JANUARY 31, 1987 was supposed to be just another day in Wagga.
But a rally at the old Eric Weissel Oval that day would turn the nation’s political landscape on its head, with controversial Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen announcing to the country he was running for prime minister.
A new book, hitting bookshelves this week, from former Daily Advertiser journalist turned National’s federal director Paul Davey reveals much of the behind-the-scenes rancour that followed the shock announcement.
“There seemed to be a growing view among conservative people that the Coalition government just wasn’t good enough,” he said.
“Quite a few people saw the opposition, then led by John Howard and Ian Sinclair, as a hangover from the Fraser years.”
Mr Davey worked at the Advertiser as a cadet in 1966 before moving on to Canberra as a parliamentary reporter for Australian United Press.
On that fateful January day, Bjelke-Petersen told a crowd of more than 2000 in front of the recently demolished Schnelle-Harmon stand he was “starting a bushfire” that would spread across the country.
The new book details internal National Party meetings from the height of the crisis as well as Bjelke-Petersen’s own take on what went wrong.
Mr Davey’s book, titled Joh for PM, is available from bookstores for $29.99.
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