Ian Callinan QC appointed to High Court

In December 1997 the Howard Government appointed prominent Queensland barrister Mr Ian Callinan QC to become the next Justice of the High Court of Australia in February 1998 replacing retiring Justice Toohey.

His appointment evoked a range of conflicting views. In some circles it was seem to be a blatant attempt by the Howard Government to tilt the balance on the High Court away from its preceived trend of constitutional activism seen in its recent Mabo and Wik decisions. Others saw his appointment as a positive step bringing to the High Court his much-needed formidable expertise in criminal law.

Mr Callinan QC led the Crown’s historic prosecution of former High Court Justice Lionel Murphy, and he acted for the Australian Government in attempts to have Mr Christopher Skase extradited back from overseas to face justice in Australia.

It was noteworthy – and totally right - that no one questioned his formidable legal ability or integrity.

Curiously though what was forgotten by the mainstream media in the thousands of words written about him and his career to-date was his unexpected and stunning representation in 1995 of Queenslander Mr Kevin Lindeberg before the Senate Select Committee on Unresolved Whistleblower Cases when it attempted to investigate the notorious shredding of the Heiner Inquiry documents by order of the Goss Government.

What has been curiously forgotten was his oral submission and written opinion regarding the legality of the shredding. He went so far as to suggest that it was open to conclude that the entire Goss Cabinet had committed serious offences when it ordered the shredding of those public records to prevent their use in litigation after the Crown had been served with notice of impending court proceedings in which those records were known to be critically relevant. He suggested in 1995 that the case warranted serious re-examination and severely criticised the Criminal Justice Commission’s handling of the Lindeberg allegations.

What makes his public opinion so important now (if not then) is that in October 1996 two more independent respected counsel, Messrs Anthony Morris QC and Edward Howard, looked into the Lindeberg allegations and they too found that the allegations had real substance.

Messrs Morris QC and Howard, unlike Mr Callinan QC in 1995, managed to examine hard evidence held by the Queensland Government but hidden for years under the Goss regime. In their examination “on the papers” Messrs Morris QC and Howard wanted to examine the relevant Cabinet material relating to the decision to shred but the current leader of the Opposition Mr Peter Beattie MLA refused them access. One wonders why?

Aside from other available evidence, Mr Callinan QC’s submission shows why Mr Beattie MLA may have acted in such an inappropriate manner given his previous public statements about how important he viewed integrity in public office.

The jigsaw puzzle of the shredding and its massive political and legal ramifications start to come together when one reads the following words of Messrs Morris QC and Howard regarding their views of the six-year cover-up that occurred during the life of the Goss administration. At page 215, they say:

“...Whilst we are of the view that the events which occurred between January 1990 and February 1991 involve very grave and serious matters, we are even more concerned that those matters have remained successfully covered up for so many years. In what is commonly referred to as the “post-Fitzgerald era”, there are many people in our community who feel a measure of confidence that serious misconduct by senior public officials cannot go undetected. Even the Criminal Justice Commission’s strongest supporters, like Mr. Clair and Mr. Beattie, must now have cause to reconsider their confidence in the exhaustiveness - to say nothing as to the independence - of the Commission’s investigation into this matter.”

There are many very serious unresolved questions associated with the illegal shredding of the Heiner Inquiry documents that should be publicly resolved. The tentacles of this affair have touched many people in high places who still enjoy high office, or who seek to move into Federal Parliament.

There is the question of integrity in public office. There is the question of equality before the law. There is the question about the integrity of public records. There is the extraordinary question that should concern all thinking Australians as why this most serious of attacks on the due administration of justice in years remains unresolved with so many serious questions crying out for answers.

The Morris/Howard Report is required reading for anyone who wants to see the rock hard substance of the Lindeberg allegations that he has pursued relentlessly for seven years despite barrier after barrier erected by the Goss administration and the CJC. The CJC’s role in this affair, on the evidence and its performance, has been unacceptable and most disturbing.

For the further benefit of readers we are attaching the important Callinan submission of August 1995. It has not enjoyed the media attention it should have. It still demands proper answers. We are attaching the Lindeberg submission in reply of July 1995, all of which have been obtained from the public record.

One has got to ask the simple question: What is going on here? What deals have been done? Why haven’t serious offences, highlighted by reputable senior counsel like Messrs Callinan and Morris, been put before a court, or examined at a public inquiry as recommended by Messrs Morris QC and Howard? Why?

Surely, by any measure, this is serious national unfinished business? This affair began within 90 days of the Goss administration taking power in Queensland in December 1989. Remarkably it still festers. It shall continue to fester until the truth is completely revealed.

If nothing else, it is an indictment of all that’s wrong with Government in Australia at the moment – and why the stables need to be completely washed out in 1998 if those in office continue to ignore the obvious.

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