Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry News and Updates

Heiner documents destroyed for 'greater good', ex-minister says

February 18, 2013 - 2:21PM

Tony Moore

Tony Moore senior reporter

Evidence gathered during the Heiner Inquiry was destroyed for the "greater good", former families minister Anne Warner told the Carmody Inquiry in Brisbane.
Her answer came after Michael Copley, counsel assisting Mr Carmody's inquiry, asked why Cabinet made the decision on March 5, 1990 to destroy the documents.
"In the end Cabinet decided that the best interests of the vast majority were better served by destroying the documents rather than keeping them," Mr Copley summarised after a complex morning of hearings.
"If someone's ability to access the documents, whether simply for curiosity purposes or for bringing legal action later was inhibited, or destroyed by the decision to destroy the documents.
"We'll, that was unfortunate, but the decision that we have made was made, was made we believe for the interests of the vast majority."
Ms Warner replied: "Yes. For the greater good."
Mr Warner believed the decision was not necessarily against the rights of the former manager of the John Oxley Youth Centre, Peter Coyne.
Solicitors for Mr Coyne had written to the state government in February 1990 advising they wanted to view the documents and saying they were strongly considering legal action.
"His immediate rights were being stopped," Ms Warner said.
"But his over-arching interests in my view, were being protected."
Ms Warner also repeated her comments about Cabinet deferring a decision on destroying the evidence, because of impending Freedom of Information legislation.
"It is not drawn out in the documents in the Cabinet submissions exactly, but my recollections is very clearly is that Cabinet we should try to find a safe place to store these documents," she said.
"So they could be of no damage to anybody and not destroy them and that place may be the archives," she repeated this morning.
"The archivist suggested it may be possible to put them into the archives, but that with Freedom of Information they would become accessible."
Ms Warner also denied a suggestion that her private secretary, Norma Jones, had told former union official Kevin Lindeberg in a telephone call on March 8, 1990 that the Heiner documents had been destroyed to put him off.
Cabinet decided on March 5, 1990 to destroy the documents, but the papers were not physically destroyed until March 23, 1990.
She rejected a suggestion from Mr Copley that Ms Jones was told to inform Mr Lindeberg that the documents had been destroyed.
She described Mr Lindeberg as harassing Families Department staff with constant questioning, an issue disputed by Mr Lindeberg who said he was only representing his members.
Earlier Mr Lindeberg questioned Ms Warner about her knowledge of aspects of abuse at the centre, including allegations of children being chained to fences and of an alleged sexual assault on 14-year-old girl.
His line of questioning was kept in close check by Commissioner Tim Carmody.
At one point he told Mr Lindeberg: "If you are willing to wound, you've got to be prepared to strike."
Mr Lindeberg's questioning drew several objections about its relevance from Ian Hanger, who is representing the state government.
The hearing continues.
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