DEBATE IN THE QUEENSLAND LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
4 MARCH 1999
NOTICE OF MOTION
Mr BEANLAND (Indooroopilly:LP)(10.15 a.m.): I give notice that I shall move:
"That this House (a) condemns the Goss Labor Government for destroying documents pertaining to the Heiner Inquiry and thereby covering up evidence of child abuse and paedophilia within the Queensland juvenile justice system; (b) direct the Beattie Labor Government to establish an independent commission of inquiry, separate from the Forde Commission of Inquiry, to investigate the destruction of these documents and the subsequent allegations of former Labor Cabinet Minister, Mr Pat Comben, on Sunday, 21 February 1999, that goss Labor government ministers were aware these contained evidence of child abuse and paedophilia; and (c) calls on Ministers Mackenroth, Gibbs, Hamill, Braddy and Wells to make a full disclosure of their involvement in this matter, to this House."
Mr BEANLAND(Indooroopilly:LP)(10.27 a. m.): The issue of the Heiner documents is one that has now plagued the Labor Party for nine very long years. It is an issue borne out of contempt and one which will continue to smell until the Beattie Labor Government is prepared to establish a full independent inquiry that gets to the bottom of this whole sorry saga.
In Government, the coalition commissioned barristers Morris, QC, and Howard to investigate whether it was in the public interest to conduct a public inquiry into the Heiner affair. Those barristers, in expressing the need for such an inquiry, also stated that the then Opposition Leader, Mr Beattie, had stymied their investigations by failing to give them access to relevant Goss Government Cabinet documents. In refusing access, Mr Beattie joined a long line of Labor Party members who have been seeking to (4 Mar 1999 Questions Without Notice Hansard P225) cover up for the maladministration of the first Goss Labor Government. Labor has been hoping in desperation that Heiner would go away. Like all rotten carcasses, the stench of this will never go away. It has taken the confessions of a former Labor Minister, Pat Comben, on an episode of the Nine Network's Sunday program to once again draw attention to the smell that has been wafting around Labor corridors since the beginning of 1990. Neither Premier Beattie nor any of his colleagues can ignore the fact that Mr Comben has given credibility to the suspicion that by shredding the Heiner documents the Goss Labor Government covered up for child abusers and paedophiles.
The coalition wants this matter resolved once and for all. The coalition supports the establishment of a full independent commission of inquiry to determine once and for all whether the Labor Party covered up this matter. Mr Beattie and his 44 parliamentary Labor colleagues owe it to the people of Queensland to come clean and resolve this issue in the interests of accountability and good honest Government.
(Hansard P282 Heiner Documents 4 Mar 1999)
Mr BEANLAND (Indooroopilly: LP)(6 p. m.): I move:
"That this House:(a) condemns the Goss Labor Government for destroying documents pertaining to the Heiner Inquiry and thereby covering up evidence of child abuse and paedophilia within the Queensland juvenile justice system; (b) direct the Beattie Labor Government to establish an independent commission of inquiry, separate from the Forde Commission of Inquiry, to investigate the destruction of these documents and the subsequent allegations of former Labor Cabinet Minister, Mr Pat Comben, on Sunday, 21 February 1999, that goss Labor government ministers were aware these contained evidence of child abuse and paedophilia; and (c) calls on Ministers Mackenroth, Gibbs, Hamill, Braddy and Wells to make a full disclosure of their involvement in this matter, to this House."
The issue of the Heiner documents is one that has plagued the Labor Party for nine very long years - nine long years during which the smell of this whole affair has only become worse. However, recent claims by a former Labor member for Kedron, Mr Pat Comben, have forced the Opposition to revisit this matter in the interests of good and open government.
This motion is about accountability. It is about determining whether or not the 18 Ministers of the first Goss Labor Cabinet committed a criminal offence by shredding the Heiner documents. Most importantly, this motion is also about determining whether the members of that Cabinet destroyed evidence of child abuse and paedophilia. That is now the issue. It is about child abuse and paedophilia. It is about the contents of those documents.
This motion is certainly not a witch-hunt. It relates to an issue of paramount importance to the people of Queensland, and in particular to the victims of child abuse, who are only now - nine years later - being given the opportunity to seek justice from the people who violated their freedoms and liberties. In this respect the comments of Mr Comben cannot be ignored.
As we all know, Mr Comben is a former senior Minister of the Goss Government. He is a man with formal legal qualifications, a man of very high public standing. He stated on national television - "In broad terms we were all made aware there was material about child abuse. That there was material which was said to be highly defamatory and it was accepted on face value that if this matter was of such concern to have got to a level of a cabinet decision then those allegations must have had considerable merit and substance."
When a man of such standing says that on national television, action needs to be taken. These comments suggest that someone somewhere is covering up for the fact that child abusers and paedophiles were let off the hook by the Goss Labor Government. Even Mr Comben's supposed clarification raises concern. What would prompt a man of such integrity and high standing to say, "The lesson I should learn is not to be so honest, which is fairly sad"? Honest to whom?
I have stated before and I will state again that the coalition supports the establishment of the Forde commission of inquiry. That is an important inquiry and the Opposition looks forward to cooperating with the Government in the implementation of Commissioner Forde's recommendations. It is important, however, that the matters being investigated by Commissioner Forde are kept quite separate from those matters dealt with in this motion.
