Fouras vies for Speakers' job

by Chris Griffith
Published 3 September 1995 in The Sunday Mail


my face


Rank and file Labor Party members in the Ashgrove electorate yesterday threw their weight behind their local ALP member, dumped Speaker Jim Fouras. They said they were not perturbed should Mr Fouras challenge the party on the floor of state parliament next week and nominate for his old job.

They said the decision was entirely his.

While few would go on the record, members privately were scathing of the party's treatment of Mr Fouras since the election, saying it was as big an issue to them as his demise as Speaker.

Brian Timms, who this year directed Mr Fouras's re-election campaign, said he was reluctant to discuss what was an internal party dispute.

"He's been a good member, and it's for Jim to decide what he does. What he does is his own decision."

However sources said Mr Fouras had been unceremoniously dumped at the time Premier Wayne Goss had said he had taken "castor oil" and was ready to listen to branch members and the electorate.

Sources said Mr Fouras had been verbally abused when he was told he wouldn't be Speaker, and no effort was made to negotiate with him to accommodate his wishes.

Several members said the party could not afford to play a game of brinksmanship and expel Mr Fouras should he "jump ship" and stand against Mr Palaszczuk. They said to expel him would be "an act of suicide" as the government would be throwing away its one-seat parliamentary majority.

"It would be blowing your brains out," one party member said. "While Jim's in the party at least he can be locked into Caucus decisions."

However the most senior socialist-left member of the state ALP administration, assistant general secretary Peter Shooter, said he was confident Mr Fouras would not nominate for Speaker, if his track-record for loyalty was any guide.

"Jim has been through a tremendous amount in the Labor Party. He suffered the loss of pre-selection in 1986 and he's always stayed loyal to the Labor Party. I'm confident he'll do the same now."

It is not the first time Mr Fouras, a non factional independent, has had his career blunted following factional deals.

In 1986 he won the local plebiscite narrowly against Anne Warner for the seat of South Brisbane, but a factional deal in favour of another independent, Dean Wells, saw him loose out. Ironically both Mr Fouras and Mr Wells were the victims of the deals after this year's July 15 election.

Party sources said the government's personal dealings with Mr Fouras since the election, and its cavalier approach when elevating new blood to the ministry were mistakes it could not afford to make with a one-seat majority.

The president of Mr Fouras's Labor Party branch at The Gap, David Mapstone, said branch members had expressed the view that Mr Fouras should run as Speaker, although no formal motion had been taken on the issue.

Mr Mapstone, a close political confidant who has known Mr Fouras for 25 years, said most branches that contacted him said they would be upset if the party ever resorted to expulsion to discipline Mr Fouras should he throw his hat into the ring.

"There'd be a revolution if that occurred!" he said.

"There's more of an encouraged view for him to run, and it's not just from branches in his electorate. It's from branches in the metropolitan area and in the bush as well."

However Mr Mapstone said he was not in as position to say whether Mr Fouras would run or not.

"I've been in touch with him, but I can't say what his intentions are."

He said the government's rough handling of Mr Fouras since the election had galvanised rank-and-file support behind the former Speaker.

"I think that's got under the skin of branches and lots of the community groups he has contact with, for example, the Greek and Polish communities.

"It's certainly their understanding that Jim has been treated poorly."

Mr Mapstone criticised Mr Goss for making a copy of the Premier's letter to him public; he said he was the only person to receive the letter and he'd not given his copy to anyone.

He said his own letter supporting Mr Fouras sent to factional leaders, the Premier, and Prime Minister Paul Keating had also been leaked. He said it urged Mr Fouras's reinstatement as Speaker.