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Hinze, Russell James (Russ) (1919–1991)

by Brian F. Stevenson

This article was published online in 2014

Russell Hinze, by Peter Rasey, 1985

Russell Hinze, by Peter Rasey, 1985

State Library of Queensland, 571488

Russell James Hinze (1919-1991), dairy farmer, businessman, and politician, was born on 19 June 1919 at Oxenford, Queensland, second of three children of German-born August Carl Friedrick Hinze, farmer, and his Queensland-born wife Georgina Ann, née Dodds. After attending several state schools, Russ worked on his father’s milk run from age twelve until his late teens. He then bred Friesian cattle at Oxenford and acquired a horse stud at Pimpama. On 6 December 1947 at St Peter’s Church of England, Southport, he married Ruth Elizabeth Byth, a shop assistant.

In 1950 Hinze became the chairman of directors of the South Coast Co-operative Dairy Association and its subsidiaries. He served as Albert Shire chairman (1958-67), and in 1966 was elected to the Queensland parliament as Country Party—National Country Party (NCP) from 1975; National Party of Australia from 1982—member for the electorate of South Coast, winning over 80 percent of Australian Labor Party (ALP) preferences. In 1968 he nominated (Sir) Johannes (Joh) Bjelke-Petersen for deputy leadership of the parliamentary CP.

Early in his career Hinze demonstrated his unsubtle individuality. In the Legislative Assembly he railed against modern plays which appeal ‘to those who could be regarded as sexually deprived or homosexuals, lesbians, wife-swappers or spivs’ (Qld Parliament 1969, 146). When the Liberal Party of Australia (LPA) challenged him at the 1969 election, he stunned and horrified his coalition colleagues by arranging a one-off preference deal with the ALP; he easily retained his seat. Following demonstrations in Brisbane during the 1971 South African rugby team’s tour of Australia, Hinze, a cricket enthusiast, warned in parliament that if South Africa’s cricket team ever toured Queensland and was met with similar behaviour ‘there will be no need to worry about the demonstrators. I will do them over myself’ (Qld Parliament 1971, 362). In November 1973 he argued on national television for capital punishment and castration of rapists, suggesting that, were the wrong man castrated, ‘modern medical science being what it is, they might give him a better one than he started with’ (Wells 1979, 84).

Dissatisfied with the government’s poor public image, Hinze was one of four parliamentarians who in October 1970 requested Premier Bjelke-Petersen to resign. Forewarned, the premier marshalled the numbers to survive and the coup failed. Hinze later denied intentions to unseat Bjelke-Petersen and became his staunch supporter, referring to him soon after as ‘a mighty little Premier’ (Qld Parliament 1971, 367). He made no secret of his ambition to be in cabinet and reputedly advanced his cause by strolling past the premier’s office singing in full voice:

‘Joh-ee, Joh-ee,
hear my humble cry,
oh when others thou art calling,
do not pass me by.’
(Qld. Parliament 1991, 14).

Appointed minister for local government and electricity in October 1974, two months later Hinze relinquished the electricity portfolio but acquired that of main roads. In July 1980 he took on the additional portfolio of police, which he gave up in December 1982 in favour of the portfolio of racing, earning him the nickname ‘the Minister for Everything’ (Qld Parliament 1991, 6). According to (Sir) Robert Sparkes, Hinze was a strong minister ‘very much in control of his departments. He doesn’t let his public servants ride over the top of him’ (Trundle 1977, 4). Hinze once said, ‘Making decisions is the most satisfying thing under the sun’ (Australian 1991, 4).

At a congress of the Urban Development Institute in March 1977, Hinze claimed that he had told Bjelke-Petersen, ‘If you want the boundaries rigged, let me do it and we’ll stay in power forever’ (Wells 1979, 87). He subsequently protested that his comments were a joke, and that if there was a gerrymander in Queensland, it was the ALP that benefited. Much later he admitted that the boundaries were rigged in favour of the NCP (Morley 1989, 9). Divorced in 1980, on 27 June 1981 at the Albert Street Uniting Church, Brisbane, he married his former electorate secretary, Fay Jeanette McQuillan.

As minister for local government, Hinze allowed local authorities to maintain their autonomy, and amended the Local Government Act to give them extra discretionary powers. He stated in 1984, ‘I intend government controls over local authorities be kept to the barest minimum, and unnecessary red tape be eliminated’ (Locgov Digest 1984, 17). He was sceptical of the worth of the Federal Office of Local Government. Reversing the legislation of a previous NCP-LPA administration, in 1984 he introduced the bill for the election of local authority mayors by popular vote.

