The Cane Toad Times. On show 5 November 2011 - 25 March 2012. Poking fun in a police state

The beginning

"The greatest thing that could happen to this State – and the Nation – is when we can get rid of the media. Then we could live in peace and tranquillity, and no one would know anything."

So said Joh Bjelke-Petersen, shortly after he was forced to resign as Premier of Queensland in December 1987. The media had played a crucial role in his downfall, particularly the ABC Four Corners program 'The Moonlight State' which aired in May 1987 triggering the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

But wind back to the early days of his premiership starting in 1968 and the mainstream media was generally uncritical, if not downright supportive of Bjelke-Petersen. As his premiership progressed, Joh became more extreme. He ranted about the evil 'gays, greens, blacks and reds'. He preached law and order to quash political dissent giving the police extraordinary powers.

The street march was a popular form of dissent in the 1960s and 1970s. It was even legal so long as a permit was secured. Marches from the St Lucia University of Queensland campus were frequent – escalating after 29 July 1976 when a student was beaten on the head with a baton. Against this backdrop, the first issue of Cane Toad Times was released in May 1977.

In September 1977, Bjelke-Petersen announced that "the day of street marches is over... Don't bother applying for a march permit. You won't get one. That's government policy now!" The next month, more than 400 people were arrested for marching illegally.