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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Police to meet: a positive response to their calls will enhance good governance

Queensland Police are meeting to-day. Miss Eagle supports them in their efforts to get the Beattie government to implement recommendations of the 1991 Black Deaths in Custody report, which called for round-the-clock supervision of indigenous people in custody, video surveillance and the removal of "danger points" (such as hanging devices). This is long overdue. At a minimum, police are calling for an extra 200 officers in remote communities.

As Miss Eagle has said in a previous post, policing in Aboriginal communities is a difficult task. Police need more support in carrying out the tasks expected of them. Government needs to provide support for the communities which the police serve so that the enforcement arm of government is not expected to pick up the pieces from government neglect.

If from the death of Mulrunji and the painful journey of Chris Hurley emerges positive change, this will be a good thing.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Our river and its health is no secret

Miss Eagle would remind the Northern Territory Government that the river belongs to the people: firstly, it belongs to Aboriginal people, the traditional owners; secondly, to the people of the Northern Territory; and, lastly, to the people of Australia.

Why charge an exorbitant fee so that the people might know the details of what has been done in an attempt - a good, bad or indifferent attempt - to protect the McArthur River?

Lastly, I would remind the Northern Territory Labor Government that it was not elected by the people of the Northern Territory to carry on like this.

Those who have worked so hard to put it in power and waited so patiently through years of dastardly Country Liberal Party Government do not want this.

Queensland: where good governance is absent to-day, coming the next?

Over at Freedom to Differ, Peter Black has pointed out why he believes it is wrong to now prosecute Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley for the death of Mulrunji.

Peter Black takes a more sanguine view of the justice system in Queensland than does Miss Eagle. Don't mean to be mean, Peter, but can't help thinking that this might be because you are immersed in the system; your living is dependent upon it; and your career might be impeded by a contrary opinion.

Miss Eagle, on the other hand, is a life long Queenslander who has flown the coop - pleased to escape the ineptitude of governance in Queensland including the administration of justice.

Government and Law function in a social milieu - a complex web of interests, social networks, and culture. In Queensland, the administration of justice and involvement of police in the administration of justice and the enforcement of law has not always served the people of Queensland well.

In such a milieu, memory has great value and one does not automatically erase such memories with the stroke of a bureaucratic pen or the issuing of a report or a political statement.

The Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct which resulted in the 1989 report by Tony Fitzgerald, The Fitzgerald Inquiry Report, demonstrated police corruption in Queensland. In addition, a close relationship between government and the police was brought into the light of day. This relationship did not provide beneficial results in the administration or the enforcement of law in Queensland for the general benefit of Queenslanders.

There are a number of noteworthy outcomes following Fitzgerald's Inquiry:
  1. There were only four politicians who went to gaol in the wash-up of the Inquiry.

  2. Of those who were tried and convicted and spent time in gaol, an argument can be made that they were scapegoats.

  3. Two politicians were former Liberal Politicians who swung to the National Party when the Liberal Party, the junior coalition partner in Queensland, suffered severe reversals and the National Party fortunes moved to encompass urban centres not only a traditional rural base. Don Lane, a former Special Branch detective, and Brian Austin were seen by Liberals as defectors. Two politicians were junior ministers, Geoff Muntz and Leisha Harvey. They were junior, foolish, and not the shiniest apples in the National Party barrel. To sum up, who were the scapegoats? Two turncoats, and two silly junior ministers.

  4. Joh Bjelke-Petersen stood trial in 1991. The jury did not reach a verdict. The jury foreman was a Young National, Luke Shaw. There are strong views in some sections of the community suggesting that there was a deliberate plan to pervert the course of justice and ensure that Joh was not convicted.

Then there is the case of Di Fingleton. The High Court of Australia upheld her appeal against her Queensland conviction. In doing so, it relied on two Queensland statutes.

Section 30 of Queensland’s Criminal Code provides:

“Except as expressly provided by this Code, a judicial officer is not criminally responsible for anything done or omitted to be done by the judicial officer in the exercise of the officer’s judicial functions, although the act done is in excess of the officer’s judicial authority, or although the officer is bound to do the act omitted to be done.”

