We don’t really do political assassinations in Australia, not physical ones anyway. The death of NSW state MP, John Newman, in 1994 is the only claimed actual assassination. Attempted assassinations are almost as rare – Prince Alfred in 1868 and Arthur Calwell in 1966 both dodged death and that’s about it.
But yesterday Clive Palmer announced there had been another attempted assassination. And not just one attempt, but three on the same man: the 1986 Queensland deputy premier, Bill Gunn.
Palmer told an Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia lunch in Brisbane that Gunn had been shot at three times by police trying to prevent the establishment of the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
“No-one knows about that,” Mr Palmer added. Well, they didn’t until now, if it’s true.
Palmer told the lunch he was involved in the National Party in cleaning up the government. Followers of the Palmer story might have previously heard that he was involved in the “Joh for Canberra” campaign, which might have been somewhat at odds with what Bill Gunn and Mike Ahearn were trying to do in relieving the crooked Joh Bjelke-Petersen of his control of Queensland.
It was while Bjelke-Petersen was distracted by attempting to takeover Canberra that Gunn chaired the 1987 cabinet meeting that agreed to set up the Fitzgerald inquiry in the wake of corruption disclosures by The Courier-Mail and, subsequently, Four Corners.
It is rather hard to understand how a deputy-premier could be shot at three times and that be kept a secret, until now. Or it doesn’t say much for the marksmanship of Queensland police.
Bill Gunn died in 2001, having shared with Ahearn the rare achievement of being prepared to do what was best for the state rather than their political party.
Clive Palmer at various times has also said that Wendy Murdoch was a Chinese spy, the CIA funds the Greens and that Campbell Newman is bi-polar.
Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor.