The ‘Heiner Affair’ - A matter of professional concern 22 June 2010

Today the Australian Society of Archivists Inc. (ASA) and the Records Management Association of Australasia (RMAA) joined with former judges, academics and legal practitioners in signing a Statement. The Statement expresses our concern over the unresolved Heiner affair and questions the legality of past decisions by the Queensland Government not to investigate the affair any further.

Submitted to the Hon. Premier Ann Bligh MLA, Queensland Premier and Minister for the Arts and Leader of the Opposition, Mr John-Paul Langbroek, the Statement urges the Queensland Government to reconsider an earlier request for an independent inquiry on the destruction of the Heiner Inquiry records in 1990. The ASA and RMAA seek from this Inquiry the establishment of an independent State Archivist reporting directly to Parliament on matters relating to the creation and disposal of public records. Read the full statement here >>>

What is the Heiner affair?


The Brisbane Times

April 28, 2009

The Heiner affair is the long-running controversy surrounding the Goss cabinet's 1990 shredding of documents relating to child abuse - including the rape of a 14-year-old Aboriginal girl - after it aborted an inquiry into the former John Oxley Youth Detention Centre.

The documents had been compiled during an inquiry headed by former magistrate Noel Heiner that was set up in the final days of the Cooper conservative government in 1989.

The complaint to the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee (PCMC) was lodged by former union official Kevin Lindeberg in February 2008 and concerned the handling of the Heiner affair by the main corruption watchdog, the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) and its predecessor body, the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC).

Attached to the application for review was a nine-volume audit produced by Sydney QC David Rofe that contains details of 68 alleged prima facie charges that he believes could be brought against public officials past and present.

They include Prime Minister Kevin Rudd - Mr Goss's former chief-of-staff - the Governor-General Quentin Bryce, who took no action after requesting and receiving a report on the affair from then Premier Peter Beattie in 2003, and six serving Queensland judicial officers.

The review application to the PCMC also included a statement of concern sent to Mr Beattie in 2007 from legal heavyweights, including the former Chief Justice of Western Australia David Malcolm.

The former Chief Justice of Australia, the late Sir Harry Gibbs, had previously aired his concerns at the destruction of documents.

Most recently, Premier Anna Bligh received a letter from Buckingham Palace, dated November 26, 2008, noting the Queen's request for "consideration" to be given to matters raised in letters to Her Majesty by Mr Lindeberg.

What is Heiner About?

In Heiner, the public interest issues at stake concern:

Extract From Kevin Lindeberg's paper Sums it up.

Mr. Kevin lindeberg and the Heiner Affair or Shreddergate“THE HEINER AFFAIR AND THE QUEENSLAND GOVERNOR”

In January and February 1990, my union member, the manager of the detention Centre, sought to access the Heiner Inquiry documents, insofar as they were about him, under a public service “access” law. He also indicated that he may take defamation action. As his union organizer, I was required to protect his industrial interests.

His solicitors and two trade unions placed the Government on notice of foreshadowed court proceedings. It was done by letter, phone call and meeting. The Queensland Government was told not to destroy the evidence, and that if access was not granted “out of court”, then the matter would be settled “in court.” Unbeknown to us, the Families Department had meanwhile transferred the documents to the Office of Cabinet in a desire to gain access exemption under “Cabinet confidentiality” or “Crown privilege.” 

The relevant February/March 1990 Cabinet submissions, which we now hold, divulge that all Cabinet members in attendance were aware that the documents were required as evidence in a foreshadowed judicial proceeding.

Crown Law advice, which we now hold, reveals that the Cabinet, and Crown Law, knew that the records would be discoverable evidence upon the serving of the anticipated writ.

By other evidence spoken in the media, we know that at least one Minister, if not all, were aware that those public records contained evidence about the known or suspected abuse of children at the Centre. 

As each layer of cover-up has been peeled away, the presence of child abuse at the Centre surfaced after being concealed for years. It was primarily through the investigative journalistic skills of Mr. Bruce Grundy that the horrible truth became known. The abuse went from physical, psychological abuse to the offence of criminal paedophilia  involving the sexual assault of a 14-year-old female indigenous minor in the lead up to the Inquiry. Worse, those working within government knew of such things at all relevant times, and did nothing about it. Some are still working in government.