The Opposition remains very firm in its opinion that the proceedings of the Forde inquiry must not be distracted by issues which do not directly relate to the elimination of child abuse in Government and non- Government institutions in Queensland. That is why this motion seeks to establish an independent commission of inquiry, separate from the Forde commission of inquiry, to determine whether child abuse and paedophilia were swept under the carpet by the decision of the Goss Labor Cabinet. That is the issue. Child abusers and paedophiles are the lowest form of life. Any Cabinet that turns a blind eye to material about this type of activity should be condemned and treated with contempt.
In Government the coalition commissioned a report by barristers Howard and Morris, QC, to determine, amongst other things, whether it was in the public interest to conduct an inquiry into this matter. In concluding their report, Messrs Howard andMorris recommended that:
"It is in the public interest of the State of Queensland that a public inquiry be conducted to investigate and report on the matters of concern which we have 4 Mar 1999 Heiner Documents 283 identified arising out of the allegations made by Mr Kevin Lindeberg and such an inquiry should be established."
It must be noted that Mr Beattie, the then Leader of the Opposition, stymied the investigation by refusing a request of the then Premier, Mr Borbidge, to provide the barristers with access to relevant Cabinet documents. This simple action prevented Messrs Howard and Morris from finalising their investigation and, more damningly, ensured that no public inquiry could be convened. The now Premier well knows it.
If the Premier is truly committed to open and accountable Government, I challenge him to support this motion. I challenge him to stop actively trying to prevent the people of Queensland from finding out whether any present or former Labor Party Ministers were responsible.
Mr BEATTIE: Mr Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I find those remarks offensive and untrue. All of the Cabinet documents have been tabled in this Parliament. I seek for that to be withdrawn.
Mr BEANLAND: What I indicated
Mr BEATTIE: I asked for it to be withdrawn. It is not true.
Mr BEANLAND: I withdraw. The Leader of the Labor Party refused in this House to make those documents available to Messrs Morris and Howard. He should not try to wriggle out of it. What a rort you are, you two- faced
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is unparliamentary. I ask the member to withdraw and apologise.
Mr BEANLAND: I withdraw and apologise. It is unfortunate that the now Premier cannot tell the truth and that he tries to mislead the people of this State. He will not get away with it. Those documents were not made available to Messrs Morris and Howard.
Mr BEATTIE: Mr Speaker, I rise to a point of order. Those documents have been fully tabled in this Parliament. I find those comments offensive and untrue and I seek that they be withdrawn.
Mr BEANLAND: I withdraw. As I said, they were not made available to Messrs Howard and Morris at the time and the Premier cannot deny it. It is no wonder he is trying to weasel out of this today. They were not made available. The now Premier refused in this Parliament to make those documents available. They are the facts of life. That simple action prevented Messrs Howard and Morris from finalising that particular investigation. It is obviously now too late for the Premier to wriggle out of it. If the Premier is truly committed to open and accountable Government, I challenge him to support this motion. I challenge him to stop actively trying to prevent the people of Queensland from finding out whether present or former Labor Party Ministers were responsible for breaking the law and covering up child abuse and paedophilia in relation to these particular documents. Of course, the former Ministers should have nothing to hide. We are led to believe that 18 leading Labor politicians sat around a table and approved the destruction of documents that they knew to be legally sensitive, without one person asking for any details. Mr Comben's comments show that that was not the situation. Are we to believe that Cabinet was just a group of 18 faceless people? That is certainly not the case, given the words of Mr Comben. He said of the contents of these documents:
"In broad terms we were all made aware there was material about child abuse.... individual members of cabinet were increasingly concerned about whether or not the right decision had been taken."
It is also apparent from his remarks that there was a discussion about the contents of the documents after they were destroyed. I find it very hard to believe that none of these Ministers seemingly contemplated the idea of introducing retrospective legislation to protect those documents. Of course, there should have been retrospective legislation. It is easy enough now, in relation to the gaming machine legislation and commercial transactions, to pass retrospective legislation. Labor brought a Bill before this House which contained retrospective provisions. But when it comes to child abuse - no, no retrospective legislation for that; none at all!
Why was the CJC not requested to investigate fully the contents of the documents relating to the whole matter at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre? I am not talking about the shredding of those documents; I am talking about the contents of those documents. That is the issue here: the documents that contained evidence of child abuse and paedophilia. These are the facts of life but, once again, they have been swept under the carpet.
The CJC, which has the responsibility of investigating official misconduct and corruption, should have been investigating this (Hansard P284 Heiner Documents 4 Mar 1999) matter. Any first-year law student would know that. There are a number of lawyers opposite. Three of the Ministers I mentioned are lawyers and, of course, the Attorney-General is one.
Hon. R. E. BORBIDGE (Surfers Paradise: NPA)(Leader of the Opposition) (6.11 p.m.):
I second the motion moved by the honourable member for Indooroopilly and make this observation: this particular issue is not going to go away. Just when people think it is going to go away, there is another revelation, there is another indication, which continues what is a massive question mark over public administration in the State of Queensland. I want to go through some of the matters raised by my colleague and answer some of the interjections that were made by members on the Government benches. It is a statement of absolute fact that, as Premier, I wrote to the then Leader of the Opposition when Mr Morris and Mr Howard sought access to Cabinet documents of the Goss era to assist them in their deliberations. It is a matter of fact that the current Premier, the then Leader of the Opposition, refused Mr Morris and Mr Howard access to those Cabinet documents.
