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Email to Tony Koch +

Email dated 29/8/07

Mr Tony Koch

Cleaning Up Queensland's Messes

I would appreciate your comments on current developments in the (so called) Heiner affair.

As you will be aware, a recent submission to the Queensland Government by a number of respected legal professionals, supported by an epic analysis by a NSW QC, suggested that the Goss Government's destruction of the Heiner documents raised such serious legal issues that even after all these years the appointment of an Independent Special Prosecutor is required. The current Government dismissed this suggestion - claiming that the matter had already been fully investigated.

However a NSW journalist. Piers Akerman, has since argued that claims about prior adequate investigations are false, because the investigations that are said to have found that there is no case to answer had not actually been set up to deal with the Heiner affair (see 'Hiding in the Shadows' reproduced below). The points he makes seem plausible to me. Moreover I have personally encountered a situation in which complaints about an abuse of power under the Goss Government were met firstly by bluster and off-the-point waffle, and subsequently by claims that the matter had already been so extensively investigated that it would not even be further discussed (see 'Beattie rejects Heiner Review').

A view you expressed about the Heiner affair in an email of 6/6/07 lines up with the current State Government's position:

"There have been nine inquiries into the destruction of the Heiner documents - several of them in a hostile climate designed to turn up any possible evidence against the Goss government. None of them came to that conclusion. "

Given your knowledge of the history of this case and that Queensland's political establishment appears entirely unwilling to go beyond bluster and waffle in responding to external concerns about possible abuse of political power, I would value your advice on specifically which investigations you believe were (a) properly set up to investigate destruction of the Heiner documents and (b) found that there was no case to answer.

Akerman's article suggested that the Commonwealth Government should take the initiative in pursuing this matter. However, if Australia's federal system is to mean anything, state institutions (eg Queensland's community, parliament, government, judiciary and media) need to take responsibility for cleaning up their own messes.


John Craig

 Hiding in the shadows

By Piers Akerman , Daily Telegraph, 22/8/07

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.

Follow on Inquiry - to Mr Tony Morris QC

Email dated 30/8/07

Mr Tony Morris QC

Cleaning Up Queensland's Messes

I would appreciate a little help in trying to sort out facts about investigations into the destruction of the (so called) Heiner documents.

Because there seems to be a stand-off between an executive government and some senior members of the legal profession about the adequacy of those investigations (a stand-off which perhaps has parallels with similar executive / legal profession disputation about the current handling of the Haneef case), I decided to seek information about investigations which had both (a) been properly set up to deal with destruction of the Heiner documents and (b) found that there was no case to answer.

I approached Mr Tony Koch (a senior reporter with The Australian) as he had previously indicated to me that he had some depth of knowledge of those investigations. My email to Mr Koch is reproduced below.

In response, Mr Koch indicated that he did not wish to get involved in this issue, and that I should contact you - as you had investigated the matter properly.

Other responses that I received from disinterested observers on my Queensland public affairs circulation list (to whom my email had been Bc'd) suggested that:

"As far as Piers Akerman is concerned, I can say he has become better informed on the story in a couple of weeks than any journalist in Queensland has ever been in 20 years. My own view is there is not much that could be more important in a state than half a dozen former Supreme Court judges calling for the establishment of a Special Prosecutor ... and an eminent QC saying there is prima facie evidence of 67 breaches of the criminal law! ... by a whole lot of rich and famous people. I might be missing something, but I don't recall that happening for a while."

"... government claims about the number and thoroughness of these so-called investigations is nothing more than a pack of lies .... you might care to invite (Mr Tony Morris) to now put out a public call, in light of the Letter and of information coming to light after his and Howard's examination of only some of the relevant papers, for the recommendations he and Howard made to be implemented."

Any advice that you cared to provide about the question that I directed to Mr Koch would be valued. I fear that this matter will continue to stain Queensland's interstate and international reputation until injustices (if any) are resolved and everyone can plainly see that justice has been done.