The gravest legal and constitutional ramifications now flow from the shredding of the evidence and the assault against the female minor in State care as handled by our law-enforcement authorities. It is clear that authorities, including the Cabinet and the Legislature, could not face the horrendous political/legal/constitutional prospect that perhaps all members of the Queensland Cabinet of 5 March 1990 may be in serious breach of Criminal Code of Queensland. 

In a nutshell, instead of upholding the law, all relevant law-enforcement and accountability arms of government collapsed in around the Cabinet’s shredding desire by declaring it perfectly legal  when the law, properly applied, demanded otherwise. Source:

The aim and scope of the Heiner inquiry

The terms of reference for the Heiner inquiry were: To investigate and report to the Honourable the Minister and Director-General on the following:

  1. The validity of the complaints received in writing from present or former staff members and whether there is any basis in fact for those claims.
  2. Compliance or otherwise with established Government policy, departmental policy and departmental procedures on the part of management and/or staff;
  3. Whether there is a need for additional guidelines, or procedures or clarification of roles and responsibilities;
  4. Adequacy of, and implementation of, staff disciplinary processes;
  5. Compliance or otherwise with the Code of Conduct for Officers of the Queensland Public Service;
  6. Whether the behaviour or management and/or staff has been fair and reasonable;
  7. The adequacy of induction and basic training of staff, particularly in relation to the personal safety of staff and children;
  8. The need for additional measures to be undertaken to provide adequate protection for staff and children and to secure the building itself.”

The Goss cabinet Later destroyed the evidence taken, knowing the evidence contained allegations of child abuse.

Goss Cabinet Minister the Hon Pat Comben publicly admitted on Channel NINE’s Sunday program ‘Queensland’s Secret Shame’ In February 1999 that at the time the destruction of the documents was ordered:
"In broad terms we were all made aware that there was material about child abuse. Individual members of cabinet were increasingly concerned about whether or not the right decision had been taken" [with regard to the shredding].

The Sunday program also quoted former Queensland Police Commissioner Noel Newnham:

"Some complaints concerned the handcuffing of children … allegations the children had been sedated inappropriately to cope with a management problem, and of course there were allegations of bad management practice in general. Those kinds of things were all known in 1989. Quite high up in the department".

A.V. Dicey [Introduction to the study of the law of the Constitution (10th ed, 1959) at 202-203.] gave this as the primary meaning  about government by the rule of law-

“...the absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power... Englishmen are ruled by the law, and by the law alone; a man may with us be punished for a breach of law, but he can be punished for nothing else. It means, again, equality before the law or the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of the land administered by the ordinary law courts; the 'rule of law' in this sense excludes the idea of any exemption of officials or others from the duty of obedience to the law which governs other citizens or from the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals.”

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Labor Government destroys evidence into child abuse. Ministers pervert course of justice by illegal shredding of documents. Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan support Goss cabinet decision to shred.

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Additional Heiner Affair Coverage

17/02/2011 Kevin Lindeberg Statement of Concern suggests fraud

22/06/2010 Statement of Concern II calls on Premier Bligh for inquiry into Heiner Affair.

22/06/2010 ASA and RMAA joint media release

Queensland Parliamentry Crime and Misconduct Committee

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MP3/Video Interviews

Radio 4BC
Radio 4BC 01/10/2009
Radio 4BC 09/07/2010
Radio 2GB 30/09/2009
Radio 2GB 29/09/2009
Radio 2GB 24/06/2009
Radio 2GB 23/06/2009 Video
ABC Radio Richard Fidler Conversation Hour 17/03/2009
Brisbane radio 4BC 20/03/2009
Alan Jones radio interview with Piers Akerman.
Alan Jones radio interview with Peter Beattie
Alan Jones radio interview with former QLD union official Kevin Lindeberg

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Crime in the Community

Forde Commission of Inquiry

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Tasmanian Parliament Joint Select Committee on Ethical Conduct

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