What we have is a chance to clear this up once and for all. I accept that there are many personalities in this. I accept that there are arguments in respect of various people who were involved at the time; that there are conflicting points of view. But if the Labor Party has nothing to hide, why not sort this out once and for all before it becomes the Queensland equivalent of the grassy knoll in Dallas? Why do we not sort this out once and for all? And if no-one has done anything wrong, including honourable members opposite, then let everyone know about it. What is wrong with clearing up this particular issue?
There are another couple of complications. We know that the Premier gave certain assurances in respect of Heiner in the vote of confidence that secured his commission and his Government's legitimacy in the Parliament. I suspect that he also gave certain assurances to the Independent member for Nicklin, Mr Wellington, in regard to the Heiner issue. I know that, in my discussions with Mr Wellington, Mr Wellington raised that particular issue because it was of concern to him.
However, I make the point that there is a very substantial development in all of this. There is a new whistleblower, and the new whistleblower was a Minister of the day. I will read again, word perfect, what he said, and I double-checked it so that I cannot be accused of misrepresenting former Minister Comben. He said:
"In broad terms we were all made aware there was material about child abuse. That there was material which was said to be highly defamatory and it was accepted on face value that if this matter was of such concern to have got to a level of Cabinet decision then those allegations must have had considerable merit and substance."
Those were the words of a former Minister who was there at the time. So if the members of Cabinet were aware, as Mr Comben stated, that the material related to child abuse, why did the then Cabinet not properly reconstitute the inquiry, as it could have done, to clear up the particular issue?
The other point I will make is that I believe that my Government, the previous coalition Government, made a serious error in judgment in not proceeding to a full commission of inquiry when we received the report from Mr Morris and Mr Howard. I believe that we made a mistake by referring that report - that incomplete report at the time, because they did not have access to Cabinet material because the current Premier would not permit it - to the Director of Prosecutions.
I think that Pat Comben should have the opportunity to restate, under oath, what he said on the Sunday program. I think that the other Ministers of the day - and the other players - should have the opportunity, under oath, to state their positions so that once and for all we can remove this question mark over public administration in the State of Queensland. It is really pretty simple at the end of the day: if they have nothing to hide, why vote against this motion?
Hon. P. D. BEATTIE
(Brisbane Central: ALP) (Premier) (6.18 p.m.): I move the following amendment:
"Omit all words after 'House' and insert - 'notes: the establishment of an investigation into management practices at John Oxley Youth Detention Centre by the then National Party Minister, Beryce Nelson; that that Inquiry was flawed and failed to protect those involved from defamation action; that the Goss Government acted on legal advice to protect the head of the Inquiry (4 Mar 1999 Heiner Documents Hansard P285) and those people who had made statements to the Inquiry; that the following bodies have made inquiries into the matter:
(Note, take this link to see how the Premier Peter Beattie misled Parliament on this issue).
No further action was taken as the result of any of these inquiries; That the Coalition Government failed to set up an Inquiry into this issue during its term in Government or, more importantly, child abuse in government institutions; That the Beattie Government has established a properly constituted independent inquiry into child abuse in Queensland institutions."
The bottom line to all this is very simple. There has been only one Government in the history of this State that has established a full and proper independent inquiry into child abuse, and it is my Government. The Forde inquiry has the opportunity - and, in fact, is exercising that opportunity - to undertake a full investigation into child abuse in institutions. If it so wishes - and I understand that it is - it can examine child abuse allegations at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre, which was the basis of this problem.
Let me get to the issue. Is something being done by my Government in relation to child abuse at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre? The answer is: yes. Is there any allegation in relation to child abuse that is not being investigated? The answer is: no. So the issue of child abuse has been dealt with - tick, end of story. Did the National Party, when it was in office last time, do anything about this matter in terms of establishing a judicial inquiry? The answer is: no. In terms of the issues that have been raised by the Opposition, let us deal with them.
Mr Beanland, the shadow Attorney-General, said that I did not provide Cabinet material to the Morris inquiry. I indicated to that inquiry that Cabinet confidentiality is the cornerstone of good government and is an important plank of the Westminster system.
Who agreed with my position? Tony Morris agreed with my position. Tony Morris, QC, the head of the inquiry, agreed with the position I took and said that it was appropriate. He agreed totally, so I acted appropriately. But is that all I did? The answer is: no.
When this issue was raised in the House by One Nation, I came in here and tabled every one of those Cabinet documents. So has anything been denied to the public? The answer is: no. Everyone member of the public knows exactly what is in those documents.
Mr Borbidge: There was no inquiry.
Mr BEATTIE: The Leader of the Opposition had the chance to establish a judicial inquiry. And did he? The answer is: no. Let me move on to the issue of Mr Comben.
Mr Borbidge interjected.
Mr BEATTIE: The Leader of the Opposition is being rude again. As usual, he is defaming the parliamentary process.
Let us deal with the allegations that were supposedly made by Mr Comben, some of which have been referred to by the two Government speakers. I will quote what Mr Comben has said publicly, and not what the Sunday program misrepresented him as saying. He is quoted as saying:
"We were talking about getting rid of these documents because they were
defamatory between the staff members accusing each other of all sorts of things about their professional lives and - wait for it - "it was not about child abuse in any way."
I will read that again - "... it was not about child abuse in any way."
