The role of the Unions The Unseen Hands
From a Disallowed submission to the Forde Inquiry
The role of the unions in this affair has never been fully explored before. It can now be done with greater certainty because of the recent release of the relevant Cabinet documents and their contents. This factor, it is respectfully suggested, should be of relevance and considerable concern to the Commission because of the interface and competing interests between industrial and legal rights and obligations of employees/employers in the workplace where the welfare of children is at stake.
What makes the suspected child abuse at JOYC in late 1989/early 1990 different to other possible abuses this Commission may hear, is that it allegedly occurred at a State institution. It was not a private institution generating its own private property.49
The preservation of paper work generated at those institutions belongs to the Crown and is supposed to be protected from willful and unlawful destruction by the provisions of the Libraries and Archives Act 1988.
A close examination of the released Cabinet Submissions (ie 12 and 19 February and 5 March 1990) reveals a significant motivating factor on the part of the Goss Government to destroy the Heiner Inquiry documents was that it would allegedly “avert possible industrial unrest.”
The unions knew about suspected child abuse
There are a number of critical factors in the submissions, and other events, that give rise to an inescapable conclusion that certain union officials of the QSSU and AWU who wanted the material shredded to “avert possible industrial unrest” were very aware at the time that it contained evidence of suspected child abuse.
For my part (representing the QPOA) I was totally unaware at the time that evidence of suspected child abuse was in the material. It was never mentioned to me by Mr Coyne or any other JOYC/QPOA members. The Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU) never raised that prospect or suspicion in our joint discussions when seeking access to the documents.
In Cabinet submission of 12 February 1990 at page 6 it states the following in respect of the plans to destroy Heiner Inquiry documents at that early stage:
49 There may well be legal implications on private institutions generating paper work about children who are wards of the State. In that sense, if the carers are contracted agents of the State to care for wards of the State/Crown then the records pertaining to that child may belong to the State and therefore protected pursuant to the provisions of the Libraries and Archives Act 1988 and other relevant pieces of law.
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9. " Discussions have been held with the Queensland State Service Union and the Queensland Professional Officers’Association, both of which have members affected by the investigation. Neither Union has raised any specific objections to the proposed course of action.”
That is a gross distortion of the facts. On 19 January 1990 I was called to an urgent “off- the record” meeting at Ms Matchett’s request. It was a meeting, in reality, of no official standing other than to meet and discuss a problem that would be resolved, insofar as the QPOA was concerned, at another formal meeting after discussing matters with our membership ie Mr Coyne and Ms Dutney at the very least.
Ms Janine Walker, then QSSU Director of Industrial Relations also attended the meeting representing the Youth Workers50.
At the meeting Ms Matchett indicated that she had a considerable problem on her hands concerning the Heiner Inquiry and documents generated. She indicated that the Inquiry was to be terminated, and that she had the records in her possession. The documents were presented as having no value and disposal of them was discussed.
No union agreement to shred
Nothing whatsoever was agreed as to allow the aforesaid Cabinet “consultation” comment to be put to Members of State Cabinet of 12 February 1990, and signed off by Minister Warner on 5 February 1990
Moreover, Mr Coyne, through his internal sources, learnt of the meeting and called me to a meeting with him and Ms Dutney the following day. The outcome of that meeting was that he wanted access to the original complaints, at the very least, and instructed me to pursue that course of action. I gave him my commitment that there would be no more “off-the record” meetings, and that I would seek access to the material.
I phoned Ms Matchett immediately and informed her that I would not participate in any further “off-the-record” meetings. Following that, the QPOA lodged an official request dated 29 January1990 that access to the original complaints was required by force of law.
At no time did I give her approval, on the QFOA’s behalf to shred the evidence.
Furthermore, on 23 February 1990, I met personally with Ms Matchett (witnessed by DFSAIA Industrial Relations senior official Ms Sue Crook) in her office and formally told her that the QPOA was seeking access to the original complaints and the parts of the Heiner Inquiry transcripts relating to Mr Coyne pursuant to Public Service Management and Employment Regulations 46 and 65.
50 At that time the vast majority of JOYC Youth Workers were members of the QSSU, while the AWU had a minority. QPOA and QTU members were only the managerial staff and other professional staff.
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Acting as a spokesperson for the QPOA and QTU51, I informed Ms Matchett at the meeting that both unions would join Mr Coyne in his court action if access out of court wasn't’t granted in order to gain access to the relevant documents. We went on and discussed a possible outcome of the foreshadowed litigation.
That meeting and request for the records was confirmed in writing by the QPOA on 1 March 1990.
In other words, two unions with JOYC members - ie the QPOA and QTU - never, at any stage, wanted the documents destroyed.
The other two unions, the QSSU and AWU representing the Youth Workers obviously did not share that view. It is suggested that any pressure from those unions, overt or behind the scenes, to destroy the Heiner Inquiry documents opens up very serious questions relevant to the considerations of this Inquiry. There can be no doubt that the union officials (in particular Ms Walker of the QSSU) knew about the suspected child abuse at the Centre because their close relationship with their respective membership who had successfully agitated to establish the Heiner Inquiry in order to report the unacceptable goings-on at the Centre.