Section 21A of the Magistrates Act provides:

“A magistrate has, in the performance or exercise of an administrative function or power conferred on the magistrate under an Act, the same protection and immunity as a magistrate has in a judicial proceeding in a Magistrates Court.”

In short, Di Fingleton should never have been tried in a court of law. Miss Eagle wonders who recommended that Di Fingleton should come to trial? Who recommended that Queensland statutes should be overridden and ignored? What could the Chief Justice of Queensland done? What did the Queensland Bar do or fail to do?

Then Miss Eagle recalls what Terry O'Gorman said in calling for a review of the Mulrunji case:

"Nick Cowdrey QC is notoriously independent and he's the only DPP of the eight states and territories of the Commonwealth who has tenure - the others are on contracts."

Miss Eagle is disturbed by what she sees in Queensland - a complex web of interests, social networks, and culture in which good governance and sound administration, not only in relation to justice and law, suffer.

The powerless still have much to fear in Queensland.

Please note, dear Reader, Miss Eagle has tried to be circumspect in what she has said. She has also been selective in the cases highlighted. She could have mentioned others.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Police in Aboriginal communities

Interesting idea! When the going gets tough, the tough get right out of there!

Miss Eagle is interested in this little interchange:

QPU spokesman Denis Fitzgerald says it may be time to sever ties completely. "If they don't want the police there, get them out," he said. "Let tribal law take over, let them police their own communities." Mr Fitzgerald says watch-houses need to be upgraded if officers are wanted."No watch-house in an Aboriginal community anywhere is this state can possibly comply with black death-in-custody recommendations," he said.The union says 200 extra police and more video cameras would be a start, but Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has rejected across-the-board changes."In small communities, it is simply a waste of money," he said.

Interesting to see the Queensland Police Union having some input into Aboriginal policy matters. These comments are worthy of closer scrutiny.

  1. Let tribal law take over. Aboriginal citizens are as entitled as anyone else to have police in their communities. As for tribal law, what tribal law should be implemented on Palm Island? Palm Island is a mess of whitefella's making when, a century ago, people were rounded up from various Aboriginal nations across North Queensland and herded into the Aboriginal penal settlement known as Palm Island. Really, its a bit like herding Canadians, Americans, Australians, British, and South Africans into one place and deciding whose law should take precedence. Traditional law does have a place alongside whitefella law in Aboriginal communities, just as Aboriginal culture does have a place alongside whitefella culture, but Palm Island is not the place to experiment.

  2. No watch-house in an Aboriginal community anywhere is this state can possibly comply with black death-in-custody recommendations. Miss Eagle suspects that this statement is true. She wonders if the QPU has raised this matter before. However, the death of Mulrunji (Cameron Doomadgee) - based on the Coroner's report - does not appear to be attributable to short-comings in watch-house design in Aboriginal communities. There is a whitefella law - one of two laws in western European tradition and found in other parts of the world. It says: "Love your neighbour as yourself." If police on Palm Island had taken as much interest in the welfare of Mulrunji as they did in their own welfare, he would be alive to-day and Chris Hurley would not be about to face the justice system with the possibility of a prison sentence.

  3. The union says 200 extra police and more video cameras would be a start. This does not sound an unreasonable request. However, these solutions do not address the issues of police attitudes and the attitudes of the Queensland Government to Aboriginal people and issues relating to poor race relations in Queenland, and in particular North Queensland.

  4. Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has rejected across-the-board changes."In small communities, it is simply a waste of money," he said. Why is Miss Eagle not surprised at this statement! No money invested in Aboriginal people and their communities outside the law. When this leads to involvement with the law arising from poverty, unemployment, life on the dole, poor access to education, housing and so on and so on, there is no inclination to invest money to ensure the safety of Aboriginal people either through enlightened attitudes of the Queensland Police or through fully implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Australia is not trying to address the issues of Aboriginal Australia. It is not lacking in goodwill of a rather generalised and fuzzy nature. It's just white Australia is not bothered about doing what really counts where it really counts.