That is the end of the story. We have pulled to pieces every one of the nonsense arguments that have been raised by those opposite. Not only that, Mr Comben has taken legal action because he has been misrepresented. The coalition Government established over 250 inquiries and, in addition, it wasted $14.5m on the Connolly/Ryan inquiry, yet it did not establish an inquiry into this matter. Why? Because there is nothing to inquire into. I make it absolutely clear: not one cent more of taxpayers' money is going to be wasted on this political nonsense involving Heiner. It is finished; it is over. Child abuse is being investigated and political gains are finished.(Hansard P286 Heiner Documents 4 Mar 1999) Not one cent of taxpayers' money is going to be wasted on this nonsense. It is over. The bottom line is that the National Party had a chance to set up an inquiry and it did not take it because there is nothing in it.
Hon. A. M. BLIGH (South Brisbane - ALP) (Minister for Families, Youth and Community Care and Minister for Disability Services)(6.20 p.m.): I second the amendment moved by the Premier. In speaking to the amendment, I have to disagree with the Premier on one point. The Premier said that when in Government the Opposition failed to do anything. I beg to differ: it did plenty.
Opposition members did everything they could to stand in the way of setting up a properly constituted inquiry into child abuse in this State. Their record speaks for itself. First, they are the architects of the flawed Heiner inquiry. In 1989, when there was an opportunity to do something, the now Leader of the Opposition presided over a Cabinet that set up an inquiry that had no protections, despite the fact that they had the legal mechanisms to do so. In the four years that I have been in the Parliament, this question has been considered on a number of occasions. I take members back to 1 May 1996, when the member for Capalaba moved a motion that called on the Government to establish an independent authority to fully investigate accusations of paedophilia in this State. I turn to the record of the vote and what I do see?
Baumann, Beanland, Borbidge - I see the names of the entire coalition voting against the motion of the member for Capalaba to establish an inquiry into paedophilia. On 21 August 1997, the member for Brisbane Central moved a motion calling on the Government to establish a commission of inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act to investigate thoroughly the incidents of paedophilia, having regard to material held by the Queensland Children's Commission, the Queensland police, the CJC and any other body. I turn to the record and what do I see? Baumann, Beanland, Borbidge and every other member of the coalition voted against that motion. Not only did they do nothing in Government but on two distinct occasions when they had an opportunity in this Parliament to vote in favour of an inquiry into child abuse, they chose to vote against it. The Children's Commission legislation was brought into this House in a form that has subsequently proven to be faulty at every turn. The coalition is simply not up to the task of delivering mechanisms to look into these questions.
Tonight members opposite have said that they support the Forde inquiry, but as members will recall, it is not six months since the shadow Minister moved to disallow a regulation that would have allowed the Forde inquiry to access the documents to investigate the John Oxley centre. Who was the architect of the disallowance motion? It was the very shadow Minister who has come in here tonight and called for another inquiry. That beggars belief.
Members should ask themselves whether the accusations being made here this evening are plausible. Is it plausible that, having spent most of their adult lives fighting a corrupt Government, any one of the 18 members of the first Goss Cabinet would have conspired to corrupt the processes of Government to protect a paedophile ring or to protect a child abuser? It is simply not plausible. I do not always agree with the five Ministers who are on trial here tonight. We have had our stoushes from time to time and I am sure that we will have plenty more. However, do I find it vaguely plausible that they would have conspired to corrupt the process of Government? It is not plausible. Its plausibility rating is so low that it does not require one more investigation.
Tonight, the member for Indooroopilly is doing nothing more than the bidding of One Nation. One Nation has dragged this terrible mess up into the public arena for want of any other substantial matter or for want of any serious matters to do with their electorates. The member for Indooroopilly is doing nothing more than trafficking in the filthy conspiracy theories of a moribund and disintegrating organisation. He has become the handmaiden
Mr Fenlon: Puppet.
Ms BLIGH: Indeed, he has become the puppet of the member for Caboolture and the crooked henchmen
Mr BEANLAND: I rise to a point of order. I find that offensive and I ask for it to be withdrawn. Mr Comben raised this issue, nobody else.
Ms BLIGH: I withdraw. He has become nothing more than the handmaiden of the member for Caboolture. The member for Caboolture is the one who wants to move these motions
Mr BEANLAND: I rise to a point of order. I find that offensive and I ask for it to be withdrawn. Mr Comben raised this matter, nobody else.
Ms BLIGH: I withdraw. I suggest that the member for Indooroopilly reads some of the recent transcripts from Commissioner Forde in which she and counsel assisting the inquiry (4 Mar 1999 Heiner Documents p287) had to caution people who have sought to politicise the inquiry by dragging this matter into it. Those people include a certain Mr Moss who used to work for One Nation leader Mr Feldman. I think those comments should cause some members to exercise a great deal of care when they seek to prosecute this matter and drag it into the Forde inquiry.
Mrs LIZ CUNNINGHAM(Gladstone: IND)(6.26 p.m.): I rise to support the motion, although I have some concerns about some of the wording of it. An attempt earlier to amend it has not been successful. However, in an endeavour to clarify her perspective, I have spoken with the Minister for Family Services about the Heiner issue.
One of the things that is most characteristic of this whole issue is that it continues to arise not in a compact form but in a revealing form. Over the last four years of my involvement, more and more information has become available for consideration. The very fact that that is occurring indicates to me - and this is the only issue that is still of concern in my mind - that there will be a point in time when this issue must be put together and an independent person or an independent body must review the material and make a final decision.
There must be a closure. To achieve that result it is proposed that material will be aggregated in one specific area, that it will be examined by a person who is acceptable to all parties and that a final report will be given to allow this matter to either be laid to rest or those elements that are shown to be inappropriate can be dealt with.
