Heiner affair shadows Bryce -
Piers Akerman - he Sunday Telegraph Saturday, August 09, 2008
SERIOUS allegations concerning the integrity of Governor-General designate Quentin Bryce and her role in the unresolved Heiner affair are being investigated by staff of Governor-General Major-General Michael Jeffery.
The investigation threatens plans to swear in Ms Bryce as the nations 25th Governor-General, and the first woman to occupy the post, on September 5.
The allegations about Ms Bryces fitness to hold the position as the Queens representative were sent to Buckingham Palace, with a copy to Major-General Jeffery, on May 30 by Kevin Lindeberg, the whistle blower in the long-running Heiner affair.
On June 10, the deputy official secretary to the Governor-General, Brian Hallett, wrote to Mr Lindeberg, assuring him that the issues raised in your letter are being investigated.
One of Australias most senior judicial figures, with a record of service at a vice-regal level, says that he has examined much of the Heiner affair material and there is certainly a case to answer.
The Heiner affair concerns the illegal shredding by the Goss Cabinet of documents relating to investigations into child abuse at a Brisbane detention centre that were wanted for evidence, and the cover-up of that action.
In his letter to Buckingham Palace, Mr Lindeberg mentioned the audit prepared by Sydney QC David Rofe, and The Sunday Telegraph and The Daily Telegraphs coverage of the Heiner affair.
The audit details 68 unresolved alleged prima facie criminal charges which Rofe QC believes are capable of being brought against current and former public officials in respect of their handling of the Heiner matter.
Mr Lindeberg referred to reports in this column that Prime Minister Rudd and former Governor of Queensland Ms Bryce were among the officials associated with alleged prima facie charges by the audit.
He told the Queen that documents including the Rofe audit, an application for review and the statement of concern sent by a number of legal figures to then Queensland Premier Beattie and current Premier Anna Bligh, were lodged with the Queensland Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee, in an application for a review under the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Act. The PCMC is investigating the matter.
Ms Bryce sought a report on the Heiner affair from Premier Beattie in 2003, received it, but neither she nor Mr Beattie ever made it public.
Mr Lindeberg said in his letter that the Australian Constitution vested reserve powers in the Governor-General, including the right to dismiss a prime minister or minister who acts unlawfully.
He said those holding the office of Governor-General must do so without any suspicion that their integrity might be in doubt as sufficing to impinge on their capacity to exercise those reserve powers impartially.
The exercise of those reserve powers may be brought into jeopardy after September 5, he claimed, unless the Heiner affair is properly resolved.
A spokesman for the Governor-General would not tell The Sunday Telegraph how the investigation into the Heiner affair was being conducted.
The treatment of Ms Bryce is in stark contrast to the very public populist witch hunt launched after it was alleged former Governor-General Peter Hollingworth had failed to act and had participated in a cover-up when allegations of sexual abuse were made against church officers while he was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane.
Then Premier Beattie made public a private Anglican Church report into abuse by tabling it in the Queensland Parliament before Mr Hollingworth resigned as Governor-General.
The then Opposition leader Simon Crean had made the point that you cannot have people in authority who have covered up for child sex abuse and failed to act.
The allegations of prima facie criminal conduct made against Ms Bryce and several other senior Queensland politicians and judicial officers echo the point made by Mr Crean: they were made aware of allegations and failed to act.
The Governor-Generals office must now demonstrate that it is conducting a thorough examination of the matters raised by Mr Lindeberg but it is impossible to see how it can come to any conclusion before Ms Bryce is due to take up her new appointment.
Prime Minister Rudd has delivered a useless fuel inquiry, an impotent Murray-Darling investigation and a meaningless grocery inquiry.
He must ensure that the Governor-Generals office is given every assistance to conduct a meaningful Heiner inquiry, or put at risk public trust in the highest office.
Return to Shreddergate