Hinze’s performance as minister for main roads was exceptional. Many roads were sealed and rendered usable all year round, vehicle registration costs were reasonably contained, and his policy of allowing departmental engineers a high degree of autonomy in dealing with local councils expedited proceedings considerably. Among his monuments were Brisbane’s Gateway Bridge, the Logan Motorway, and the Gillies Highway.

Particularly relishing the racing portfolio, Hinze spent government money profusely on new grandstands and racing centres, many of which were in remote locations and seldom used. Controversially, he negotiated the Racing Development Corporation’s purchase of Albion Park racecourse for $9 million, closing the sand gallops circuit and funding its conversion into a pacing centre, a project marked by cost blowouts. His knowledge of racing came as a breeder of racehorses and pacers. His galloper, Our Waverley Star, was narrowly defeated in the 'race of the century', the 1986 W. S. Cox Plate. When the Opposition asked Bjelke-Petersen in parliament how he could justify the choice of Hinze for racing minister when he owned one of the largest racing stables in Queensland, the premier replied that a declaration of interests would cover the situation.

While police minister Hinze contended that there were no illegal casinos in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, although at the Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct (the Fitzgerald inquiry) a retired licensing branch inspector claimed to have taken him around the area, pointing out places where gambling was taking place. Hinze said that he had been told that the only games taking place ‘were between Yugoslav, Italian and other ethnic groups playing cards’ (Roberts 1987, 2). A self-confessed corrupt policeman admitted deceiving him by telling him the illegal casinos were ethnic clubs. Hinze vehemently denied allegations made at the Fitzgerald inquiry that he had visited brothels, and he requested that parliament be recalled so that he could clear his name (Forrest 1988, 3). Bjelke-Petersen relieved Hinze of the police portfolio on 6 December 1982 because Hinze had clashed with Sir Edward Lyons, a National Party trustee and chairman of the Totalisator Administration Board (TAB) over the Board's funds. On the same day, however, Hinze said he was stepping down because it was becoming too much work. He did not reveal the actual circumstances until some years later (Smith and Green 1988, 1).

After the election of 1983, several new ALP members of parliament decided to make a special project of examining Hinze’s business affairs. Known as the Special Hinze Investigation Team (or its acronym) the group made a co-ordinated effort through the future premier, Wayne Goss, to pursue Hinze. Goss used leaked information from Lyons to show that Hinze had improperly pressured the TAB to award a sub-agency licence to one of his companies. The new TAB chairman subsequently withdrew the licence. Goss baited him relentlessly in the Legislative Assembly on this and other business issues. Shaken, Hinze said he would retire from politics at the next election. While he quickly rescinded the decision, he never recovered from the mauling. Confronting Goss in private, Hinze asked him, ‘Why don’t you go after some of those other bastards? They are much more corrupt than I am.’ Goss agreed to do so if documents were provided but Hinze just laughed (Wanna and Arklay 2010, 566). He continued to hold three portfolios until December 1987 when the incoming premier, Mike Ahern, did not include him in cabinet. Ahern told him that evidence linking him to starting-price bookmaking was expected to surface at the Fitzgerald inquiry.

Hinze’s last years were bitter and troubled. Refusing to accept his backbencher’s salary and electoral allowance, he donated the money to the Children’s Hospitals Appeal. He felt aggrieved at being asked to stand aside for ‘a reason which has not been proven’ (Voisey 1988, 12). He boycotted subsequent sittings of parliament although he was said to be handling electorate matters. Defeated in a last-ditch attempt to become deputy premier in April 1988, he resigned from parliament in May.

During the by-election campaign for his old seat Hinze attacked Ahern, claimed that the Queensland electoral boundaries were rigged, and blasted Commissioner Tony Fitzgerald for ‘political naïvety’ and as a ‘two-bob each way expert’ (Morley 1989, 9). He called the Fitzgerald inquiry ‘a bloody exercise in major political blunder’ (Siracusa 1990, 28). Inquiry testimony showed that while minister he had received $1.5 million in interest-free loans from various entrepreneurs and developers who were assisted in turn with favourable ministerial decisions. He told the inquiry that his ministerial conduct in these dealings was ‘at worst, less than ideal’ (Weekend Australian 1989, 8).

Although Hinze claimed that the inquiry showed no connection between any politician and an actual corrupt activity, he was charged in December 1989 on eight counts of having received a total of $520,000 in corrupt payments (Dunn 1991, 5). He had claimed an income of $360,000 per year, a figure that he said rendered him unsusceptible to bribes, although a political opponent asserted that many of Hinze’s properties were mortgaged (Stewart 1979, 7).

For medical reasons, including angina and the inability of his knees to bear his weight, Hinze was initially excused from appearing in court during his committal hearing. In a legal battle over his fitness to stand trial it was revealed that he was terminally ill with bowel cancer. Although a Supreme Court judge said it was probable he would die before a trial, it was ruled that he had to face committal proceedings. The corruption charges became a secondary concern to Hinze who, gravely ill, said ‘I’ve been sentenced by the Lord’ (Charlton 1991, 10).

