CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

Email sent 29/7/09

Hon. Tony Fitzgerald AC, QC

Reform of Queensland's Institutions: A Bigger Picture View

Re: Tony Fitzgerald breaks his silence,, 29/7/09

I should like to submit that the relapse in Queensland's system of government that your recent speech identified has more complex causes than you mentioned.

My interpretation of your speech: Queensland decided in 1989 that it had had enough of systemic corruption and elected a reformist Goss Government. EARC and the CJC started slow, but did good work. Gly Davis and Peter Coaldrake tried to redesign and energise the public sector. Efforts were made to reform the courts. But by the mid 1990s the reform impetus was lost. There was a shift to the Right (illustrated by One Nation phenomenon). Coalition regained power and set up Connolly Ryan Inquiry to discredit Fitzgerald's work - which failed because of obvious bias. While Coalition was unfit to govern, it damaged the reform process - and by 1998 the impetus for reform had been lost. Under Beattie, Labor lost its principled willingness to confront Queensland's dark past and decided that votes could be gained from Bjelke Peterson's remaining adherents by ignoring repressive / corrupt misconduct. Queenslanders were encouraged to forget past repressions and the social upheavals needed to deal with them. Secrecy was re-established by sham claims of cabinet confidence. Access can be purchased. Patronage is dispensed, mates and supporters are appointed. retired politicians exploit connections. Cynical politicians of all parties are only interest in themselves, and ignore these problems. Current concerns about police misconduct are the predictable result of attitudes in Queensland since mid 1990s. Greed, power and opportunity provide irresistible temptations. A well-informed community can combat such abuses.

The concerns you have expressed doubtless refer to real problems (eg see also Reform of Queensland Institutions - or a Rising Tide of Public Hypocrisy?)

However there is arguably a need for more than a political commitment to reform. It is likely, in both the 1980s and more recently, that weaknesses in the state's civil institutions (which are relied upon for inputs to legal / governance systems but tend to be unable to do so competently) are mainly to blame for abuses of power and poor government (see Journey Towards a More Effective 'Fitzgerald Inquiry'). Those institutional weaknesses arguably also account for the abuses of power and failure of the Goss administration's public sector 'reforms' (op cit). Until those 'environmental' constraints are addressed, future reform efforts are unlikely to be effective (eg see Queensland's Next Successful Premier, 2007)

In relation to a number of the issues mentioned in your speech, I would note that:

  • Re CJC: as a mid-level public servant in the late 1980s I had some exposure to the influence of organised crime in Queensland. I 'blew the whistle' on apparent Yakuza involvement in the background of those facilitating government support for Japanese investment in Queensland, and thus had some dealings with the embryonic criminal intelligence function in the newly established CJC. As a result I was advised privately in the early 1990s of an apparent decline in influence in the Queensland underworld of the police-protected local criminals your inquiry exposed and of Yakuza, with a rise by those with Mafia and Triad connections;
  • Re One Nation: this political phenomenon seemed largely to reflect the inadequate management of economic change (see Assessing the Implications of Pauline Hanson's One Nation, 1998). Increased exposure to international competition in poorly developed regional economies, led to social stresses and in turn to local perceptions of betrayal by 'elites';
  • Re Beattie Government: it is unreasonable to blame the Beattie Government for its failure to focus on 'reform' The Goss Government had not been been interested in anything but 'reform' - and so did not achieve much in practice (see Toward Good Government in Queensland, an as-yet-unacknowledged submission to the ALP's 1995 Election Review Committee). The Beattie Government, by contrast. tried to get on with governing. However it encountered massive difficulties because of the unworkable machinery of government it had inherited (see 'Beattie Burger loses its Taste', 2005).

By way of background I note that I have had an active but discrete involvement in efforts to promote reform and development in Queensland since the 1970s (see CV).

I would be interested in your views about these speculations.

John Craig