HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA
WEDNESDAY 25 JUNE 2008 P95 HANSARD
Heiner Affair and Lindeberg Grievance
Mr ABBOTT (Warringah) (7.40 pm)—
What has become known as the ‘Heiner affair’ is a serious blot on public administration in this country and a stain on the reputations of those who have obstructed getting to the bottom of it. In the late 1980s, not only was a Queensland juvenile justice centre systematically mismanaged but its inmates were subjected to sustained abuse, including, in at least one case, pack rape. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the principal victim of the matters investigated by Magistrate Heiner has had her life destroyed.
I regret to say that one of the first acts of the then Goss government in Queensland was to terminate the Heiner inquiry and then order the shredding of the evidence taken, even though that government was already on notice that the evidence could be required in court proceedings. Whatever the case was legally—and there is strong opinion that what the government did was illegal—morally this was an official attempt to pervert the course of justice. Every member of that cabinet has been complicit in a shameful cover-up and they should be man and woman enough to face up to that.
Four years ago, a Queensland Baptist pastor was jailed for destroying evidence of child abuse that might have been used in court proceedings. A man was jailed for doing, more innocently perhaps, what the Queensland cabinet had done. I want to say that an offence is not the less serious because it has been committed by numerous people acting in concert. Normally, in fact, the opposite is the case. So one man does wrong and he is jailed; the Queensland cabinet does wrong and its members suffer no adverse consequences at all.
Is it any wonder that so many people feel that there are double standards of justice even in this country?
Ever since then, a Queensland trade union official, Kevin Lindeberg, has tirelessly sought justice for the victims of this cover-up, and I congratulate him on his efforts. More recently, a prominent Sydney barrister, David Rofe QC, has prepared a compendium of evidence— a case for the prosecution, so to speak—setting out what has been done and by whom. Perhaps he has been too zealous a prosecutor. Even so, it is good that we still have people who burn to see justice done and injustice exposed. I want to make this point: people should not escape scrutiny on the grounds of their eminence.
It is a fundamental principle of British justice that, be you ever so high, the law is above you.
If they have done the same thing, cabinet ministers, premiers, senior public servants and judges should not escape the same punishment that befalls a misguided Baptist pastor. It is pretty clear that serious mistreatment, including sexual abuse, has over the years taken place in Queensland government institutions. The South Australian government has had the courage to face up to this in appointing the Mullighan inquiry, and I call on the Queensland government to also appoint a royal commission, which should, amongst other things, draw on the work of David Rofe QC to ensure that these mistakes are never made again.
Just because this matter happened some time ago does not mean that it should no longer be investigated.
Injustice is injustice, crime is crime, wrongdoing is wrongdoing and this particular matter cries out for rectification.