CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

11 October, 2000

Justice Tom Shepherdson, QC,
c/- Mr Stephen Lambrides,
Criminal Justice Commission.

Relationship between Alleged AWU Practices and Government in Queensland

While I have no knowledge of the alleged electoral abuses which form the terms of reference of your current inquiry, I wish to highlight some related issues. I will start by drawing a parallel between (a) the practices allegedly used for filling key positions in the ALP by persons with AWU links and (b) the practices used in 'reform' of the Public Service by AWU-dominated ministerial offices under the Goss Government in the early 1990s.

Public Allegations

The types of public allegations about AWU / ALP practices to which I refer include:

While these current claims are untested, I am sure that you are aware that concern about 'thuggish' practices for gaining and maintaining power were raised about the AWU in a prior inquiry (see Fifth Report of Commission Appointed to Inquire into the Activities of Particular Queensland Unions - Australian Workers Union of Employees - Vol 1 - July 1991).

Impact on Government in Queensland

Under the Goss Government all ministerial staff were AWU (ie Premier's office) appointees, and Public Service 'reform' had a very similar flavour to the above allegations. Two examples in the Premier's Department are typical of what seemed to be widespread abuses (1), namely:

An enclosed paper, Towards Good Government in Queensland, outlines how the disgraceful treatment of the professional Public Service largely eroded that bodies' knowledge and skills. Attachment A to that paper outlines other observers' comments on what happened.

Towards Good Government in Queensland took the view that most of the problem arose from the relative inexperience and ignorance of those charged with managing 'reform'. However I also gained the impression (but had no evidence) that practices such as are now alleged to be used politically by persons with AWU links were being used by AWU-dominated Ministerial offices against the professional Public Service - in order to secure the power base of the inexperienced. The process of (alleged) reform was neither 'straight' nor effective.

The consequences have been serious for the community, eg: (a) loss of intangible public assets (knowledge and skills) which have proven irreplaceable given the lack of 'heavyweight' institutions in Queensland; (b) administrative failures; (c) an inability to deal effectively with economic challenges, resulting in low incomes, under-employment, social symptoms and political instability (3) - and even contributing to the currency risk Australia now faces (4). Similar problems continue to the present, as indicated in other documents which are available (5).

A System of Government which is Failing?

What was done by AWU-controlled Ministerial offices was probably lawful, even though it destroyed billions of dollars of intangible public assets and was unjust to many individuals.

The law requires accountability for public financial assets but this constraint does not extent to intangible public assets - though the latter are now widely recognised to be more important to any organisation's performance. And political power allows laws to be changed to legalise injustice (eg as occurred when Parliament prohibited appeals against senior appointments).

Thus these issues are outside the narrow terms of reference of your inquiry.

None-the-less I submit that your inquiry needs to take account of the fact that the allegations of electoral fraud which are reportedly being brought before you may have very broad ramifications - because the electoral process enables individuals (perhaps those lacking in intellectual honesty and morality) to wield the power of lawful government.

I further submit that (alleged) electoral fraud can be seen as just another symptom of a serious and growing failure by our system of government.

Other indicators of such failure include: (a) the juvenile farce which Queensland's Parliament is apparently often seen to be (6); (b) the apparent expectation by the present Opposition that it might now win Government without serious policies (7); (c) the erosion of the independent advice and competent policy implementation traditionally built into a Westminster system of government though a professional Public Service (8); and (d) the consequences of past (and ongoing) administrative failures that were outlined above.

I wish you well with your inquiry.

Signed John Craig


 1. Another case? Media reports suggest that the process whereby the then Police Commissioner (Bill Newnham) was sacked in 1992 also had a similar flavour (Gagilardi J., 'I'm not a crook', Courier Mail, 13/3/92).

2. Manipulative practices: One case study is outlined in the Attachment to an enclosed letter dated 28/4/99.

3. Defects in Economic Strategy, Tactics and Outcomes: See Attachment B to an enclosed letter of 9 August 2000. The letter was mainly concerned with a particular indication (related to infrastructure planning) of the failure of effective governance in Queensland as a result of the loss of top-level professional Public Service capabilities.

4. Currency risk: The recent decline in value of the $A reflects the fact that the inflow in investment capital has fallen below that required to cover Australia's high current account deficit - and presumably reflects a lack of attractive investment options in what is perceived to be our resource dependent 'old' economy.

5. Other documents: The nature of available documents is indicated in the list of enclosures which accompanied an (enclosed) letter of 28 August 2000. That letter was a submission about professional renewal of the Public Service.

6. Is Queensland's Parliament a Serious Institution? See an enclosed letter dated 16/3/99 to a Ms Libi Coyer whose high school students had apparently seen Members of Parliament as like a 'bunch of kids'. This letter attempted to give reasons for the weakness of Parliament in terms of the lack of raw material for policy debate. It suggested that the latter is both a cause and a consequence of the heavy reliance on foreign investors to take economic initiatives and the resulting lack of sophistication of much of the Queensland community itself.

7. Opposition expectations: see Franklin M., 'Monster stalks Beattie', Courier Mail, 30/9/00

8. Bipartisan support for politicisation of Queensland's Public Service was indicated by public statements by Mr Beattie and Mr Borbidge reported in Franklin M., 'Only four survive Beattie's reshuffle', Courier Mail, 17/4/99.