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A tribute to Sir Joh

By Lawrence Springborg - posted Thursday, 5 May 2005

Sir Joh was a great man indeed, in my estimation Queensland’s greatest. Sir Joh, or just Joh as he was affectionately known by thousands of Queenslanders, had a deep and abiding faith in God and an absolute commitment to his family.

This strong Christian faith and absolute commitment to his family underpinned and guided the values which Sir Joh not only believed, but also practiced in his day to day life - either in his early upbringing, with its associated pre-depression hardships, or his battle with polio or his daylight to midnight work ethic, which he practised as a young man and later as an MP, a minister and the Premier.

Sir Joh believed absolutely, that you mean what you say and you do what you say.


These values drove an enormous energy, which achieved extraordinary things within the community, whether it be local, state, or for that matter nationally.

He was this State's longest serving premier and that was no accident. Sir Joh was the architect of modern Queensland. Sir Joh became premier in the year that I was born and was premier for the first two decades of my life. Therefore his effect on me was profound.

I like many of my colleagues were drawn to his values and his no-nonsense get-on-with-the-job style. Even if you disagreed with him, you respected him, because he knew were he stood on every issue. On balance you could be assured that what he did would be good for Queensland and would be good for Queenslanders.

In the last week, the usual grab bag of historical revisionists, who questioned Sir Joh’s contribution in life, continue to question it after his passing. If they are having trouble understanding his success, it is as simple as this. Sir Joh knew what was important to the everyday Queenslander and delivered what was important to everyday Queenslanders.

This grab bag of historical revisionists would never accept his success, because it was outside their self cloaked paradigm of intellectual superiority. These historical revisionists, who will never achieve even 1 per cent of his extraordinary legacy, should never be taken seriously.

The only people that never make a mistake are the people that never do anything. To be successful in politics, you must understand what people actually want - to have an affinity for them and with them and to deliver for them.


Sir Joh was a man of the people, who delivered like no other premier, for the people. During Sir Joh's premiership, Queenslanders wanted safer communities. Sir Joh delivered safer communities.

During Sir Joh’s premiership, Queenslanders wanted a free hospital system, which was efficient. Sir Joh delivered a free hospital system, which was efficient.

During Sir Joh’s premiership, Queenslanders wanted a low tax state. Sir Joh delivered a low tax state.

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This is an edited version of the tribute delivered by Lawrence Springborg, Leader of the Opposition, Queensland, at the funeral for Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen on May 3, 2005.

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About the Author

Lawrence Springborg is Opposition Leader and the National Party Queensland member for Southern Downs.

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