Survived by his wife and the six children of his first marriage, Hinze died on 29 June 1991 in Allamanda Private Hospital, Southport, before he could stand trial. After a funeral at Southport Uniting Church he was buried in Lower Coomera cemetery. He left an estate worth $12 million, but liabilities resulted in it being declared bankrupt in November. Although he died without being found guilty in a court of law, a businessman, George Herscu, had earlier been gaoled for five years on charges of bribing him.

A very large man, Hinze was described as having ‘his 20 stone [127 kg] body angled Roman style, elbow crooked, head in hand, lazing like an Erskine Caldwell senator from the deep south’ (McGregor 1978, 15). His voice was likened to blue gravel being tumbled along the bed of a turbulent stream. He had few qualms about his appearance. In January 1984 he had posed shirtless at a beer-belly contest, horrifying the health authorities and being dubbed ‘Supergut’ by Britain’s Sun newspaper (Times 1991, 16).

Bluntness and apparent indifference to conflict of interest were hallmarks of his career. In 1985 he denied that owning 167 racehorses while minister for racing and having interests in gravel companies while minister for main roads constituted conflicts of interest. ‘For Christ’s sake,’ he said to one journalist, ‘Do you want a Racing Minister who doesn’t know anything about the game?’ (Charlton 1991, 10). His public statements depicted him as ‘a racist, tammanist, chauvinist and vengeful authoritarian,’ but he was well liked by constituents, popular with parliamentary colleagues, and successful in business (McGregor 1978, 15). Hinze himself said he wanted ‘to be remembered for the Gateway Bridge and . . . for the many, many thousands of miles of road that I’ve built throughout Queensland’ (Siracusa 1990, 28). His public prominence was second only to that of Bjelke-Petersen in an era of Queensland politics that produced effective, colourful, and larger-than-life characters.

Research edited by Brian Wimborne

Select Bibliography

  • Australian. ‘Larrikin Accepted No Judge But God.’ 1 July 1991, 4
  • Charlton, Peter. ‘Big Russ Leaves Larrikin’s Legacy.’ Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 1 July 1991, 10
  • Dunn, Rosalind. ‘Hinze, from Poverty to Power.’ Sunday Sun (Brisbane), 30 June 1991, 5
  • Fitzgerald, G. E. (Chairman). Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct. Brisbane: Government Printer, 1989
  • Forrest, Brad. ‘Hinze Denies Brothel Trip.’ Sun (Brisbane), 3 February 1988, 3
  • Locgov Digest. ‘Address by the Hon. R. J. Hinze, M. L. A.’ 10, no 5 (December 1984): 17
  • McGregor, Adrian. ‘The Man on Joh Bjelke’s Right.’ National Times, 28 April 1978, 15
  • Morley, Peter. ‘Fitzgerald Probe Wrong.’ Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 13 July 1989, 9
  • Noud, K. Keith Noud Recalls, 193-197. Brisbane: Boolarong Publications, 1986
  • Queensland. Legislative Assembly. Debates. vol. 251, 21 August 1969, 146
  • Queensland. Legislative Assembly. Debates. vol. 257, 2 September 1971, 362, 367
  • Queensland. Legislative Assembly. Debates. vol. 319, 16 July 1991, 6, 14
  • Roberts, Reg. ‘Senior Police Misled Me, Says Hinze.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 5 November 1987, 2
  • Siracusa, Joe. ‘Interview: Russ Hinze.’ Playboy, February 1990, 28
  • Smith, David and Lisa Green. ‘Joh Axed Me, Says Hinze.’ Sun (Brisbane), 16 November 1988, 1
  • Stewart, Andrew. ‘Battle of the Heavies.’ Sun-Herald (Sydney), 14 October 1979, 7
  • Times (London). ‘Russell Hinze.10 July 1991, 16
  • Trundle, Peter. ‘The Man Who Calls a Spade a Spade.’ Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 6 April 1977, 4
  • Voisey, Mark. ‘Big Russ is Huge Problem for Premier.’ Sun (Brisbane), 10 March 1988, 12
  • Wanna, J., and T. Arklay. The Ayes Have It: The History of the Queensland Parliament, 1957-1989. Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2010
  • Weekend Australian. ‘Hinze Conduct “At Worst, Less Than Ideal”.’ 11-12 February 1989, 8
  • Wells, D. The Deep North. Collingwood: Outback Press, 1979.

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Citation details

Brian F. Stevenson, 'Hinze, Russell James (Russ) (1919–1991)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hinze-russell-james-russ-15165/text26353, published online 2014, accessed online 24 September 2017.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

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