Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry News and Updates
Labor Party Cabinet insider Stuart Tait accused over 'Heiner Affair'
- BY:ROSANNE BARRETT
- From:The Australian
- February 19, 2013 3:05PM
THE man who sat next to former Queensland Premier Wayne Goss during Cabinet meetings has been accused of orchestrating advice that ultimately led to the controversial destruction of documents known as the "Heiner Affair".
In a torrid morning of questioning, counsel assisting the Queensland Child Protection inquiry Michael Copley, SC, accused the then-Cabinet Secretary Stuart Tait of deliberately withholding information from the archivist in 1990.
Mr Tait repeatedly rejected the assertion.
The 23-year-old controversy centres on the destruction of evidence compiled by retired magistrate Noel Heiner from a short-lived 1988-1989 internal investigation into alleged mismanagement at the southeast Queensland John Oxley Youth Centre.
The destruction of documents came amid a belief potential defamation action could be pending.
Mr Copley suggested Mr Tait knew Cabinet would decide to destroy the documents and omitted key information from a letter seeking approval for shredding from the archivist.
"I suggest to you that you deliberately didn't put into the letter to the state archivist the fact that a solicitor was seeking the documents," Mr Copley said.
Mr Tait replied: "Well that's not my recollection."
Mr Tait, now a company director, was a self-described "super-dooper paper shuffler" in 1990 who sat to the left of former Premier Wayne Goss in Cabinet meetings during the early months of the Queensland Labor government.
He said the archivist could have asked the director-general or sought her own legal advice.
"The fact that solicitors were after these documents was widely known amongst both ministers and director-generals," Mr Tait said.
"I presumed that the state archivist would seek appropriate advice on advising the Premier and Cabinet about the duties under her act.
"She was the responsible officer. It's not for me to do her work for her."
The inquiry heard ministers twice deferred the Cabinet decision to seek advice from crown law and the state archivist before authorising the destruction.
Lawyers for the John Oxley centre manager Peter Coyne had written to the government seeking the documents and had threatened potential defamation action, sparking internal concern over a potential lack of indemnity for staff who gave evidence to Mr Heiner.
A decade after the shredding became publicly known, campaigners linked allegations of child abuse to the Heiner inquiry, claiming the destroyed documents contained evidence.