce, company controlled towns like Mt Isa, without problems from Aboriginals demanding their rights to land.”

2: Video Mayfair, May 4-6, 1979.

extracted from: Film News, May 1979, p.10

Queensland Dossier

Duration: 43 mins. Producers: Jeune Pritchard, Luce Pelissier, Sydney, February, 1979.

“This videotape examines the implications of the street march ban and the pattern of systematic political and civil repression which the Queensland Government has instituted during its past decade in power.

The tape was compiled from material shot during the time of the street march ban - from the first huge anti-uranium march in late 1977 (when over 400 people were arrested) through to the Trades and Labor Council sponsored demonstration and march of December 1978.

The tape-makers Jeune Pritchard and Luce Pelissier have attempted to demonstrate that the Government's attacks on Aborigines, women, trade unions and even the state education system are not the random acts of an aberrant hillbilly regime, but rather parts of a concerted plan to lay Queensland wide open to exploitation and profiteering by multi-nationals mining corporations over the silenced voices of blacks, environmentalists, unionists and all those opposed to this massive sell-out of Australian resources.

The tape is organised into several sections:


In June 1976, the Queensland cabinet cut off all funding to women's health centres, refuges and the rape crisis centre.

This action took place in the context of Bjelke-Petersen's open support for reactionary women's groups such as Women's Action Alliance which promotes the ideal of keeping women in their homes (helping to obscure the fact of growing female unemployment).

Abortions are virtually unobtainable in Queensland except for the rich. Most women are forced into expensive interstate trips to Sydney or resort to backyard abortionists.


Reactionary pressure groups have successfully persuaded the Queensland government to ban the progressive study courses SEMP and MACOS from the state education system. These social science teaching materials are available in every other state school system, but summarily banned in Queensland without any consultation with the Education Department.

Bjelke-Petersen wants the state education system to place more emphasis on "technical education", claiming that there are people in the Education Department "who don't know what the government want the children taught" (i.e. a fundamentalist Christian philosophy based strictly on the heterosexual nuclear family unit).


Multinational mining companies are gearing up for further expansions into Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

To continue attracting large scale capital investment, the Queensland Government offers particularly generous terms including the tacit promise that it will contain and repress any black land rights demands.

The Bjelke-Petersen government is bitterly opposed to Aboriginal land claims, but attempts to disguise its aim of cultural genocide by claiming that black efforts to establish and maintain an independent culture based on their essential relationship to tribal land is a form of 'apartheid'.

The Federal Government has betrayed its pledge to protect Aborigines by failing to oppose the Queensland Governments ferocious attacks on. the peoples of Aurukun and Mornington Island.


The Trade Union movement in Queensland has been placed under threat by the promised Right to Work legislation (in effect, the right to scab legislation). These laws would give employers the right to employ non-union labor, to exclude union organisers from the shop floor, and would give all workers the right to claim any privileges won by the unions.

In spite of this threat to the very existence of unions in Queensland, the Trades and Labor Council has never publicly supported a direct action of mobilisation.

One of the few unions to militantly support the Civil Liberties movement in Queensland is the Seaman's Union which has been under direct threat of de-registration because of its dispute with Utah Mining, (a subsidiary of General Electric) over the right to employ Australian workers on Utah ships.

May 1979

3: Videotapes From Australia, travelling exhibition, November 1979 – mid-1980.

Catalogue entry:

"The day of the political street march is over. Anybody who holds a street march, spontaneous or otherwise, will know they are acting illegally. Don't bother to apply for a permit. You won't get one. That's government policy now!" Bjelke-Petersen, Courier Mail, 5/9/77.

On September 14th, 1977, an amendment to the Queensland Traffic Act which regulates the system of permits for marches, was pushed through State Parliament, removing the right of appeal from the courts and putting the power of refusal directly in the hands of the Police Commissioner.

The withdrawal of the right to march in the streets is directly linked to the Queensland State Government's intention to repress any opposition to the mining of uranium in the north.

This videotape examines the implications of the street march ban and the pattern of systematic political and civil repression which the Queensland Government has instituted in its past decade of power. The tape was compiled from material shot during the time of the street march ban - from the first huge anti-uranium march in late 1977 (when over 400 people were arrested) through to the Trades and Labor Council sponsored demonstration and march of December 1978.

The tape-makers have attempted to demonstrate that the Government's attacks on Aborigines, women, trade unions and even the state education system are not the random acts of an aberrant hillbilly regime, but rather part of a concerted plan to lay Queensland wide open to exploitation and profiteering by multinational mining corporations over the silenced voices of blacks, environmentalists, unionists and all those opposed to this massive sell out of Australian resources.


The producers: Like all people actively opposed to the Queensland Government, the tape-makers have been harassed, photographed, interrogated and finally arrested while filming the December, 1978 march. The rules are somewhat different for safari-suited male television crews. Jeune Pritchard and Luce Pelissier are both anarchists working in videotape and film. Luce has worked for several years as a house painter and building labourer and more recently as a sound recordist in video and film. Jeune worked for several years as a researcher/interviewer with ABC-TV, spent a year researching cable television in the U.S.A., and has worked extensively in video and film. She was director of the National Video Resource Centre, Paddington, over 1977-78.


compiled by Stephen Jones

1Tom Zubrycki, “& now, the 'Public Evidence' show.” Filmnews, May 1979, p.12.

2Gabrielle Dalton, “VideoOzone: a Review” Camera & Cine, August, 1978, 65-67.

cover image of Queensland Dossier promo.
cover image of Queensland Dossier promo. 
Still frame from Queenlsand Dossier
Still frame from Queenlsand Dossier 
Still Frame from Queensland Dossier.
Still Frame from Queensland Dossier.