With that state of knowledge it was totally inappropriate for anyone, including union officials like QSSU Industrial Relations Director Ms Walker and possibly others, to agree that the Heiner Inquiry documents be shredded to protect its membership from legal action because it aided in covering up suspected child abuse against children in the care and protection of the Crown.
The removal of Mr Coyne from the management of JOYC may have suited both QSSU and AWU memberships, but it did nothing whatsoever to properly and thoroughly address what had gone on at the Centre before the Inquiry was established.
The Minister must have known
The state of Minister Warner’s knowledge about the suspected child abuse going on is relevant. It can be easily confirmed. It is not credible to believe that Youth Workers or their unions or officials did not speak with her when she was Shadow Opposition spokesperson for Family Services in late 1989. Certainly I spoke with her on several occasions about industrial matters going on in Department of Family Services before she took office on 2 December 1989. That is legitimate bread and butter politics in a vibrant democracy, and Ms Warner was an experienced politician with strong connections in the welfare field and unionism.
In The Queensland Times of Monday 9 April 1990 (p5) in an article reporting on two JOYC escapees, a spokesperson for Minister Warner said on her behalf:
51QTU sent letters dated 27 February and 19 March 1990 seeking lawful access to the documents. In its letter dated 19 March 1990 it told Ms Matchett that “. Legal measures to gain access to the material may now have to be taken.’
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“A spokesperson for Family Services minister Anne Warner said that centre had administrative problems and was overcrowded.
“This place needs a real clean up and it will get it. There have been on going problems of a similar nature since the riot in March last year,” he said.
Ms Warner visited the centre yesterday and had called for an urgent report on the centre’s problems.
“We’ve known of the problems at the centre for a long time and when we took over the ministry our first step was to apoint a new manager which we holed would solve the problems. But problems do still exist,” the spokesperson said. (Bold added)
Duty and conflicts of interest
Public sector unions and their officials have a privileged place in our system. They often become privy to confidential or controversial information that others in the community (with a vested interest) are never told about. Elected workplace delegates may find themselves in a major conflict of interest position when public duty and suspected official misconduct or corruption impacts on their work and career prospects as appears to have occurred in this affair. It brings to bear unpleasant choices that may lead to whistleblowing against the system.
By shredding the material as far as the QPOA and QTU were concerned it would have been, and was, industrially and legally provocative - and remains so eight years after the act. In other words the shredding as an option preferred by them would not have averted industrial action as was suggested in the Cabinet submissions.
However, the shredding option was very acceptable to the QSSU in particular, and possibly the AWU. It is therefore axiomatic, that unless that option was adopted, it would be the QSSU - and the AWU - who would have embarked on a course of industrial unrest that so concerned the Government and that threat must have been conveyed to it out of my presence because there were no more joint QSSU/QPOA meetings after 19 January 1990.
The unions divided
The JOYC unions, in effect, divided. The QPOA and QTU wanted the documents
preserved, while the QSSU in particular and the AWU wanted them shredded.
Of relevance to this Inquiry is who knowingly assisted in the cover-up of suspected child abuse against children in the care and protect of the Crown. Undoubtedly Ms Walker knew, at all relevant times, that conduct of the sort outlined in the Document 13 (and hidden from public view for 6 years) was being authorised by Mr Coyne and carried out
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by either QSSU or AWU JOYC Youth Worker members and would be in the Heiner Inquiry documents.
And to reiterate, that if Ms Walker knew, so too did Minister Warner and Ms Matchett such is the inter-relationship in the world of Labor politics and trade unionism.
Departmental memoranda inculpating the Cabinet
This inter-relationship and the strong possibility of urging by the QSSU to destroy the documents, makes any evidence of communication between Minister Warner and Ms Matchett highly relevant and should be accessed. In a confidential CJC memorandum52 dated 11 November 1996 to Mr Mark Le Grand CJC Director of the Official Misconduct Division from Chief CJC Complaints Officer Mr Michael Barnes, he says the following at page 4:
“While the authors (Messers Morris QC and Howard) refrain from making any findings of guilt in relation to Cabinet on the basis that they are unaware of the state of knowledge of these ministers concerned, memoranda from Matchett to Warner strongly suggest that the knowledge which Messrs Morris and Howard deem sufficient to inculpate the departmental officers involved was shared by the politicians who gave the order to shred the Heiner documents.”
I respectfully submit that this Inquiry pursuant to its power under the Commissions of InQuiry Act 1950 seek access from either the CJC or the Department of Families, Youth and Community Care to the memoranda referred to in the CJC highly confidential memorandum of 11 November 1996 and that they be made public.
The Integrity of the Crown and unacceptable union interference
I submit that for any Government to adopt a union strategy which knowingly destroys evidence of suspected child abuse of children held in the care and protection of the Crown in one of its detention centre because of (i) union threats of industrial unrest by the Crown employees who may have perpetrated the abuse (albeit under instructions from management); and (ii) any party political/union affiliation considerations or connections should be rejected and condemned.
52 Tabled in State Parliament on Tuesday 25 August 1998
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