News of the Nineties

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Locals protest in Mount Isa against the Queensland Daylight Savings experiment which was ended in 1992 after three years.

The year 1990 got off with a terrifying bang but a nurse would become an unlikely hero. On January 30 a patient entered the Mount Isa Hospital’s psychiatric department and fired two shotswith a .30-30 Winchester rifle. As people panicked and screamed the patient threatened to shoot anything or anybody that moved. As he was distracted by police gathering at the door, nurse Mike Reynolds saw his chance and knocked the man down.

On March 18, 1990 there was the sad news that Bob Katter snr had lost a long battle with cancer and died aged 71. Katter was set to retire having decided not to recontest his seat of Kennedy in the March 24 election. The city of Mount Isa closed down for his funeral on March 20 at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church. He had served on Cloncurry Shire Council from 1946-1967 and held the seat of Kennedy from 1966-1990. Labor Rob Hulls, a Mount Isa solicitor and councillor, won the seat at the 1990 election.

On April 10, 1990 Ron McCullough was elected unopposed as mayor when Tony McGrady resigned to concentrate on his state MP duties.

Kathy Swift of the Leukaemia Foundation was named Mount Isa citizen of the year on Australia Day 1993.

That year too Mount Isa Mines opened Hilton Mine, its “mine for the 21stcentury” named for former general manager Charlie Hilton.

There was a horror smash on the Barkly Hwy near the Clem Walton Park turn-offon June 26. Two people died when their van collided with a bus bound for Mount Isa.

In January 1991 the entire town of Normanton was threatened with evacuation by defence force helicopters to Mount Isa or Cloncurry after monsoonal rains flooded the Norman River. Some said it was the worst flood since 1974.

Bill Presley was on the Cloncurry Shire Council in the early 1990s.

On Australia Day 1991 Alex Inch Oval witnessed its first game under lights with a match between Mount Isa and the Newcastle Knights. The visitors were given an early fright before running clear to win 24-0.

Later in the year Mount Isa’s private Selwyn Hospital was forced to close its doors indefinitely when private tenders fell through.

Tony McGrady ended 1991 on a good note when being promoted minister for resource industries becomingthe youngest member of the Wayne Goss government.

Summer always brings unpredictable weather and New Year’s Day 1992 began with cyclonic winds at 120kph ripping through Mount Isa damaging many buildings including the Overlander Hotel and Kmart Plaza.

In 1992 Riversleigh National Park was declared to protect its fossil heritage over the objections of local landholders and opposition leader Rob Borbidge who called the move “unprecedented and inappropriate”. It was named a World Heritage site in 1994.

In 1989 Queensland brought in experimental daylight savings and after three years the matter came to a referendum in 1992. While DST was popular in the south-east, it was hated everywhere else. On February 15 deputy premier Tom Burns held a public rally in Mount Isa against in and five days later Mount Isans appeared on the ABC Queensland 7.30pm Report to debate the matter with Brisbanites.The referendum was held on February 22, with the question“Are you in favour of daylight saving?”and was defeated with a 54.5% ‘no’ vote.

Aboriginal man Kelvin Condren was jailed for life in 1984 after a forced confession where he admitted the murder of Patricia Carlton in Mount Isa on September 30, 1983. He served seven years before the Criminal Justice Commission heard new evidence that the victim was seen alive while Condren was in police custody for being drunk and disorderly.The conviction was quashed after the then-Queensland Attorney-General, Dean Wells, had the new evidence presented to the Full Court.

On June 18, 1992 a man walked into Mount Isa House on Camooweal St and placed a bomb detonator on the filing cabinet. Police evacuated 2000 people and cordoned off nearby streets while bomb disposal experts from Townsville were flown in to defuse the bomb. The man was later caught and charged.

On July 2, 1992 the Salvation Army announced it had purchased the former Selwyn Hospital on Transmission St and would convert it into a rehabilitation centre. It was opened as Selwyn Lodge the following year.

Kathy Swift from the Leukaemia Foundation won Mount Isa’s citizen of the year in 1993 with Bronwyn Staddon the junior citizen of the year.

In 1993 Mayor McCullough proposed the idea of building a nuclear reactor research facilityin the city creating up to 4000 jobs. Other ideas canvassed in a regional study included a fertiliser plant and a gas to liquid fuel conversion plant which could proceed if a gas pipeline ever came to the city.

On March 21, 1990 the body of a missing27-year-old Sunshine Coasthelicopter pilot, Mark Barlowwas found lying in a clearing by a roadside near the Corella River. A man involved in multiple murders and kidnappings in three states later admitted to the murder.

Former Mount Isa junior tennis prospect Pat Rafter, now 20, made it through to the second round of Wimbledon, an event that caused almost as much excitement as the opening of Mount Isa’s first McDonald’s that winter of 1993.

Mount Isa Mines ended 1993 on a bad note retrenching 63 staff while another 116 took voluntary redundancy. However in 1994 it was revealed the Mount Isa district had granted almost a billion dollars in mineral production. A feeling of confidence grew with the opening of a high-tech piggery and the one-million-tonne Osborne copper-gold mine. A second commercial TV station was mooted as was a regional economic development zone from Mount Isa to Townsville.

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