Beattie warns about attacks

by Chris Griffith
Published 26 May 1996 in The Sunday Mail


my face


The Government was cynically trying to discredit the Carruthers Inquiry by writing to the Parliamentary Criminal Justice Committee about CJC chief Frank Clair, the Opposition said yesterday.

Mr Beattie warned the CJC would eventually be destroyed if the state government continued to attack Mr Clair.

"If we have the government continually attacking the chairman of the CJC, no one will ever want to be CJC chairman again, and we'll be back to the days of the white shoe brigade and brown paper bags," he said.

He said the Government was attempting to distance itself from damaging evidence in the inquiry last week when Premier Rob Borbidge was forced to admit he had not fully read a memorandum of understanding with the Queensland Police Union.

Last week Attorney-General Denver Beanland wrote to CJC parliamentary watchdog chairman Vince Lester suggesting Mr Clair may have breached the Criminal Justice Act when he attacked the Queensland Police Union on radio last Thursday.

Mr Lester then wrote to Mr Clair and asked him to justify his action. A PCJC meeting has been scheduled for noon on June 11 to consider Mr Clair's reply.

Mr Lester said yesterday he had chosen June 11 to give Mr Clair a fair amount of time to reply. "It had been my personal decision to write to Mr Clair. A full committee meeting had not made the decision. I informed the Deputy Chair (ALP member Gordon Nuttall), who agreed this had to happen. That's a machinery thing really. I consulted."

But Mr Lester said Mr Beanland's letter had not influenced his decision to demand Mr Clair's explanation. "We would have done this anyway. We would have almost certainly called for a report. Mr Beanland's letter wouldn't have really mattered."

Mr Beattie said Mr Beanland could have politised the Attorney-General's office by writing to Mr Lester. "This is an attempt to discredit the CJC and through it the Carruthers Inquiry because the government sustained serious political damage last week from Mr Borbidge's evidence."

He said the leaking of the government's "please explain" was evidence the attack on Mr Clair was politically motivated. "This is a cynical political exercise designed to discredit the Carruthers Inquiry.

"Queenslanders need to be very sceptical about the behaviour of this government and the police union, and must be very careful not to be manipulated. They must remember this inquiry is examining a memorandum which, if implemented, would destroy the CJC and bring to an end the Fitzgerald reform process. It's all about turning back the clock."

Mr Beattie said the government's action would also make it difficult for the CJC to defend itself from political attacks in the media.

Last week Mr Clair told ABC radio that a core within the police union was attempting to undermine the reform process. He was defending the CJC after police union Deputy President Sgt Merv Bainbridge attacked the CJC over its raid of Police Union headquarters on Tuesday.

Mr Beattie said: "Where is Mr Beanland's concern about what the Police Union is saying?"

Mr Beanland denied the government had any lack of confidence in Mr Clair. He said he had not raised the issue of Mr Clair's competence with any Cabinet minister. He had a right to inform the PCJC of his concern about Mr Clair's public comments, but the committee, not he, would decide what action followed.

by Chris Griffith