Unless this is done, those involved, particularly Mr Lindeberg and Mr Coyne, will never reach closure of the event that has so disrupted their lives. Over the past years Mr Kevin Lindeberg has been in contact with almost all members of this House. Indeed, he has kept in regular contact with my office. In the interest of completeness, I seek leave to table a further document relating to this matter.
Mrs LIZ CUNNINGHAM: This document is Mr Lindeberg's submission to the Forde inquiry. Before anyone becomes concerned that the tabling of the document may compromise the Forde inquiry, I will quote from the covering letter returned with Mr Lindeberg's submission from counsel assisting the inquiry. That letter reads:
"While I understand your very real concern to have investigated the issues surrounding disposal of evidence gathered in the Heiner inquiry, I cannot agree that the circumstances of the shredding, as opposed to the underlying allegations of mistreatment of inmates at the John Oxley Youth Centre, fall within the Terms of Reference of this Inquiry.... whilst the Inquiry is most anxious to look at the substance of the allegations which gave rise to the Heiner Inquiry, it is not in a position to investigate the further issue of how witness statements obtained by it were disposed of.
I recognise that this means for you the frustration of being unable to ventilate the issues raised in your extensive and lucid submission; but to seek to address those issues in this Inquiry would entail on overstepping of its Terms of Reference. As you will appreciate, that is something that the Inquiry simply cannot do."
I am confident that that document will in no way compromise or impede the Forde inquiry. It has been stated here, and accurately, that the previous Government has admitted that it did not progress the matter when it had the opportunity. I commend the current Government because it has instituted investigations into child abuse, including John Oxley. It had to be done, it should have been done and it has been done. The kids are the most important people.
However, this matter, the dealing with the Heiner documents, remains like a festering sore. Unless we address it and clear the decks, it is going to remain as an impediment, not to any one side of Parliament but to all of us as parliamentarians. It goes beyond the function of this House. It goes into the function of the departments, and the very department upon which families in this State rely greatly, the Department of Families, and it affects families.
I have spoken with Mr Lindeberg. Those documents are tabled with his acknowledgment and approval. As I said, I am concerned about only one further matter, and that is the finalisation of the concerns that relate to the disposal of the documents; not to paedophilia, not to abuse in institutions but the disposal of the documentation. I think that it is in the best interests of this State to see this matter closed in an accountable, accurate and open manner. On that basis, I support a commission of inquiry.
Hon. J. P. ELDER (Capalaba: ALP) (Deputy Premier and Minister for State
Development and Minister for Trade) (6.30 p.m.):
I agree with the member for Surfers Paradise: this affair has the potential to turn into the grassy knoll melodrama that has gone (p288 Heiner Documents 4 Mar 1999) on since the assassination of JFK in 1963.
However, he neglects to mention that he is one of the chief conspiracy theorists. At every turn, he encourages and aids every crackpot theory just as do all other members opposite and One Nation members. Yet can all of these conspiracy theorists answer one simple question that was asked by the member for South Brisbane: what did the incoming Cabinet in 1990, members of which had just come into office after 23 years of what could at best be called accountable rule by the National and Liberal Parties, have to gain by covering up allegations of child abuse? What did the Goss Government have to gain by covering up events that happened under its predecessors?
Tonight, I have heard the usual conspiracy theories from the Opposition and its new-found allies, its colleagues up the back. Tell me, what would the members of that Cabinet have to gain? Could one of those members who alleged that the documents were shredded to cover up please explain to me why a Cabinet would cover up the mistakes of its predecessors? That is the crunch question. It is the question that many casual observers find hard to answer. The simple answer is that that Cabinet acted on legal advice that the inquiry was not set up correctly.
The matter of substance is that in the material shredded there were allegations of child abuse. If there were, it is being addressed now by the Forde inquiry, which was set up by this Government under the former Governor. It is looking at all of those issues. If members opposite were so keen to get to the bottom of the allegations then as they were when they voted against the provision that I put to this Parliament, why did they oppose the establishment of the Forde inquiry? The Opposition said that it supported it, but it opposed the establishment of the Forde inquiry. We are addressing the substance of all of those complaints and we are not going to get bogged down in wading through events that happened 10 years ago.
However, for those who want to do that, let me say to them that there is a lot of selective indignation on this matter. While pursuing the matter, why have they not gone back to the basics? Why have they not examined closely the actions and the motives of those who set up what was indisputably a flawed inquiry? Which Government set up the Heiner inquiry? Who was the Premier at the time? Who was in Cabinet at the time that the decision was made to establish the Heiner inquiry? Which of those members are still in Parliament today? Why was the inquiry not set up properly? Why was the necessary protection not extended to the witnesses?
Ms Bligh interjected.
Mr ELDER: While I am at it, I will take the interjection from the member for South Brisbane: where are the documents of the Cabinet that made the decision to set up the Heiner inquiry? If the Opposition feels so passionate about this matter, it should table the documents in the Parliament tomorrow so that we can see why that Government actually set up a flawed inquiry at the time. I challenge the Opposition to do so. I say to the member for Surfers Paradise to finally put his money where his mouth is. The Premier has tabled his documents and the Government's documents. The member for Surfers Paradise should table his.
Mr BORBIDGE: I rise to a point of order. In reply to the honourable member, there was a request from Commissioner Forde and those documents have been provided to the commissioner on the basis that she requested them.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Mr ELDER: On that basis, the member for Surfers Paradise should have no trouble tabling the documents in the House, and I challenge him to do so, as the Premier did. Were the actions of that particular Cabinet a mistake? Was the inquiry set up to fail? There is another theory for members opposite.