Whitefellas are not just prepared to increase taxes to deal with the issue. They are not prepared to open up employment and education on a large scale to Aboriginal people. They are not prepared, on a wide scale, to come to grips with and acquire knowledge of Aboriginal culture. They are not prepared to sacrifice an ounce of their own comfort to ensure other Australians have the same opportunities.

Traditional Aboriginal communities are out of sight and out of mind and white Australia is quite content with that situation as it is with the out of sight out of mind prison system which has a strong Aboriginal population.

Miss Eagle has long held the view that she will know when there is no discrimination against Aboriginal people. It will be when she walks into a David Jones store and finds a traditional Aboriginal woman working on the cosmetics counter providing retail services to all Australians. This is such a long time coming that Miss Eagle thinks hell will freeze over first.

Please note: Miss Eagle has not intended the above comment as a side swipe at David Jones. The first floor of David Jones stores are sacred women's spaces in Miss Eagle's scheme of things. This is why she wants to see Aboriginal women in there too.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Do something about the Office of the DPP in Queensland

Terry O'Gorman, president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties (ACCL), has called for "greater accountability at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Queensland." This follows the handling of the case of Cameron (Mulrunji) Doomadgee.

There is no doubt that the Queensland Government, in the interests of good and sound governance and probity, have to do something in relation to public prosecutions in Queensland. The Doomadgee case is not the first time that the office has been the centre of controversy. Even things such as the administration of forensic evidence in an efficient, effective and timely method have been the matter of public debate.

However, this is only one aspect of governance which needs to be overhauled in Queensland. Good governance in Queensland gives every appearance of being an endangered species.

Mike Reynolds applauds one in 219 years event

Mike Reynolds, Member for Townsville (in which Palm island is situated) and Speaker of the Queensland Parliament, speaking of the decision to charge Chris Hurley in relation to the death of Cameron (Mulrunji) Doomadgee, has said

Friday, January 26, 2007

An historic first relating to the death of Cameron (Mulrunji) Doomadgee

Andrew Boe is the lawyer for the family of Cameron (Mulrunji) Doomadgee. Andrew told an Australia Day crowd in Brisbane to-day that the decision to charge Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley in relation to the death of Mulrunji is a landmark decision.

"This is the first time that a criminal charge has followed a death in custody in Australia's history.

The Queensland Police should leave it to the law - all that Aboriginal people have ever asked

What are they afraid of when the whole matter is to come before a judge and jury.

If there is no case to answer, a jury will clear Chris Hurley and he will return to work. If he continues to work with the death of Mulrunji (Cameron Doomadgee) hanging over his head, there will always be a smell. There will be smoke. People will say that where there is smoke there is fire.

If Chris Hurley is culpable, what do the Queensland Police want? A guilty man to go free, to work among them, to survive to get away with something worse another day?
Miss Eagle has every sympathy for policemen carrying out their duties. Aboriginal communities can provide quite unique policing challenges and police should be able to rely on their superiors and their trade union. However, we are all equal before the law - or that's the general idea - whether we are police or civilians, black or white.
Once upon a time police in Queensland were corporately described as the Queensland Police Force. Those were the bad old days: the bad old days when Joh Bjelke-Petersen was Premier, many influential police were corrupt, and Miss Eagle - a born and bred Queenslander - was pleased that Joh only had police in his pocket and was not Prime Minister with an army, a navy, and an air force at his disposal.



Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley
Following the decision of Queensland Attorney-General, Kerry Shine, to charge Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley in relation to the death of Cameron (Mulrunji) Doomadgee, the Queensland Police Commissioner has issued the following press release:

Officer suspended following legal advice

As a result of today’s advice by Sir Laurence Street and the Attorney-General’s decision to proceed with legal action, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley will be suspended from further duties until the matter is resolved through the judicial process.

Commissioner of Police Bob Atkinson stated given this status it would not be appropriate to comment further about the case at this time.

