CAROLINE JONES: Hello. I'm Caroline Jones. Tonight's Australian Story is about one mans relentless pursuit of justice. To some, he's an obsessive crackpot who sees conspiracies at every turn. To others, he's a hero - fearlessly fighting for the rights and freedom of us all. He's Kevin Lindeberg, and his fourteen year crusade has even registered on the international scandal scale. This is his story.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: The people that I'm fighting against are people who have the levers of power at their hand. They have infinite power because it's the state. The consequences of if I win, is dire for them.
BRUCE GRUNDY UNI. OF QLD: This is David and Goliath. And Goliath has enormous resources, and David only has one little human being. He's a pretty powerful human being.
ALASTAIR MacADAM SENIOR LAW LECTURER: Kevin Lindeberg's been called a crackpot, an obsessive - he's been ridiculed. But in the fullness of time, everything he says turns out to be true.
PETER BEATTIE QLD PREMIER: I just want to say to Kevin, sooner or later, you've got to let this go. You can stand there with your finger in the dike, saying, everyone on the other side of that is wrong, or you can face the reality and let it go.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: Three little words changed my life. Those words were: they've been shredded. And when I challenged that extraordinary comment, my fate was sealed. I always loved singing, and so much that I had pursued it as a career, been professionally trained. And then, I had a choice between joining the chorus of the opera or becoming a full-time trade union official, and I chose the latter, because I thought that it would give our family a more secure future. My member, the manager of the centre, gave evidence, and he wanted to see the Heiner Inquiry transcripts - he wanted to see the complaints against him. He had a right to see them pursuant to law. The change of government occurred, we put the Government on notice that we wanted the documents. If we didn't get them, we would go to court to get them. The Government shut down the inquiry and shredded the documents.
REV. JOHN WOODLEY FORMER DEMOCRATS SENATOR: It would have been a very simple matter to simply legislate retrospectively and to have made the Heiner Inquiry, you know, made it a proper inquiry. What we had was union officials, the possibility that some people had been involved in illegal activity - I suspect the Goss Government really was afraid of what might happen to some of its own Labor Party members.
NOEL NEWNHAM QLD POLICE COMMISSIONER (89-92): I'm in no doubt at all that the decision to destroy the evidence taken by Heiner was an illegal act.
PROF. TERRY COOK INTERNATIONAL ARCHIVIST: This is like Watergate. This is like apartheid police in South Africa destroying records to hide their racial regimes. This is about Nazi gold issues. And those are the kinds of cases that Shreddergate is compared to. And it's right up there as one of the worst scandals in 20th century recordkeeping.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: At the time when the documents were shredded, I didn't know
what was in them. But what I did know was that you cannot shred documents
when you know they're required for court, and I objected to that. And I told
my union that it was wrong. And obviously, um... I wasn't towing a line which
the government and others inside the union wanted, and I was sacked.
Why should I lose my job when I was doing my job - carrying out my duty to look after my members interests? It's one of the reasons I fought back. I didn't expect to be fighting back for fourteen years.
IRENE LINDEBERG KEVINS WIFE: When Kevin was sacked, the main thing was to support the family, and so I immediately looked for a job myself. I didn't take it too seriously, because I thought, I'll be working for three months and then I'll be back home with the children. But in hindsight, the 3 months has stretched into 13 years, and I'm still working in the same position.
NAOMI LINDEBERG KEVINS DAUGHTER: I was five, I think, when it all first started. Um, I don't have a very good memory, I don't remember what happened. All I know is that one day Mum was at work, one day, Dad was at home. Dad became the at-home mum - made us all lunches and took us to school. That's just how I've been brought up.
IRENE LINDEBERG KEVINS WIFE: I had my third child in 1992, and I was back at work in about eight weeks. And I had to hand over the new baby to Kevin at that time. And, as I say, he's been terrific with Ryan and, you know, probably done as much as I could've done for him. Except breastfeed, of course. But, um...uh, I would've liked to do it myself, and, uh, I feel I've missed out on that.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: People say, well, look, well, you know, why don't you go and get another job, right? Right? Now, um...my career was destroyed. I was black-banned from working within trade. I tried to get other jobs in trade unions, um...but I was a marked man.
NAOMI LINDEBERG KEVINS DAUGHTER: Heiner became his full-time job, but at home. It's just been an everyday thing. There's no escaping from it. I wake up, Dad goes and starts his work on the computer you know. When I come home, he's still working on it. He gets the phone calls late at night. It's just every day, all the time, non stop. This is just what he does. It's his job.
ALASTAIR MacADAM SENIOR LAW LECTURER: What Kevin Lindeberg did after he became aware of the destruction of the documents - he referred the issue to the appropriate bodies, and various investigations took place.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: Now, in this case, there's no doubt that the government knew the documents were required for court action at the time they shredded them, but they got in quick before the writ came. Once you've been put on notice and told not to shred, and then you go ahead and shred the documents to prevent them being used, well, you're perverting the course of justice. It is one of the fourteen great shredding scandals of the 20th century. The point, though, is that the libraries and archives act does not over ride the criminal code.
