Ross Fitzgerald: Dispute after academic paid $900,000to write history of Queensland

Historians in the News

THE furore over an official history of Queensland has spread to Parliament, with the Opposition accusing the Premier of wasting taxpayers' money.

Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney joined a growing band of critics questioning the legitimacy of the $900,000 taxpayer-funded book deal awarded to Griffith University academic Ross Fitzgerald.

Dr Fitzgerald scored the plum job to write a new history of Queensland to commemorate the state's sesquicentenary in 2009 without a public tendering process.

Mr Seeney used Question Time to chide Premier Peter Beattie over the deal, which has already raised eyebrows in academic and publishing circles.

"Why has the Premier given almost $1 million to Ross Fitzgerald, another Labor mate, without a tender process to write a history of Queensland when Raymond Evans, described as the state's most eminent historian, has just published the book A History of Queensland at no cost to the taxpayer?" Mr Seeney said.

Mr Beattie told Parliament that Dr Fitzgerald's book would prove a vital public asset."I make no apology for ensuring that a definitive history of Queensland is written as part of our great state's 150th birthday celebrations," he said.

The Opposition criticism comes in the wake of an attack on Dr Fitzgerald this week by Brisbane Institute executive director Kay Saunders.

Dr Saunders, a former professor of history at the University of Queensland and ex-wife of Dr Evans, said Dr Fitzgerald was the wrong man for the job.

She insisted Mr Evans' A History of Queensland, published by Cambridge, rather than Dr Fitzgerald's new work, would come to be regarded as the definitive text.

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