Most importantly, why is this motion aimed exclusively at those who were part of the move to clean up a flawed inquiry? The simple fact is that at least some of the people who made the original mistake in setting up the Heiner inquiry, those who did not have the technical competence to do so with the necessary protection provided to those witnesses, are still in Parliament today.
At the time, the member for Crows Nest was the Premier. My understanding is that the member for Beaudesert, the member for Keppel and, of course, the member for Surfers Paradise, the up and coming member, were actually part of setting up this flawed inquiry.
The previous Government set up an inquiry into this matter and, surprise and surprise, as was outlined by the Premier, after referring it to the Director of Public Prosecutions, he concluded that there were no charges to be laid. Even the man who led that particular inquiry, who just happens to be Christopher Skase's lawyer, could not find enough evidence to justify the charges. (4 Mar 1999 Heiner Documents Hansard P289) For the member for Indooroopilly, of all people, to be invoking Parliament to sit in judgment is the height of hypocrisy. This is the same member who sat as a Minister in this House for seven months after this House censored him and found no confidence in him.
So much for his respect for the Westminster system and for Parliament! This motion is a lamentable exercise designed to get the member for Indooroopilly into The Courier- Mail. The first part of the motion alleges a cover-up in terms of child abuse and paedophilia. This Government has done something about that through the Forde commission of inquiry. The second and third parts of the motion are based on allegations by Pat Comben. He has since clarified these comments. So the second and the third parts of the motion lapse. However, I expect that those conspiracy theorists will say that his clarification itself was all part of this great conspiracy. I expect to hear that. We have tabled the advice and only those who believe that Elvis is still alive could have any reason to believe it.
Mr GRICE (Broadwater: NPA) (6.35 p.m.): It is a shame that the Premier has such little respect for his position as Premier of this State that he comes into this House and seeks to mislead it. In the amendment the
Premier states that the Connolly/Ryan inquiry made inquiries into the matter and states:
"No further action was taken as the result of any these inquiries."
The Premier knows that all of the details from the Connolly/Ryan inquiry are in the hands of the Parliamentary Commissioner. It is up to Ms Dick, the Parliamentary Commissioner, to make that decision, not a know-all, can't do anything Premier.
The Premier also says that the PCJC held an inquiry and no result came from it. The Premier knows himself that in 1992 when he was the chair of the PCJC after the CJC reported back to the PCJC on Mr Lindeberg's information, he referred it back to the CJC again. He knows that. He knows also that when the PCJC does any investigation it makes a report. There was no report tabled in this House by the following chairman, Mr Davies. There was no report tabled in this House by the following chairman, Mr Lester.
So the Premier is wrong. He is misleading this House in this amendment. It is not lost on the Opposition or on those who are observing this debate and understand its deep legal and constitutional significance that should the Opposition's motion be defeated, it will be on the casting vote of five senior Ministers, and possibly others on that side of the House, who desperately want to keep a lid on this cesspit of lies and corruption.
If members opposite were to ask decent, law-abiding Queenslanders whether they wanted their elected Government as a matter of practice to be able to secretly shred public records to prevent their use in court, the answer would be a resounding no. I have no doubt that the same answer would be applied to secretly shredding evidence of suspected child abuse against kids in the care and protection of the Crown in order to cover it up.
In the face of the evidence, it is quite overwhelming that the CJC never did its job thoroughly or impartially. That has never really been beyond dispute. It has admitted itself that it did not touch all the evidence and it did not search for all the evidence. It said that in the Senate inquiry. It just ran dead and then attempted to shoot the messenger.
I table a public statement from the Australian Society of Archivists in which it states that the society -
"... also wishes to place on record its absolute rejection of the argument which the Queensland Criminal Justice Commission placed before the Senate Select Committee on Unresolved Whistleblower Cases in 1995."
It is common legal practice for solicitors to serve notice on the other party of their intention to commence court proceedings to resolve a matter. In this case, Mr Coyne's solicitors unquestionably served notice on the Government of his intention to gain access to the Heiner documents pursuant to a regulation and that if it was not granted out of court, it would be resolved in court. That notice was acknowledged as being in the system before the shredding. The Cabinet was told that solicitors were seeking access to the document when it ordered them destroyed. In other words, Mr Coyne was prepared to exercise his democratic right to have his day in court where a judge would decide the matter. His union supported him in what was a lawful endeavour.
Any ordinary citizen knows that one cannot shred material under those circumstances. Section 129 of the Criminal Code says that one cannot do that. But here is the rub. Here is how absurd the Government's and the CJC's position is: if it is legal to do what they did, why not shred every public record that might be required for court? Shred everything in sight! Why keep public records? Why not burn down the State Archives if one (Hansard P290 Heiner Documents 4 Mar 1999) cannot keep within the law or if one wants to hide something?
Here is the joke. Yesterday the honourable the Premier waxed long and loud about his colleague who was arrested at Gordonstone as if he were fighting fascism. Let me tell the honourable the Premier that even the Nazis and East German communists did not shred their embarrassing public records. But this Government and the previous Labor Government are hiding the fact that it was done.
For years no-one involved in this cover-up has been prepared to say "boo" - that is, of course, until a former Goss Labor Minister, Pat Comben, admitted on national television that all members of Cabinet did, in fact, know that they were approving the destruction of material that contained "material about child abuse". I will not repeat the second quote because it has been mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition.
