This history of the politics of moves towards school-based management in Queensland Education is located within a broader historical and political analysis of such moves across Australia since the Karmel Report (1973). The paper then specifically focuses in on developments in Queensland. The Queensland analysis traces the moves from Labor's Focus on Schools (1990) through the Coalition's Leading Schools (1997) and the most recent Labor rearticulation in the document Future Directions for School-based Management in Queensland State Schools (1998). The analysis demonstrates that the concept of school-based management has no stipulative meaning, but rather is a contested concept. More generally, the paper provides an account and analysis of new forms of governance in educational systems and the tension between centralising and decentralising tendencies as school-based management is adopted in order to address a number of competing policy objectives.