Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry News and Updates
brisbanetimes.com.au senior reporter
Each of three submissions to cabinet in early 1990 about the possible shredding of evidence gathered during a state government inquiry in 1989 warned cabinet ministers that solicitors wanted to review the evidence, an inquiry has been told.
Ruth Matchett, who became the director-general of the Families Department in December 1989, was closely questioned on Thursday on the shredding in March 1990 of the Heiner documents.
During her evidence, Ms Matchett said she regarded the recommendation to destroy the documents as "unusual" and "controversial".
Commissioner Tim Carmody is reviewing the decision as part of his broader inquiry into actions at Queensland's youth detention centres.
"It was appropriate to draw it to cabinet's attention," counsel assisting the Carmody inquiry Michael Copley said on Thursday.
"And then if cabinet wants to destroy things that solicitors are actively seeking then that is cabinet's problem, isn't it?" Mr Copley asked Ms Matchett.
Ms Matchett said the timing of one cabinet submission in mid-February 1990 was "unfortunate".
"This was prepared and had to be submitted on the 13th [of February], and we did not get the advice - the new advice from the Crown Solicitor - until the 16th," Ms Matchett said. "And I didn't get it until the 19th [of February], which was the day that it was considered by cabinet.
"So there would have been different options had we had that legal advice earlier."
Mr Copley asked Ms Matchett what other alternatives would be possible, telling the hearing that "destruction, retention, release, or doing nothing" were all canvassed in the submission.
Ms Matchett said the need to discuss the issue with the state archivist could have been added.
The state archivist had to approve the destruction of the documents, the inquiry was told on Wednesday.
The inquiry heard on Wednesday that the state archivist was not told that solicitors were actively seeking the documents.
Mr Copley said he was not suggesting that Ms Matchett spoke to the archivist, or had a duty to speak to the archivist to relay information that solicitors were "actively interested" in the documents.
"Or that you failed to tell her a salient point, I am not suggesting that at all," Mr Copley said.
Mr Copley said Ms Matchett had done all that she could to let cabinet know that solicitors wanted to review the documents.
On February 19, 1990, Ms Matchett received a letter from then solicitor Ian Berry, now the state MP for Ipswich, telling of his law firm Rose, Berry and Jensen's "intention to commence court proceedings".
However, she agreed with Mr Copley that cabinet authorised the cabinet secretariat to liaise directly with the state archivist before documents were destroyed, not her.
"And although she was satisfied with that [the documents were not required for permanent retention], you did not yourself know what she had been told to assist her in arriving with that decision?" Mr Copley said.
"No, the decision was for the cabinet secretariat to liaise with the state archivist."Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/cabinet-was-warned-on-shredding-of-heiner-evidence-20130214-2efku.html#ixzz2Kt0ng3xB