Pat Comben, a senior Goss Government Minister and numbers man, has at long last given substance to the rumours suggesting that the Heiner documents contained evidence of child abuse and paedophilia. I table the full Comben transcript.
Hon. M. J. FOLEY(Yeronga: ALP)(Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for The Arts)(6.43 p.m.): If there is any evidence of child abuse it should be fully and properly investigated. That is why the Government moved to establish, under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, the Forde inquiry so that any evidence that there might be could be fully and properly investigated. This motion before the Parliament urges the establishment of another commission of inquiry. It does not ask that that commission of inquiry investigate child abuse or paedophilia; it asks that that commission of inquiry investigate the alleged destruction of documents for the purpose of a cover-up.
The question posed by the member for Gladstone seems a compelling one: "Why not have an inquiry and get it over with once and for all?" The difficulty is that there are two limbs to that question. Why not have an inquiry? Well, that was the compelling reason that led, no doubt, to the CJC having an inquiry. Why not have an inquiry? That was the reason that led to the Parliamentary Criminal Justice Committee having an inquiry into the Criminal Justice Commission. Why not have an inquiry? That was the reason for having two Senate select committees, a Senate privileges committee and so on and so on look at this matter.
The point is that the first limb of the Question -" Why not have an inquiry?" - has been posed many times. It has been answered in the affirmative many times. But however many times it is answered in the affirmative, the second limb of the question -" and clear it up and move on" - simply does not follow. This requires some assessment of the evidence.
This House has previously considered this matter in a debate. Since then, the only piece of new evidence - if I may use that term in its broadest possible sense - is that advanced by the member for Indooroopilly and the member for Surfers Paradise in their quote of Mr Comben in his statements on the Sunday program of 21 February 1999. They read the relevant passages into the record and they rely upon that for the assertion of evidence of child abuse.
What they did not do was to inform the House of what Mr Comben said the very next day in the Carolyn Tucker program when he was asked:
"So you were quite surprised to see how your comments were reported or
what was reported around them?" He answered: "Startled, amazed."
He went on in a later part of the interview to say: "We were talking about getting rid of these documents because they were defamatory between the staff members accusing each other of all sorts of things about their professional lives. It was not about child abuse in any way." He went on to say: "There is nothing that could in any way be constituted as evidence. There is nothing there above common scuttlebutting rumour at a very low level, matter-of-fact stuff as you pass in the corridor."
That is what is not put before the House by the member for Indooroopilly and the member for Surfers Paradise.
There is one further point that needs to be cleared up. The member for Indooroopilly and the member for Surfers Paradise have attacked the Premier for not providing Cabinet documents to the Morris inquiry. May I say this: those very documents were tabled in this House and nothing in those documents indicates the slightest scintilla of evidence of child abuse. It is the most stunning hypocrisy for the Leader of the Opposition and the (4 Mar 1999 Heiner Documents Hansard P291) member for Indooroopilly to come into this Chamber and urge a course of action which they failed to take themselves.
Mr BEANLAND: I rise to a point of order. There was no CJC inquiry; it was purely an investigation
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order.
Mr FELDMAN (Caboolture: ONP)(6.47 p.m.): How much digging do we have to do to get to the bottom of this Shreddergate matter? It started with mere conjecture and scuttlebutt in the same way that the Fitzgerald inquiry into the Police Service started with scuttlebutt and a police officer being trapped by his own words. That is just how Mr Comben was trapped by his own words.
In this case - Shreddergate - we had to dig into the bowels of the Public Service, the twilight zones of Children's Services, and just like the Four Corners program, the Channel 9 Sunday program highlighted what was said and what was done in this despicable Shreddergate affair. This was highlighted by Goss Minister Pat Comben's statement - and I will repeat what he said on the Sunday program:
"In broad terms, we were all made aware there was material about child abuse. That there was material that was said to be highly defamatory and it was accepted on face value that if the matter was of such concern that it got to a level of Cabinet decision then those allegations must have had considerable merit and substance."
There is a stench in this House and it comes from the members opposite, and in particular from the Government benches where five of the Shreddergate people now sit. What it means is this: the Beattie Labor Government is a discredited Government, a deceitful Government and a Government without credibility.
Let me turn to the honourable members in Opposition. Where were they on 25 August 1998 when an attempt was made to expel these five from the Chamber? I will tell honourable members where they were: they were cuddling up with them over there - the very members they seek to condemn and rubbish now. Hypocrites! Only 11 people knew what was going on in this Parliament, and they were the 11 One Nation members who sought justice for the abused children of this State. The abuse was covered up for nine years before the Government had the gumption to go and do something about it.
Now I turn to the member for Nicklin to whom I sent a personal letter asking for his commitment to honour his pledge to Queensland - a pledge that he would support this Government only if there was no evidence of illegal activities, fraud or misappropriation. As a solicitor himself, does he see no wrong in the shredding of official documents required for a court case - documents that contain details of child abuse?
On the night of the debate on the motion of confidence, I asked the member for Nicklin, "Do you want to be a reformer of government or just a seat warmer?" I again ask that question of him tonight: is he a reformer or a seat warmer?
