When pigs fly

9th June 1999 - by Scott Balson

Courier-Mail (09/06): "But why did it take us so long to get here? In May last year, The Courier-Mail first revealed that allegations of abuse were at the hear of an (sic) 1989 inquiry into the John Oxley youth detention centre."

Extract Sunday Program (Channel 9) PAT COMBEN, FORMER CABINET MINISTER: "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."

The Queensland Independent: School of Journalism at the University of Queensland (when talking about the shredding of the Heiner documents): "And the media. Apart from Drena Parrington and The Gold Coast Bulletin, the Maryborough Chronicle and at earlier times Chris Griffith of the Sunday Mail, where have the media been? The answer to that question is quite disturbing."

Take this link for some fast facts on the Heiner Inquiry, Shreddergate and the subsequent carefully tailored inquiries.

It is important for readers to understand that the inquiry was not reconvened because of some sudden feeling of guilt or a sense of morality by the Beattie Labor Government. The Forde Inquiry was, in fact, a carefully planned red herring which left the original reason for it being raised in the Queensland Parliament by One Nation out of the terms of reference. The reason the child abuse claims were raised by One Nation was because of the irregular shredding of the Heiner Inquiry documents under the instruction of the Labor Goss Cabinet.

The link here gives you all the background material on this so I will not dwell on the irregularity of the shredding here.

However, what needs to be exposed is the manner in which The Courier-Mail continue to collude with government in perverting the truth and hiding behind the smoke screen that they have raised to save the Labor and Coalition government's from real embarrassment and allegations of criminality involving the shredding. They do this while claiming to be the movers and shakers behind forcing the government to act... what crap!

Here is an extract from today's editorial in The Courier-Mail (Governments let children be abused): "The Beattie Government established the inquiry soon after its election, in response to public anger about revelations by The Courier-Mail and others of the abuse of children in orphanages and other institutions."

One Nation's role in forcing the government to act is completely excluded in the Courier-Mail.

I have been helped in gathering the comprehensive background information at the link four paragraphs above. This information has been viewed by The Courier-Mail because they follow these pages with intense interest looking for politically incorrect letters and comments on which to act. This information has been available to The Courier-Mail at any time for over a year now.

They cannot claim that they are unaware of the background to the shredding or the allegations of the Goss Cabinet's criminal actions in shredding the documents.

Yet in today's Courier-Mail with five pages of articles beating-up the horrific allegations of child abuse just this single line touches on the shredding... "The Heiner Inquiry was told of children being handcuffed to fences overnight and others being kept in isolation for up to a week. But within a month of opening its door, that inquiry was aborted and its evidence shredded."

Fact: The reason why the Heiner Inquiry allegations were covered-up was to protect the Goss Cabinet from the shredding scandal - outcome - for ten years the abuse in youth detention centres went on unchecked... because of this self-interest based action. Yet this fact is completely overlooked by The Courier-Mail.

To track down the series of events leading to the Forde Inquiry into child abuse allegations - nearly ten years after the documents from the initial inquiry by Heiner we start right here....

I was able to inform the eleven One Nation MPs on the shredding of the Heiner documents... the information was on-line and was used on the first day of the new Parliament following the state election last year.

The information forced Independent MP Peter Wellington, who I had contacted before this time, to support a motion put forward by One Nation for the release of the Goss Cabinet documents compiled at the time it decided to shred the Heiner documents. Wellington had based his support for the minority Labor government on "accountability".

In an attempt to cover-up the real allegations of Labor's criminality in shredding the documents Beattie called the Forde inquiry last year after The Courier-Mail were forced to report on the allegations being raised by One Nation.

As a result the government made much of its decision to increase funding to child detention centres to Au$194 million from just Au$91 million (ie my research material here cost the Queensland tax payer over Au$100 million yet Shreddergate remained under wraps).

The Forde Inquiry's terms of references excluded any issue relating to the shredding.

This exclusion was tested by whistleblowers like Kevin Lindeberg whose evidence to the Forde Inquiry about the shredding was excluded as it "did not fall into the terms of reference" of the Forde Inquiry.

Lindeberg was not invited to the media beat-up "party" for those who came before the Forde Inquiry because he knew too much and could have caused trouble in front of the media.

Fast facts on "Shreddergate":

The documents that were shredded were the Heiner Inquiry documents and tapes. Noel Heiner was a retired Stipendiary Magistrate who was appointed to investigate written complaints of child abuse made against certain staff at the John Oxley Youth Centre. The abuse allegedly included chaining young children, under 10 years of age, to grills in the floor overnight. The children were allegedly told that "snakes come through the metal grills above the doors and in the floors at night" by staff at the centre. Among the staff under investigation at John Oxley was a Mr Coyne. Here is a brief outline of the events leading up to the shredding:

· The investigation was already underway when the Labor Goss government was elected on 2nd December 1989.

