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Eric Shackle Writes: Famous Australian Family

"Australia’s Bjelke-Petersens have hit the headlines with reports of their activities in both State and Federal politics for 60 years,'' writes Eric Shackle.

Bjelke-Petersen is the name of a famous Australian family of both Danish and Swedish descent. The common ancestors of the Aussie family were Georg Peter Bjelke-Petersen, a Danish farmer and master-builder, and his wife Caroline Vilhelmine , whose maiden name was Hansen. They migrated to Australia with their children in 1891. Born plain Petersen, Georg hyphenated his name in the 1860s.

Australia’s Bjelke-Petersens have hit the headlines with reports of their activities in both State and Federal politics for 60 years.

Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was a peanut farmer who became premier of Queensland from 1968 to 1987. He was the member for Nanango from 1946 to 1950 and for Barambah from 1950 to 1987. He was Georg Peter Bjelke-Petersen's grandson.

Flo (Florence) Bjelke-Petersen, Joh Belke-Petersen's wife, represented Queensland in the Australian Senate between 1981 and 1993, serving as Deputy Leader of the National party in the Senate between 1985 and 1990;

John Bjelke-Peters, Joh Bjelke-Petersen's son, was pre-selected in November 2005 as the candidate for the seat of Nanango at the 2006 state election for the National party. He lost the election to Independent member, Dorothy Pratt. He also stood unsuccessfully for the Nationals at the 2009 state election 2009 and was again defeated by Independent member, Dorothy Pratt.

Hans Bjelke-Petersen (1872–1964) founded the Bjelke-Petersen School of Physical Culturein 1892 – as of 2005, there were 180 associated clubs throughout Australia. He was Georg Peter Bjelke-Petersen's son

Marie Bjelke Petersen (1874–1969) was an Australian novelist. Note the lack of a hyphen in her version of this name. She was Georg Peter Bjelke-Petersen's daughter.

John Bjelke-Petersen, son of that clever, crafty, and controversial Queensland premier, Sir Johannes (Joh)
Bjelke-Petersen (1911-2005) will contest the seat of Maranoa for Clive Palmer’s new political party in Australia’s national election on September 14.

Sir Joh, a peanut grower, used to refer to his media conferences as “feeding the chooks.” Some of his other favourite sayings, often gleefully repeated by Queenslanders, were:

"Don't you worry about that"

"Goodness gracious, I know what you're trying to do."

"Just you wait and see."

"Let me tell you, what is good for Queensland is good for Australia."

On unionism in his maiden speech on August, 1947: "It is a form of treachery and can only lead to economic upheaval of a severity not often experienced."

On industrial relations: "The 40-hour week has given the opportunity to many to while away their time in hotels."

On John Howard and Ian Sinclair during his Joh for PM campaign in 1987: "You can push a 44-gallon drum of molasses up a hill easier than you could push these two fellas."

On the Joh for PM campaign: "I'm a bushfire raging across the country." And when it failed: "I never really wanted to go anyway."

On former Chinese leader Mao Zedong: "Red is red wherever it is - and I don't trust any of them."

On finances under Gough Whitlam: "Australia is bankrupt. It is even worse than that."

On human rights: "What's the ordinary man in the street got to do with it?"

On condoms: "We don't want any of that sort of thing up here."

On press criticisms: "The greatest thing that could happen to the state and nation is when we get rid of all the media ... then we could live in peace and tranquillity and no one would know anything."

Then there were these often caustic comments about Joh:

Gough Whitlam in 1974: "(He) is a Bible-bashing bastard - the man is a paranoic, a bigot and fanatical."

Former ALP national president Barry Jones: "He is the Ayatollah of the north: How can you have an open debate in the Kafka-like atmosphere of secrecy and cronyism of Joh-style politics?"

Prime Minister John Howard on the Joh for PM campaign: "Tropical cyclone Joh has already petered out."

When I was a soldier in WWII, my unit, 1 Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers, was camped for several months at Murgon, a small town in Joh’s electorate, not far from his home town, Kingaroy. Several of my mates made nocturnal visits to his farm and helped themselves to some of his peanuts. Eaten raw, without being roasted and salted, they were horrible.

Years later. when I was a public relations executive, I invited Sir Joh to declare open a new factory in Queensland built by one of our clients, Meggitts Ltd., manufacturers and marketers of linseed oil. He readily agreed to do so, and read a speech I’d written and was guest of honour at a dinner Meggitts laid on for their local growers.

Digressing for a moment, Henry William Meggitt (1852-1928) migrated to Australia in 1895. He was involved in the linseed oil business in England, and his son Harold Meggitt (1881-1949) pioneered the linseed oil industry in Australia.

Harold established the firm of Meggitt Limited. He resigned from this company in 1917 and in 1923 opened another business known as Harold Meggitt Limited, specialising in linseed oil manufacture and associated products. It functioned until 1966 when it was taken over by Pacific Safflower (Australia) Pty Ltd, which was itself taken over by Meggitt Limited in 1973.

Harold Meggitt was a pioneer of profit-sharing in Australia, and claimed that the lack of strikes at his plant was the result of an equal sharing of surplus profits between shareholders and employees.

Returning to the Bjelke-Petersen saga. Joh’s wife, Lady Florence (always called Flo) was famous for her pumpkin scones, which she made and sold in the family home.

Photo: Lady Flo and her pumpkin scones: http://www.cookerandalooker.com/lady-flos-pumpkin-scones


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