Let us now turn to the Forde inquiry, where evidence has been gathered that abuse of children did take place in the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre. Evidence has been gathered at that inquiry showing that child- care officers reported this abuse up the chain of command. This evidence was available and was contained in the Heiner inquiry documents, which were the subject of a right of access by a legally enforceable statute. But where are those documents now? They have been shredded - shredded by a rogue archivist who cannot be brought before an inquiry to answer the questions pertaining to that shredding. A director-general who acted with similar complicity in the shredding of those documents also refuses to be interviewed in relation to her knowledge of the shredding. A former Minister of the Crown now adopts the Sergeant Schulz philosophy: "I know nothing, I see nothing and I hear nothing."
In the volumes that have been written implicating these people in this unlawful action, what has been the extent of the CJC's input? Two pages explaining that it can do nothing! This is from the supreme investigative body of this Government. If this does not ensure its demise, what else can?
The only way to clean up this sorry Government debacle is to set up an independent commission of inquiry separate from the Forde commission of inquiry to investigate the destruction of these documents, and the subsequent allegations of former Labor Cabinet Minister Pat Comben on Sunday 21 February 1999 that Goss Labor Ministers were aware that the documents contained evidence of child abuse. For nine years this State has cried out for this sorry mess to be cleaned up. It has covered up the abuse of children for nine years. It should come clean on the record tonight. It should support the motion. Yes, support the motion and sleep better tonight.
(Hansard P292 Heiner Documents 4 Mar 1999)
Mr MICKEL (Logan: ALP)(6.51 p.m.): We have just seen the greatest absence of leadership ever. The member said, "Come clean. Be honest. Do something about it. Show leadership." The member can show some leadership in respect of a report presented today. The trouble with the member for Ipswich West, Jack Paff, is that he is "Paffalogical". If the member for Caboolture wants to show real leadership, he should tell
us what he is doing about the member for Ipswich West. The most disgraceful episode we have seen in the current Parliament is the behaviour of the member for Ipswich West.
Mr PAFF: I rise to a point of order. I take exception to that, Mr Speaker. I ask the member to withdraw the remark.
Mr MICKEL: Since the member is such a delicate soul, I will withdraw. If "five nations" was genuinely concerned about children, why in the Parliament this afternoon did it oppose the Government's motion to eradicate the trafficking in children. They stand absolutely and utterly condemned, which is why they are split and divided. For the benefit of the member for Caboolture, I point out that even Snow White had seven dwarfs. The Opposition and One Nation have been knocked down to the canvas so many times in this debate that advertisers could sell advertising space on the soles of their shoes.
I wish to respond to a couple of points raised in this debate concerning the comments of Pat Comben. The facts of the matter are that the next morning AAP stated: "AAP accepts that Mr Comben's comments on the Sunday program were reported inaccurately and inappropriately in its story and apologise for any embarrassment or damage which has been suffered by Mr Comben or the other Ministers." That is the end of the story. AAP fixed it all up.
Let us deal with another matter. The One Nation parties and the Opposition want to spend some money on another inquiry - inquiry Mark XI. I have it on good authority that such an inquiry would cost $1m.
A Government member interjected.
Mr MICKEL: More than $1m. While the Opposition and some other people want an inquiry we will forever stay on this side of the House, and the reason is this: we should be putting that money into services for real people and families. I will give some examples of where that money could be spent in my electorate. In a fast-growing electorate such as Logan there is always a need for more services, in other words, things that matter for families. Instead of holding Heiner inquiry Mark XI, I would rather use the money to fund a youth worker in Crestmead - a youth worker who was ripped out by the coalition Government. That $1m would fund that worker for 10 years. Instead of holding inquiry Mark XI, I would like to see some money going into respite services for the people of Logan West.
Another option would be to spend the money on the families in my electorate who foster children with disabilities. Let us tell those lovely people that we care about them and are willing to fund services to help them. They are doing something that many other people do not want to do, that is, looking after foster children with disabilities. When they take on that responsibility they often have to make changes to their houses and cars. Rather than wasting money, as recommended by the member for Caboolture, let us put it into real people. Another option would be to put more funding into the Positive Parenting Program in Logan West. It is a much-needed service. By putting another $1m into that great service we could do a lot more for kids and keep them out of trouble. Another option would be to put the money into financial counselling to help those people who struggle with money throughout their lives. Financial problems can put pressure on marriages and lead to child abuse and domestic violence. That is where I would put the money - not on the rabble opposite.
Question: That Mr Beattie's amendment be agreed to put; and the House divided:
Attwood, Barton, Beattie, Bligh, Boyle,Braddy, Bredhauer, Briskey, Clark, J. I. Cunningham, D'Arcy, Edmond, Elder, Fenlon, Foley, Fouras, Gibbs, Hamill, Hayward, Lavarch, Lucas, Mackenroth, McGrady, Mickel, Mulherin, Musgrove, Nelson, Nelson-Carr, Nuttall, Pearce, Pitt, Reeves, Reynolds, Roberts, Robertson, Rose, Spence, Struthers, Welford, Wellington, Wells, Wilson. Tellers: Sullivan, Purcell.
Beanland, Black, Borbidge, Connor, Cooper, E. A. Cunningham, Dalgleish, Davidson, Elliott, Feldman, Gamin, Grice, Healy, Hobbs, Horan, Johnson, Kingston, Knuth, Laming, Lester, Lingard, Littleproud, Malone, Mitchell, Paff, Pratt, Prenzler, Quinn, Rowell, Santoro, Seeney, Sheldon, Simpson, Slack, Springborg, Turner, Veivers, Watson. Tellers:
Baumann, Hegarty. Pair: Schwarten, Stephan.
Resolved in the affirmative.
END OF DEBATE
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