John Craig

Response from Mr Tony Morris QC

Email received 30/8/07

RE: Cleaning Up Queensland's Messes

I have received both of your emails on this topic, and I have no  comment to make beyond this.

With all of the publicity which the Heiner issue has generated over the past 17 years, I cannot understand why anyone would want to jump on the bandwagon at this late stage, unless it is for purely opportunistic political reasons.

Kind regards

Tony Morris

Reply 1 - 30/0/07

Email dated 30/8/07

Mr Tony Morris QC

RE: Cleaning Up Queensland's Messes

Thanks for your contribution to resolving the dispute related to destruction of the Heiner documents. I will place it on my web-site for the record if you have no objection.

I note that you did not nominate any investigation as both (a) being properly set up to look at the destruction of the Heiner documents and (b) finding that there was no case to answer.

Rather you suggested that only opportunistic political motivations would explain why anyone would now raise this 17 year old issue.

While I have no doubt that political motivations explain some of the current interest in this issue:

  • there seems little doubt that those who have sought for many years to publicise and evaluate the legality of destroying the Heiner documents have done so because of a sincere belief that injustice was done, and covered up to protect a large number of well connected people;
  • my interest in the issue is that it is one of a many apparent or real abuses of power that characterised the Goss administration - another one of which affected me personally and which collectively have contributed to the state's public administration becoming dysfunctional and crisis prone;
  • there is no way to tell whether public disclosure of the inside story on destruction of the Heiner documents would have current political implications, though the possibility is real; and
  • unless justice is seen to be done, the Heiner affair will (as I previously suggested) presumably remain a blot on Queensland's reputation.

Once again thanks for your contribution to clearing this matter up.


John Craig

Reply 2 - 2/9/07

Email dated 2/9/07

Mr Tony Morris QC

Cleaning Up Queensland's Messes:
The Heiner Affair is not the Goss Government's only Unresolved Controversy

As your recent email suggested that only 'opportunistic political reasons' would explain why anyone would want to pursue the destruction of the Heiner documents at this late stage, I noted with interest that Mr Rudd, the leader of the federal Opposition, has reportedly opened the door to another review of that matter.

"In a statement to The Sunday Telegraph, a spokesman for Mr Rudd said: 'There have been many investigations into these matters, at both the Queensland state level and by a number of federal parliamentary committees. In particular, there was a special Commission of Inquiry chaired by former Queensland governor Leneen Forde. If there is any new evidence arising in relation to these matters then, of course, there may be grounds for further investigation and inquiry. This includes any further investigation into the initial allegations, which in all circumstances ought to be treated with the utmost seriousness ...’ " (Akerman P., 'A shameful cover-up', Sunday Telegraph, 1/9/07).

While potential conflict of interest would presumably disqualify Mr Rudd from controlling the establishment of any inquiry in response to the ongoing public controversy about the Heiner affair, a bigger problem is Queensland's inability to deal with its messes, eg because 'opportunistic political reasons' so often seem to determine the way controversial issues are examined. For example:

  • an inquiry established into a crisis at the Bundaberg Hospital (with which you will be familiar) was given terms of reference by the state government that seemed to limit potential findings of blame to the Health Department, and to exclude from consideration the politicised and dysfunctional machinery of state government generally that seemed also significant factors in the Bundaberg fiasco - see Intended Submission to Health System Royal Commission;
  • the Infrastructure Department recently released a document explaining the government's proposed response to SE Queensland's water crisis. It seemed to put a misleading 'spin' on the causes of that crisis (ie climatic changes, rather than institutional incompetence) - see Understanding Water Supplies in SEQ.

Some other examples where 'opportunistic political motivations' seem to inhibit serious attention to apparent abuses of power are documented in Reform of Queensland Institutions - or a Rising Tide of Public Hypocrisy?. The Heiner affair is by no means the only one of these that arose from the self-interest or incompetence of those who wielded power under the Goss Government.

It is disgraceful that attention to unresolved potential abuses of power (eg destruction of the Heiner documents) might only be grudgingly forced when the matter gains the status of a national scandal.


John Craig