The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, New South Wales)
Hiding in the Shadows - 22nd August 2007

by Piers Ackerman

Comment - isn't it interesting that Queensland's only daily newspaper the discredited, Murdoch-owned, Courier-Mail has been left out of the loop when it comes to a major breaking story. Why? Because they cannot be trusted to deal with the story fairly and in a balanced manner. 

IN THE space of a week, Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd and Queensland Premier Peter Beattie have snubbed calls for an inquiry into the rape and abuse of children in the care of the Queensland Government, claiming previous investigations established there was nothing more to be investigated.

Through a spokesman, Beattie said: “Two Senate select committees and at least two Senate committee of privileges inquiries. The (Queensland) criminal justice committee, the parliamentary CJC and the Electoral andAdministrative Review Commission (EARC) have also looked at this. The Auditor-General has considered it twice. There is nothing more to be investigated.’’

Rudd’s spokesman said something eerily similar: ``These alleged actions of the Goss Government have been exhaustively investigated in a number of inquiries, including two separate Federal parliamentary inquiries _ one joint select committee, and another by the House of Representatives’ legal and constitutional committee in 2004, chaired by Liberal MP, Bronwyn Bishop and with a government-controlled majority.

``Neither of these inquiries received or considered any allegations in relation to the federal Labor leader nor was he mentioned in transcripts, submissions or in the committee’s reports.

``He was also not included among the persons adversely named.’’

There is another similarity between the claims of Beattie and Rudd. Both are distinctly questionable (and both men must be well aware of that).

First, let’s look at the inquiries Beattie and Rudd are attempting to hide behind.

The first Senate committee to mention the so-called Heiner Affair, which involved the Goss Cabinet’s decision to shred documents needed by investigators, was a 1994 inquiry into whistleblowing generally.

It was not specifically into this matter. Despite the Beattie-Rudd claims that it found nothing wrong, the all-party committee unanimously recommended that the Goss Government (in which Rudd served as Premier Wayne Goss’ chief of staff from 1989 to 1992) review the affair.

Definitely no clean bill of health there. Goss, of course, rejected the committee’s recommendation.

The Senate decided to have another committee, under Labor’s Senator Shane Murphy, take another look at whistleblowers in 1995.

It didn’t concentrate only on the Heiner Affair but Queensland barrister Ian Callinan QC, who went on to the High Court, appeared before it representing Kevin Lindeberg, who has been seeking justice over claims of shredded documents for 17 years.

Callinan’s argument that the Queensland Criminal Justice Commission had come to an erroneous decision which was too significant to ignore, was ignored, though the committee found the shredding was an ``exercise in poor judgment’’.

Again, not a clean bill. Yesterday former Senator Murphy told me the shredding of the documents meant the case was ``very hard to investigate’’, adding:

``Lindeberg deserves a better outcome than he has received. On the basis of the evidence that came before that committee and has emerged since, clearly something was amiss.’’

The Senate privileges committee under Senator Robert Ray then looked at whether the Queensland CJC or the Queensland Government had misled the two earlier inquiries in relation to section 129 of the Queensland Criminal Code relating to the shredding of the documents needed in evidence and whether the Senate had been treated with contempt.

Again, not an inquiry into the Heiner Affair, per se.

When another Senate privileges committee looked into whether it had been misled by the QCJC, it adjourned as soon as the rape of a young Aboriginal girl was raised, and didn’t return.

So much for that investigation.

For the record, the QCJC has never investigated the question of child abuse at Queensland’s John Oxley Youth Centre, which was central to the Heiner Affair.

Claims that the EARC conducted an investigation are just more nonsense. Tom Sherman, who was chairman of the EARC from December, 1989, to February, 2002, has stated categorically: ``I can confirm that at no stage during my chairmanship of EARC did EARC ever investigate the matter known as the Heiner Affair.’’

Assistant EARC commissioner Brian Hunter is even more damning.

He has said: ``EARC was aware of the shredding by the Goss ministry. Let me say categorically that EARC never investigated this matter.’’

As for the Queensland parliamentary CJC, it never tabled a report into the matter, and never investigated it.

The most thorough inquiry was conducted by barristers Tony Morris QC and Edward Howard in 1996, who found a scandal they described as worse than that revealed by Tony Fitzgerald, and recommended that the Borbidge government conduct a public inquiry. The Director of Prosecutions subsequently prepared a report. This has never been released and Beattie refuses to table it to this day.

In 2003-2004, NSW federal MP Bronwyn Bishop chaired a House of Representatives committee which took evidence on oath and was the first inquiry to summons former magistrate Noel Heiner.

Heiner admitted for the first time that evidence of child abuse was contained in the shredded documents.

That committee recommended the entire Goss Cabinet be charged, and a Special Prosecutor be appointed.

So much for claims by Rudd and Beattie that they had been exonerated by investigations.

The Federal Government must speedily appoint a special investigator and get to the bottom of this simmering disgrace.