Liz puts condition on inquiry

by Chris Griffith
Published 3 Nov 1996 in The Sunday Mail


my face


The Borbidge Government faces defeat when Parliament resumes next week, following a decision by Gladstone Independent Liz Cunningham to back Labor Party moves to revive the Carruthers Inquiry.

Last night Mrs Cunningham confirmed she would support a Bill by Opposition Leader Peter Beattie which would immune Mr Carruthers' records from scrutiny by the Criminal Justice Commission inquiry, headed by retired judges Peter Connolly and Kevin Ryan.

But she would support Mr Beattie's Bill only if it prevented the Connolly-Ryan inquiry accessing Mr Carruthers' documents while his report was being completed - and not afterwards.

She said she believed that was the case.

"Providing the Bill says what I'm told it would say, that it will allow Mr Carruthers the freedom he had demanded to finish the report, and for that period only ... I will support it.

"I've always believed he should come back and finish his report, and none of those circumstances have changed."

Despite her support for Mr Beattie's Bill, she said the State Opposition had been opportunists whose parliamentary tactics had been designed to gain media coverage and not results.

She said she would find it "immensely offensive" if the Opposition attempted further no-confidence motions over the Carruthers affair, and she would be "very scathing if it did.

She said both sides of politics last week wasting the community's time and money.

"We are there to be providing services to the community, and we're spending a lot of time discussing stuff that will ensure that one person or another gets their names in the paper, and that's not what it's about."

She said she had offered Mr Beattie support for a similar Bill to protect Mr Carruthers on Wednesday - the day before he moved and lost a motion of no confidence against the Borbidge Government, and two days before Mr Beattie had released his own Bill.

But she said Mr Beattie had rejected her offer.

"It just meant that the motion of no confidence was a party issue and was politically motivated, and not factually motivated."

However she rejected Premier Rob Borbidge's claim that the inquiry could not be resurrected because Mr Carruthers' lawyers had met the Opposition to discuss whether he could resume his inquiry.

She said these meetings were warranted, and she also had met Mr Carruthers' lawyers.

"I thought it was important to find out whether Mr Carruthers was even willing to consider coming back. There was no point doing anything if he wasn't."

But she was prepared to respond to Mr Borbidge's call for a meeting with her to discuss Mr Beattie's Bill.

But she said she was unlikely to change her mind on her support.

"I'd have to hear what Rob said, but I think it's important for Carruthers to come back.

"In all honesty I believe he's done himself some damage.

"Mr Carruthers found himself subject to attack in the same way he was subjecting everybody else to. And he threw the towel in.

"All he had to do was to discuss the matter with Mr Hanger. He didn't even respond to that final letter of Mr Hanger's to tell him what the problem was. He grossly over-reacted."

Mr Borbidge said the government was "adamant" that it would not support the Beattie Bill.

"The principle reason is simply following Mr Carruthers own logic.

"It's too late for Mr Carruthers to make a comeback.

"People expect that a man in his position who makes a considered decision will stick by it, particularly when it relates to matters of such gravity.

"To have a complete and utter change of mind is extraordinarily ludicrous, as is the position that the CJC now finds itself in."

He said no definite day or time had been set for his meeting with Mrs Cunningham.

Mr Beattie said he can assure Mrs Cunningham that his Bill would only immune the Carruthers Inquiry from scrutiny while it was still in progress.

However he defended the Opposition's right to move a motion of no confidence, and said Mrs Cunningham had not previously proposed any measure that would have sqatisfied Mr Carruthers' concern.

"This Bill goes further than what was discussed with Mrs Cunningham earlier in the week.

"She has grossly exaggerated the claim she was prepared to support a Bill."