ALASTAIR MacADAM SENIOR LAW LECTURER: To say that the Cabinet could not have committed an offence is so basically flawed that if a first-year law student said that in an assignment, they would get a failure. But it appears to me what has occurred is that a range of people have been looking at spurious reasons to simply defend the Cabinet.
NOEL NEWNHAM FORMER POLICE COMMISSIONER (89-920: The affair has never been fully and properly investigated in the context that I, as a police officer, use that word. That is, leave no stone unturned, endeavour to find the truth, consistent with the law.
PETER BEATTIE QLD PREMIER: This has gone on like 'Blue Hills'. I just don't believe that there needs to be any more taxpayers' money invested into this. Everybody's had a look at it, and I understand there's angst from Mr Lindeberg, but how many more inquiries do we want?
PROF. TERRY COOK INTERNATIONAL ARCHIVIST: If there had been yes, this was wrong, we apologise, and we're sorry, Kevin, this would have died years and years ago. It's been a systemic cover-up. This is going to be a running sore in Australia, and a kind of international embarrassment.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: The Heiner affair is no longer just about the shredding of documents. The Heiner affair, like Watergate, is more about the cover-up. They twisted the law and allowed the cover-up to go on and on. And in that sense, that's why Heiner has become more important now than perhaps what it was in 1990.
REV. JOHN WOODLEY FORMER DEMOCRATS SENATOR: I've had a lot to do with whistleblowers over many years, particularly when I was in the Senate. I can't imagine anyone else who would've stayed with such an issue given the insurmountable odds that were against him. He's also, of course, risked his own health, he's risked relationships within his family. This whole issue has taken over his life.
NAOMI LINDEBERG KEVINS DAUGHTER: Before it all happened we had a fairly comfortable life, compared to what it is now. You know, we had the company car, nice house with a swimming pool, we'd just been on our, probably our first family holiday, and then it happened. And we've never had a holiday since. And it's just been extremely difficult.
IRENE LINDEBERG KEVINS WIFE: Kevin would feel that the hand of God was guiding him, would have a strong faith. And, um...you know, you can't argue against a strong faith.
NAOMI LINDEBERG KEVINS DAUGHTER: My mum didn't ask for this life, and she didn't want to have to work so hard - to the point where her health is deteriorating, and she gets severely stressed out. She...she thinks the way that a lot of people think, that what he's been doing has been stupid and foolish. You know, how dare someone of such, you know, middle class or whatever expect to try and make the government accountable.
IRENE LINDEBERG KEVINS WIFE: What has happened over the fourteen years, um, and what I've lost, I can't bring back. I might as well keep going with things as they are. I don't feel angry with Kevin. I'm disappointed for him that it hasn't been resolved.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: I know the family want it to end just as much as I do, perhaps
more so than I do. But the more we've dug, the more serious we have found
the matter to be. You just can't say, oh, look, I'll give it one more week
and then we'll just cut it off. Um, I think it's about to explode.
When the story behind all of Shreddergate is written the role of Bruce Grundy must be right up on the vanguard because without his courage, his commitment to investigative journalism, I don't believe we would be where we are today.
BRUCE GRUNDY UNI. OF QLD: I got involved in 1992 when we started the paper at the university's journalism school. When you shut down an inquiry into a youth detention centre and shred everything - there's a story. The students are committed to this project because they can see the outrage. Back in about 2001, as we continued to shake the bush and publish whatever we could, a friend of mine was contacted by someone who said that he was troubled by something that had happened out at the John Oxley Youth Centre when he was there. And he told us about a 14-year-old girl, this Aboriginal girl, who was taken on an outing with six boys into the middle of nowhere, and left alone without any supervision in this appallingly rugged environment, and was raped by two of the boys. And this matter had been covered up. To cut a long story short, we did find out the name of the girl and she agreed to go to this place with me. And so we walked in together. It was really... it's quite upsetting. Sorry. Um...yeah, she was really quite upset, you know, because the memories kept...came flooding back as we went in. And I did record some of that, and she was aware that I was recording it. And the audio, you know, it's pretty startling sort of stuff. They went back to John Oxley and they did nothing for her, despite the fact that she said that she wanted action taken against the boys. They did nothing for her. One of my sources told me that he was interrogated by Mr Heiner about the pack-rape of a girl. So, um, certainly the transcript of his evidence, what he was asked and what he replied, would have gone down the gurgler.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: For any government to destroy documents when they know they're required for court, is one thing, is bad enough. But to destroy documents when they know it's about abuse of children in a State-run institution is utterly unforgivable.
PETER BEATTIE QLD PREMIER: Wayne Goss and that Cabinet would never have covered up any issues relating to abuse like that. That is a wild allegation. I have no, I have not seen, from either of those two gentlemen, any substantiation of that. And they should produce evidence. And I've seen none anywhere at any time.
