Contributed by Glen Davies
The Commonwealth Games is about to start on the Gold Coast and it will be the first time the Commonwealth Games have been held in Queensland since 1982.
Queensland at that time was under the rule of the corrupt Bjelke-Petersen LNP Government. Civil liberties were trampled; indigenous Australians outcast in their own land. Queensland was seen by many around the world as not too dissimilar to Apartheid South Africa, or the ‘deep south’ of America. Opposition to the government and their reactionary legislation was growing not just onthe domestic front, but abroad, twelve months out from the Games, a boycott was being rumoured by African, Caribbean and Asian countries, due to a South African rugby tour of New Zealand. With the Moscow 1980 Olympics Games had been affected by boycotts, the threat for Brisbane was real.
A crisis meeting in May 1982 in London, resolved that there would be no boycott. With this threat petering out, the LNP government set about tackling domestic opposition.
A Commonwealth Games security bill was introduced in the 12 months lead up to the Games. It allowed police to detain people for 48 hours without charge, a ban on any protest during the games, increased fines, gave the police power of entry without a warrant. All this come on top of an increase of $10 million in the police budget. In a nutshell, basic civil liberties in Queensland were suspended during the Commonwealth Games.
Yet opposition was strong. Indigenous Australians, trade unions, progressive minded people were prepared to defy this draconian legislation. Across the Tasman many Maoris expressed their support for those opposing these laws. Ai number of African governments whose nations were participating in the Games spoke out about their concerns, looking at pulling out of the games.
Back in Australia ticket sales were down, .as opposition to the reactionary regime grew stronger. However, the Games went ahead. Demonstrations without permits were held in Brisbane. The police brutally sought to stop them. While the British royal family watched the launch of their games, protestors stood strong against the brutality confronting them.
The eyes of the world watched the behaviour condemned the racism and brutality showed by the police.
The Bjelke-Petersen government and was subsequently condemned to the dust bin of history.
Indigenous Australians in Queensland have made some progress; civil liberties have improved, with the overt corruption fading away.
Another Commonwealth Games is being conducted in Queensland. How will history judge these ones?