Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry News and Updates


Goss government warned about Heiner documents

December 4, 2012 - 12:02AM Tony Moore

The Goss government was warned that information gathered under the Heiner Inquiry would be publicly available before the documents were controversially shredded, it was revealed yesterday.

Queensland's $9 million Child Protection inquiry was told a February 19, 1990 letter to the state cabinet secretary warned the information was public and could be accessed under a third party inquiry.

That followed then-Crown solicitor Ken O'Shea's advice three weeks earlier, on January 23, that Magistrate Noel Heiner was lawfully appointed under section 12 of the Public Service Management and Appointment Act.

However, Mr O'Shea's advice in a memo to then-Families Department director-general Ruth Matchett was that any report from Mr Heiner was "unlikely to satisfy any of the parties effected by the inquiry".

"It would seem that the whole matter has gone astray from it's inception," Mr O'Shea's advice said.

Earlier in yesterday's hearings, there was evidence about a dispute in the terms of reference for Noel Heiner's inquiry.

Three weeks after Mr O'Shea's advice, Ipswich solicitor Ian Berry, now the state MP for Ipswich, wrote to Ms Matchett on February 15, 1990, advising his client, then-John Oxley Youth Detention Centre manager Peter Coyne, wanted to be able to review the information for possible legal action.

This request was revealed during a complex and inter-linked set of 213 letters and memorandums tabled yesterday at the inquiry by counsel assisting the inquiry Michael Copley.

Cabinet advice was provided on February 16, 1990, that the documents could be accessed under a "third party discovery claim" and that they could be considered public records under the state government's libraries and archives legislation.

On February 19, 1990, state cabinet deferred a decision to destroy the documents and sought the advice of Queensland's state archivist after their destruction had been recommended by then-Families and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Anne Warner.

On the same day, the Crown solicitor provided further advice that Mr Heiner's inquiry was legally established but the nature of his appointment did not give him statutory protection from legal action.

On February 23, the state archivist reported the documents were not required, could contain defamatory material and recommended they be destroyed.

Queensland cabinet finally made the decision to destroy evidence gathered during Mr Heiner's inquiry on March 5, 1990.

The documents – including cassettes, a disc and transcribed notes – were finally destroyed on March 23, 1990.

Mr Copley told yesterday's hearings that Mr Berry was told on May 22, 1990, that the documents gathered during the eight-week inquiry had been destroyed.

The first witnesses to he heard during this two-week sitting will be heard today, after yesterday's lodging of 213 written exhibits.

Mr Heiner wrote to Ms Matchett on January 19, 1990, to say he was not prepared to continue with the inquiry.

More than 150 witnesses, including senior public servants and former ministers, are likely to give evidence over four weeks of hearings over December and January 2013.

Under this section of Queensland's Child Protection Inquiry, commissioner Tim Carmody is investigating the adequacy of government's response to testing allegations of abuse at Queensland youth detention centres.

There have been long running, but untested, allegations of abuse at the John Oxley Youth Centre.

In one submission yesterday, a former youth worker told of hard-to-control adolescents being handcuffed.

In hearings yesterday, the inquiry was told that 32 staff resigned when Mr Coyne managed the centre, while four staff resigned under the previous manager.


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