Coalition to probe poll claim

by Chris Griffith
Published 12 February 1996 in The Courier-Mail


my face


Shadow Attorney-General Denver Beanland yesterday said an incoming coalition government would re-investigate the ALP's alleged attempt to induce disendorsed minister Ken Davies not to stand in the Mundingburra by-election.

Mr Beanland, who is expected to become Attorney-General if independent Gladstone MP Liz Cunningham backs Mr Borbidge today, said the coalition would deliver most of its legal reforms in the current parliamentary term, including its revised criminal code.

But he stressed a new government would not set up a flood of inquiries into the activities of the Goss government, although it would reinvestigate the Davies inducement case, and conduct a commission of audit of the state's finances, especially of the workers' compensation scheme.

Mr Beanland, 51, is a former bank employee with a 20-year long political career in Queensland. Nearly all of it has been spent in opposition.

Only once has he experienced government -- in 1985-86, as deputy to Brisbane's high-profile Liberal mayor, Sally-Anne Atkinson. He resigned mid-term to enter state politics. He was state Liberal leader in 1990-91.

Yesterday Mr Beanland promised a coalition government would not procrastinate for five or six years on legal reforms, as the current Labor government had done when it revised the state's criminal code, and when it promised to remove the misconduct tribunals from the CJC -- proposed in 1992, agreed to, but never implemented.

"We will provide more open government, more accountable government, and importantly more expeditious government," he said.

"It will be a case of get your expert advice, consult, and then get on with the job."

On the issue of the Criminal Justice Commission, he said the current Office of Cabinet review of the CJC "would die with the Office of Cabinet".

Instead, the coalition would implement its own plan to appoint a retired supreme court judge to review the commission's operation, its proposed increase in powers, and issues such as whether the CJC should be resourced to investigate the prison system.

He said some CJC roles could return to the police service, for example its witness protection role and its super-police force role investigating organised crime.

But he promised there would be no easing of the CJC monitoring police corruption and official misconduct.

In the long term, he proposed to restore the PCJC as a parliamentary committee totally dedicated to monitoring the CJC. And he was concerned about the CJC's dual role of pursuing public servants who leaked documents, while protecting them as whistleblowers at the same time.

He said there was no plan to reopen aspects of the inquiry by Marshall Cooke QC into Queensland trade unions, hastily wound up by the current government in 1991.

Nor was there any plan to reexamine so-called unresolved whistleblower cases, such as the alleged victimisation of police officers Gordon Harris and John Reynolds, who launched a private inquiry called 'Operation Medusa' into former police superintendent John Huey.

Huey had been responsible for investigating former Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen during the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

But Mr Beanland said coalition shadow cabinet had agreed to re-open the case of the shredding of the so-called Heiner documents -- the allegation by whistleblower Kevin Lindeberg that the Goss Cabinet had knowingly and unlawfully sanctioned the destruction of documents needed for legal action by public servant Peter Coyne.

He said he also supported a review of the case of another whistleblower, Treasury Official Des O'Neill, who last year was disciplined after a government phone audit found he had telephoned Mr Borbidge's office on the day a leaked departmental memo found its way to The Courier-Mail.

He said the coalition's top legal priorities would be:

  • to amend the state's Freedom of Information Act to remove restrictions of the public's right to documents introduced by the Goss government;
  • to appoint five temporary judges, and to give extra resources and funding to the Director of Prosecutions office;
  • to consign the Goss government's new criminal code "into the bin", and to have the coalition's revised criminal code enacted in 12 months;
  • to abolish the current prison remission system, and the availability of parole after 50 percent of a sentence. He said serious violent offenders would soon be compelled to serve at least 80 percent of sentences, and;
  • privacy legislation.
Mr Beanland said the Goss government would be in caretaker mode if Gladstone independent Liz Cunningham supported Mr Borbidge tomorrow.

He said that meant no major decisions, no senior appointments, no approvals to spend large sums of money, and no Executive Council meetings should occur until parliament had met.

Premier Goss's decision to delay the sitting of parliament to March 5th in these circumstances and deny Queenslanders' government was "really the scandal of the year", he said.