Editorial in the Queensland Independent

April 1999

PREMIER Beattie was elected on a platform of open, honest government, but his efforts since have fallen well short of that mark.

His refusal to heed calls for a Royal Commission into the Heiner affair has continued the murky inaction of successive governments on this issue.

Now there is evidence of an attempt to gag debate on a bill designed to institute self-regulation in the notoriously self-interested health industry.

In a unicameral parliament the only check on a government forcing legislation through is open, robust public debate and this government has tried to avoid even that. Parliamentary debate can still occur, but can also easily be gagged.

This attempt is worse because the government knew of the public concerns raised by the Health Rights Commission before it tried to stifle the debate.

The claim that the level of consultation is unprecedented does not ring true; if there is open consultation, why is there a need for sustained public silence from interested parties?

If the industry's advice was sought in the same manner as the state archivist's advice regarding the Heiner documents, then we have every reason to question the intentions of the government's secrecy requirement.

In any case, only full public transparency can avoid allegations of inappropriate activity in the future, just as only a Royal Commission can once and for all lay to rest the issue of the shredding of the Heiner documents.

Mr Beattie's latest arguments for refusing one are nonsense.

The age of the allegations is irrelevant - many of the incidents uncovered by the Fitzgerald Inquiry were twice as old as the shredding and only last year a war crimes trial was held more than 50 years after the alleged events.

The Forde Inquiry is dealing with the allegations that led to the Heiner Inquiry - and justly so.

The issues must be judged on their importance, not their age.

The inquiries held to date have all found something worth investigating further.

Call it a recommendation or a finding or just common sense, that advice cannot be ignored and the issue will not go away.

The Premier must get on with the business of making the government open and accountable in a way his predecessors have failed to do for a long while.

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