Soapbox Speakers

Brisbane

Morton Bay (Brisbane) was a convict colony until convict transportation to the place stopped in 1840. After that, Kanakas (workers from the Pacific Islands) were lured to Queensland under the pretext of indentured labour, to replace the convicts.

Queensland was administered by New South Wales until 1859, and then Queensland became a self-governing sovereign British colony with its own army and navy and immigration policy. Its first parliament met in May, 1860. Morton Bay had a small white population of 25,000. A tiny elite of powerful graziers controlled parliament.

The graziers favoured coolie labour and wanted the land clear of Aborigines.

The Queensland army occupied Southern New Guinea to stop German expansions in the 1870’s, and in the 1890’s was preparing a war against striking shearers. The shearers objected to the coolie labour and were preparing for a rebellion. In 1893 Mother Nature intervened just in time. Three cyclones hit Queensland at once, causing one million pounds worth of damage. The revolution was cancelled.

Queensland’s boast is that it had the first Labor government in the world! It lasted one week in 1899.

Under federation in 1901, the colony ceded its power in foreign affairs and trade to Australia.

Free speech in Queensland was hard fought for, and not guaranteed until 2010 when the Queensland government dedicated a Speakers’ Corner to celebrate 150 years of parliament in Queensland. It is in the George Street forecourt, just outside of Parliament House.

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