What I've been reading
Johnno by David Malouf. The main interest for me was the setting, the Brisbane of the 40s and 50s, starting out as a combination of overgrown country town and sleazy wartime garrison town, then gradually metamorphosing into the repressed provincial city that I remember from visits in the 70s and 80s. Malouf mentions the closure of the brothels (where the protagonist creates some havoc) as an instance of this.
Of course, brothels and gambling dens continued to operate with the protection of corrupt police. This ultimately led to the collapse of the seemingly invulnerable Bjelke-Petersen government following the Fitzgerald Commission.
There’s not much left of either of the Brisbanes Malouf describes today. In fact, Brisbane seems both more sophisticated and softer-edged now than in the past.
The old country town and provincial capital were, it seems to me, grimmer and less friendly than the new city, with notoriously brutal police and an entrenched social hierarchy. The old police culture was pretty much destroyed by the Fitzgerald Commission, and the beneficial effects seem to have been more persistent than in NSW, where successive waves of reform have washed over the entrenched bedrock of corruption dating back to the First Fleet.
Brisbane’s private-school ruling class (of which the characters in Malouf’s book are on the periphery) is still around, but it’s been swamped by migration and rendered largely irrelevant by the shift of corporate headquarters to Sydney and beyond, leaving government-owned enterprises as the only really big businesses in town. With Labor in office, and (despite recent troubles likely to stay for some time, I think) the old ruling elite has money but not much power.