REV. JOHN WOODLEY FORMER DEMOCRATS SENATOR: Well, there is no doubt that Kevin is right when he says it was a criminal offence to shred those documents. The problem is that nobody now - because the documents were shredded - knows what was in that inquiry. I guess Mr Heiner does, but he won't talk. So there is no hard evidence that that pack-rape story was presented to the Heiner Inquiry, or that the Goss Government knew about it. And without that kind of hard evidence it simply will not come to court.
NAOMI LINDEBERG KEVINS DAUGHTER: Growing up, there'd be times when I would just, you know, come into Dad, just lash out and be like, well, you gotta do this, you gotta do that. All you do is you sit on the computer, you're on the phone all the time typing up stuff and nothing's happened. You know, Dad, when's it gonna end? But my view of Heiner has changed so much since I've gone to university. Where...whereas before I just saw it as one man's struggle - Dad on the computer now, now I understand that it's so much more. I mean, I get taught about it at university. People across the world get taught about it at university.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: I mean, I never expected my child to be learning about matters that deeply affected our family. I hope that, er, you know, that what she learns out of Heiner stands her in good stead in her...in her career.
BRUCE GRUNDY UNI. OF QLD: And she's doing journalism because she wants to do journalism. And if she's in the class, um, well, I try and cover it in a way that doesn't cause her any embarrassment. And she's committed too.
IRENE LINDEBERG KEVINS WIFE: It's given her an insight as to what we've been through as a family. She understands what her father is doing, and, um, she's very close to him.
NAOMI LINDEBERG KEVINS DAUGHTER: I'm really proud of my dad. I'm glad that... I mean, even though it's caused us a lot of pain and stress, I am really glad that he has kept on with this crusade.
BRUCE GRUNDY UNI. OF QLD: Over the years, all kinds of legal authorities in Queensland have said, there must be a legal proceeding under way at the time you destroy any evidence. They have used that excuse to exonerate those who took part in the shredding. And then suddenly, out of the blue, they charge a citizen with an offence that was said not to be an offence in the case of politicians and bureaucrats.
WOMAN ON TV: A District Court jury found Pastor Douglas Ensbey guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Justice Nick Samios said Ensbey knew the pages might be required in judicial proceedings...
ALASTAIR MacADAM SENIOR LAW LECTURER: While he was in no way involved in the Heiner matter, what the conviction of the Baptist pastor very, very clearly demonstrates is an endorsement of what Kevin Lindeberg and others have been saying for a long, long time. And the question we now ask, why should those members of the Cabinet not be prosecuted? We have here appalling double standards.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: Since the landmark Baptist minister case, we're absolutely delighted that Mrs Bishop's inquiry into crime in the community has taken up this matter.
BRONWYN BISHOP: It is just breathtaking to read reams and reams of cover-up. At least two of those then Cabinet ministers in the Goss Government are still Cabinet ministers in the Beattie Government today.
PETER BEATTIE QLD PREMIER: There's a Federal election coming, and Queensland's vital to it. I mean, Bronwyn is about as tough as you get when it comes to ugly, grubby politics.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: The corrupting tentacles of Heiner are now so vast and so serious that the only way forward is for Parliament to appoint a special prosecutor - as happened in the Fitzgerald Inquiry, as happened in Watergate - so that it looks totally into Heiner, cleans the system out, and restores public confidence in our public administration.
PETER BEATTIE QLD PREMIER: You know what would happen - and I say this with great courtesy to Kevin, 'cause I know he holds these views very strongly - if that didn't come up with what he wanted, he would believe that was, too, part of the conspiracy. Now, I didn't shoot John Kennedy, and there's not gonna be a special prosecutor, either.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: I recognise that this committees task is a heavy one, but if you have the courage to stand for what is right, I simply remind you of another wise comment - the truth shall set you free. After fourteen years of struggle, I want to be free of Heiner, but I will not go away until the truth is revealed to all.
REV. JOHN WOODLEY FORMER DEMOCRATS SENATOR: I have a great admiration for Kevin, but I really believe that, um, he's achieved as much as can be achieved with this issue, and I do wish that he would move on, because I don't want to see him spend the rest of his life being consumed by the issue. And I believe that now is time for Kevin to pick up his life, and to become the creative person that he is, rather than continuing with the issue.
IRENE LINDEBERG KEVINS WIFE: People might say, oh, the Lindebergs, did they bang their heads against a brick wall? But I think history shows that corruption flourishes if good men do nothing. And, you know, if we hadn't seen it through, or we don't see it through, then what it was all about will be lost. And I don't want that.
NAOMI LINDEBERG KEVINS DAUGHTER: There's only a few more things that he can do before he's done his bit. And so once that happens, well, Dadll have to move on.
KEVIN LINDEBERG: There's no doubt that the events are converging to bring
this matter to a head. It's reaching its endgame, and, no, Lindeberg's not
going to be here 14 years time. Oh, no! He'll be with his grandchildren.
Original ABC transcript at this link