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Bidders battle for Bjelke-Petersen estate

Bidders for loved and loathed Queensland politician Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s personal possessions have paid record-breaking prices at auction.

The estate of the Sunshine State’s longest-serving premier and his wife, Lady Florence, went under the hammer, with more than 800 items all sold.

“Last night we saw some special and important pieces of history and memorabilia sell for prices not seen before,” Lee Hames of Lloyds Auctions said on Wednesday.

One of the most sought-after items was a signed 1969 post-moon landing world tour luncheon schedule signed by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and former Prime Minister John Gorton. It sold for $39,000.

Sir Joh’s Stetson Swagger hat fetched $5000, his 1982 Jaguar Saloon sold for $14,500 and the briefcase he used on a daily basis as Premier of Queensland went for $3000.

Lady Flo’s cake tins also caught plenty of attention before selling for $410 for a set of two. While a ceramic soup spoon with the beloved former first lady’s famous pumpkin scone recipe inscribed on it sold for $224.

A silver platter presented to Sir Joh and Lady Flo from Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to commemorate the 1982 Commonwealth Games sold for $7250.

“The items tell many important stories about Australia’s history and in particularly Queensland’s growth and how it came to be the state it is today,” Mr Hames said.

The auctioneers received thousands of bids for the items, including some from across the Tasman in Sir Joh’s native New Zealand.

But many items could be deemed Australian Protected Objects by the federal government and may not be allowed to leave the country due to their historical significance.

Sir Joh became premier in 1968 and led the Country Party then National Party government for 19 years. He was knighted in 1984.

He was a controversial political figure attracting strong support from conservative supporters, who praised his tough “law and order” stance and his government’s infrastructure plans.

However, critics railed against his authoritarian style and later revelations of institutional corruption.

Sir Joh retired from politics in 1987 following damaging findings from the Fitzgerald inquiry into police corruption. He died in 2005 aged 94.

Lady Flo also served in politics, spending 12 years as a Queensland senator. She died in 2017 aged 97.

Their children sold the collection, which was kept at the Bjelke-Petersens’ home, Bethany, near Kingaroy north of Brisbane.

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