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Monday, January 29, 2007

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.