The Queensland Speaks Project

Queensland Speaks is a free website that presents the extraordinary personal and political world of decision making in Queensland over the past 40 years. It aims to enable students, researchers and the general public to gain some understanding of political and bureaucratic decision making in Queensland from the 1970s to the end of the Beattie Government in 2007.

Through interviews with key politicians and senior public servants the website enables you to listen to accounts of progress, change and sometimes of backsliding. Personal friendships and enmities are revealed against a backdrop of official corruption, factional wars and political survival.


You can listen to former Premiers Ahern, Cooper, Goss, Borbidge and Beattie talk frankly about their achievements and their failures. You can hear the heads of government departments speak about why particular decisions were or were not made, which government ministers they worked well with, and which they did not. Some also talk about what it was like to be sacked and what they did next.

While politicians are often in the limelight, senior public servants rarely court it. In this project where both were interviewed, listeners can gain a deeper understanding of the personal and political imperatives behind key decisions by successive Queensland governments.

The website contains some interviews with other individuals who are well placed to comment about Queensland, including academics who have worked on government reviews and office holders in political parties, including some of the central participants in the reform of the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party in 1980. 

It is a dynamic website and interviews will be added as the project progresses. 

Most interviews last between one to three hours and were recorded on archival quality high resolution digital audio recorders following the protocols established by the National Library of Australia Oral History Section.

Memory and Content

The interviews cover a substantial time span, and many of the interviewees are retired.  Memory is fallible and listeners may find minor inaccuracies in the testimony of interviewees, especially in terms of exact dates of a particular sequence of events. People wishing to delve further should use our Text Queensland website, which contains both the Queensland Political Chronicles from 1955 to 2007, the most authoritative source on this period and a link to Hansard at the Queensland Parliamentary Library, now digitised from 1981 to the present.

Interview Summaries and Keywords

Queensland Speaks is an oral history resource and visitors are encouraged to listen to the voices of those who have participated in shaping Queensland’s political landscape over the last forty years. The interviews allow listeners to hear the nuances of tone, tempo and even silences. To increase the accessibility of the interviews, they are accompanied by time summaries and keywords.

While some names, places and organisations are listed in the interview summaries and keywords not every term or event that an interviewee mentions is listed. The search box will allow users to find terms listed in the summaries and the keywords will allow for links to be made between interviews, particularly for major events, like specific elections or major areas of public policy, from debates about education to the water crisis of the early twenty-first century. Nothing, however, will better listening to the actual interviews.

Queensland Speaks Symposium 2011

The Queensland Speaks Symposium, held on 3 November 2011 at the University of Queensland, gathered together about 30 thinkers and practitioners involved in Queensland’s political history. These included contributions from Peter Ellis, Ross Rolfe, Joan Sheldon, Lesley Clark, Robin Sullivan, Leigh Tabrett and Mike Ahern, and commentary from Peter Spearritt, Danielle Miller, Paul Williams and Rae Wear. Themes addressed include women in government, government spending, leadership, and the role of oral history.

During the session Symposium Part 1 Oral History, you can listen to both interviewers and interviewees discuss aspects of the oral history process.


Participants often use acronyms, abbreviations and key phrases in their interviews. To increase the useability of the site a small glossary is included to explain some of the key acronyms and terms. This is by no means a complete list. The information provided in the list drew on information from the Australian journal of politics and history’s Queensland Political Chronicles as well as other government and academic sources.


Users will find short biographies associated with each interviewee. The biographies are designed to contain key information about the individual’s career as it relates to Queensland politics. They are not intended to provide an assessment of the person or a complete life history. The research team has largely drawn on Who’s Who, the Queensland parliamentary website, government websites and the Queensland Political Chronicles contained in the Australian journal of politics and history to produce the short biographies. 

End User Agreement

All interviews and material on the website is Copyright © The Centre for the Government of Queensland, the University of Queensland. No permission is given to rebroadcast the audio material in any format. All opinions expressed in the interviews by the subject remain the responsibility of the interview subject.

The copyright holder of this material, the University of Queensland, grants users permission to access the material on this website for the following purposes only: research and study, education, other non-commercial and non-public uses.


Researchers can cite the interviews by using the project name, the permanent URL, together with the time code, eg Centre for the Government of Queensland, Queensland Speaks, 2011, www.queenslandspeaks.com.au/lawrence-springborg, 00.17.54-00.19.31


The Queensland Speaks project was produced by the Centre for the Government of Queensland, the University of Queensland. The project is supported by a research grant from the Queensland State Government. The initial impetus for the Centre for the Government of Queensland’s projects came from Ross Rolfe, Peter Beattie and John Hay.

General Editors: Professor Peter Spearritt, Dr Marion Stell & Dr Danielle Miller

Queensland Speaks Advisory Committee: Emeritus Professor Roger Scott chaired the Advisory Committee on the Queensland Speaks project, comprised of interviewers, listed below, and Mary Seefried, the Queensland Parliamentary Librarian.

Interviewers: Professor Peter Spearritt, Emeritus Professor Roger Scott, Professor Brian Head, Dr Rae Wear, Robin Sullivan, Dr Ann Scott, Dr Danielle Miller, Chris Salisbury, Maree Stanley, Susan Yarrow, and Dr Suman Ojha. The following University of Queensland Summer Scholars 2010/11 also conducted interviews: Amanda Acutt, Casey Northam, Kezia Griffin, and Micheline Astley-Boden. For more detailed information on the interviewers see the Interviewer tab.

Website Development and Design: Hank Szeto, Thinking Cap

Graphic Design: Bright Yellow

Photography: Carl Warner