Updated: Jan 18
Joh Bjelke-Petersen was the the longest-serving Premier of Queensland from 1968 to 1987. He was a member of the Country Party (now National Party) and his Premiership was well known for institutional corruption. This corruption was revealed to the public as a result of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, headed by Tony Fitzgerald, which also lead to the downfall of Mr. Bjelke-Petersen's premiership. He died in 2005 aged 94.
Cabinet documents, released in 2018, revealed that the Queensland Government spent thousands of dollars funding Mr. Bjelke-Petersen's defamation actions against the ABC, Cairns Post, Daily Sun, The Courier Mail, The Age and 4BC. In total, Mr. Bjelke-Petersen filed more than 20 defamation cases.
Mr. Bjekle-Petersen also sued the Nine TV Network for defamation in 1983, originally demanding $1 million. In 1985 the case was settled resulting in the network paying out $400,000. Alan Bond, then-owner of the network, claimed in a later television interview that Mr. Bjelke-Petersen had told him the payout was necessary if he wished "to do business in Queensland."
During his time in office, Mr. Bjelke-Petersen also launched defamation actions against opposition MPs using taxpayer funds. In one instance in 1986, the entire Queensland Country Party cabinet sued the opposition leader, Nev Warburton and his deputy, Tom Burns, for calling the party 'corrupt'.
Griffith University researcher, Jennifer Menzies stated that "the defamation actions were about shutting down anyone who brought up issues around corruption, including the media and opposition."