Last updated 26/01/2007

Media and Public Affairs Branch

07 3015 2444


News has just come through that Sir Laurence Street in his review of the decision of the Queensland Director of Public Prosecution has declared that there is sufficient evidence to charge Chris Hurley in relation to the death of Cameron Doomadgee (Mulrunji) and that there may be sufficient evidence to convict. While Miss Eagle has provided links to the Media Release of Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine she believes that it warrants publication in full on this blog.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Premier in Western QueenslandThe Honourable Kerry Shine
Friday, January 26, 2007



Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Kerry Shine, today confirmed he had received Sir Laurence Street’s legal opinion in relation to possible charges resulting from the death of Mulrunji on Palm Island in 2004.
Mr Shine said Sir Laurence, a former New South Wales Chief Justice, had considered the brief of evidence provided by the Director of Public Prosecution Leanne Clare.
Sir Laurence was asked to consider

(1) whether sufficient admissible evidence exists to support the institution of criminal proceedings against any person with respect to the death of Mulrunji; and

(2) whether a reasonable prospect of a conviction before a reasonable jury exists in the event a prosecution is brought against any person.
“Sir Laurence has advised me that he believes there is sufficient admissible evidence exists to support the institution of criminal proceedings against Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley for manslaughter of Mulrunji,” Mr Shine said.
“Furthermore, Sir Laurence believes there is a reasonable prospect of a conviction.”
Mr Shine said Sir Laurence had emphasised that his role was not to determine whether Senior Sergeant Hurley was guilty of an offence, but rather to determine whether he should be put on trial.
“In light of Sir Laurence’s opinion, and having given very careful consideration to the matter myself, I have decided it is in the public interest that this matter should be resolved in a court,” he said.
“I have today instructed the Crown Solicitor to take the necessary steps to initiate a prosecution as soon as possible.”
“I ask that, given the pending legal proceedings, the media show restraint in their reporting of this matter so that Senior Sergeant Hurley can be assured of a fair trial.”
Mr Shine said the fact that Sir Laurence had formed a different opinion to that of Ms Clare was in no way a slight on her.
“The best legal minds often differ on matters of law – even in the High Court of Australia it is common for differing judgements to be recorded,” he said.
“In my view, Ms Clare has acted within the scope of her duty and her authority.”
Mr Shine said the Government’s intention remained to table Sir Laurence’s opinion in State Parliament.
“We will do so as soon as it is legally appropriate, but it is likely this will not be until after the court case to ensure the fairness of the prosecution is not compromised,” Mr Shine said.

26 January 2007

Media contact: Kirby Anderson 0418 197 350


Miss Eagle asks:

Why did the issue of justice not come naturally to the Government of Queensland and its employees (the DPP; the Police) in this case?

What does this case have to say about the state of governance at all levels in Queensland?

Mr Beattie put on display Queensland backwardness in relationships with the first people of this nation. What will he do to bring about best practice, 21st century standards, in race relations in Queensland?

Above all, Mr Beattie, why did you have to be pushed?

Why did so many people in so many places have to expend so much energy in so much sorrow to ensure that the Queensland Police faced justice on this issue?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Take a ticket for Hicks

Another Australian lining up for justice for David Hicks is George Williams. George Williams is Director, Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law and Anthony Mason Professor.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

They're lining up to speak out on justice for David

Take a number and line up on the right. People are coming out of the woodwork in support of justice for David Hicks - now it is Australia's first director of military prosecutions for the new Australian Military Court, Brigadier Lyn McDade.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Bring David Home

The Sunday Age has received more than 6500 emails and letters supporting its campaign to bring David Hicks home.

They have been packed up and sent to federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock. He has been invited to write in next week's Sunday Age about the issue. The campaign to bring Hicks home will continue in 2007 as Hicks enters his sixth year in jail — without trial. We look forward to your support. The email address — will remain active.

Justice, torture, coercion, and moral bankruptcy

Australia does not provide justice to all Australians.

Malcolm Fraser speaks plainly about how Australia, along with other western nations, has moved away from the rule of law and is prepared to accept evidence gained through torture in spite of the long battle under British law to outlaw such a practice.

Brian Walters SC, a Melbourne barrister and the immediate past president of Liberty Victoria, says that, contrary to well-known principles of international law, Australia's Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, says that sleep deprivation is not torture: it is merely "coercive".

You can decide but Miss Eagle thinks the only point of argument is whether Australia, as a nation state, has reached a state of moral bankruptcy or is merely on the road to it.