· Just six weeks later on the 19th January 1990, Ms Ruth Matchett as acting Director-General of the Department for Family Services sought an urgent meeting with Mr Lindeberg Queensland Professional Officers Association (QPOA) and Ms Janine Walker (QSSU Industrial Relations Director), to discuss the termination of the Heiner Inquiry. Ms Matchett informed the union officials that the Inquiry had been terminated and she was in possession of the sealed documents, but had not personally read them. The Department expressed concern over possible litigation (related to defamation). Mr Lindeberg said that he had been informed that his union member Mr Coyne wanted to see the complaints laid against him in accordance with his rights.

· On the 29th January 1990 Mr Don Martindale, then QPOA General Secretary lodged a breach of the Public Service Management and Employment (PSME) regulations complaining that Coyne had been denied natural justice.

· On the 8th February Mr Coyne's solicitor demanded, in writing, access to the original complaints against Mr Coyne which were the subject of Mr Heiner's inquiry from then Acting Director-General Ms Ruth Matchett. The demand also included other documents and evidence taken by Mr Heiner which referred to the complaints against Mr Coyne as per his rights under PSME Regulation 65. The Department/Government was given seven days to comply.

· On 14 February Mr Coyne's solicitors phoned the Department telling a senior official not to shred anything and that unless the material was provided under PSME Regulation 65 as the matter would be undoubtedly resolved in court. The conversation was recorded on a departmental memorandum of the same day which Ms Matchett later initialled as having read and understood.

· On the 16th February the Crown Solicitor advised the Goss Government that it would be shredding public records "which may be required in court proceedings because they could not attract "Crown Privilege status".

· On the 19th February Departmental Minister Ann Warner and Ms Matchett officially received Mr Coyne's solicitor's letter, dated 15th February 1990, giving due notice of Mr Coyne's intention to commence court proceedings to gain access to the documents. The Goss Cabinet, with the Crown Solicitor's advice, decided to seek urgent advice on the disposal of the documents from the State Archivist, Ms Lee McGregor, on the stated reason that the documents "are no longer required or pertinent to the public record."

· On the 23rd February Ms Matchett assured Mr Lindeberg at a meeting that the documents were secure and that she was still waiting for Crown Law advice on the issue. She did not mention any plans to destroy the documents.

· On the 5th March Goss' Cabinet voted to shred the documents.

· On the 19th March the Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) sent a second letter to Ms Matchett seeking access to the Heiner documents, and informed the Department it would consider legal action. Ms Matchett wrote to Mr Coyne informing him that she was still waiting for the Crown Solicitor's advice. She mentioned nothing of the Government's plans to destroy the evidence.

· On the 22nd March Mr Stuart Tait, Secretary of Cabinet, wrote to the State Archivist Ms McGregor informing her that the Goss Cabinet had decided to proceed with the shredding. It did not tell her about the Government having been put on notice by Mr Coyne's solicitors.

· On the 23rd March Ms C McGuckin, Senior Archivist, collected the Heiner documents with Mr Ken Littleboy of the Cabinet Secretariat from the Executive Building and transported the box of records to the Family Services Building where she, together with Ms Matchett's Executive's Officer Mr Trevor Walsh, (the man who took the phone call and wrote the memorandum of 14th February), destroyed the documents in a shredding machine.

· On the 23rd May the copies which had been provided to Mr. O'Shea for his "perusal and consideration" on 19th March 1990 were shredded.

The government later in February 1991 made an irregular payment of A$27,190.00 to Mr Coyne to allegedly buy his silence. This was included in the terms of his ex-gratia payment. A condition of the payment was that he sign a Deed of Settlement stipulating that he never speak publicly again about matters surrounding the Heiner Inquiry. (This document was only uncovered in 1996).

After years of controversy, on 3rd September 1994 The Courier-Mail assured its readers that the Government had followed the Crown Solicitor's advice of 23rd January 1990 in destroying the material. The Government refused to table this advice in Parliament at this time but showed it to a selected senior political journalist. The advice shown to the media was given before Mr Coyne's legal demands were made on the material, and when no foreshadowed legal action was notified on the Government. The Courier-Mail did not reveal that the Crown Solicitor's advices of 23rd Jan. 1990 and 16th Feb. 1990 were redundant when the documents were destroyed. The circumstances changed substantially when the Government learnt on 23rd February about their being required in a court case.

Further reading "Murder by Media"