Cooke's crew blasts ALP spite

by Chris Griffith
Published 3 Nov 1996 in The Sunday Mail


my face


Claims that the Borbidge government deliberately undermined the Carruthers Inquiry have led to new accusations about the former Labor Government's treatment of the 1989-1991 Cooke inquiry.

In August 1989, one month after the Fitzgerald report was released, the previous National Party government established an inquiry headed by Brisbane QC Marshall Cooke, initially into four Queensland unions.

In the course of his inquiry, he investigated claims of ballot rigging and financial irregularities in those unions.

However, the incoming Labor government regarded the inquiry as politically motivated and ideologically driven.

The relationship between Mr Cooke, a former Liberal MP, and the Goss government was publicly spiteful - as has been the relationship between the Borbidge government and Mr Carruthers.

But, according to former Cooke inquiry sources last week, the bad blood meant inquiry staff also had to overcome enormous odds so that Mr Cooke could complete and deliver his final report, which examined the Australian Workers' Union.

Despite the odds, he delivered this report on time.

Last week Mr Cooke and his former senior Counsel, Ken Fleming, QC, refused to comment, but inquiry sources for the first time have disclosed the hardships staff faced in its final months:

Inquiry staff were told to vacate their hired office in the Jetset Centre by June 30th, 1991 - before Mr Cooke's report into the AWU was completed. The inquiry could not finish a planned review of public service unions as a result (He also faced a legal injunction on this issue);

In the weeks before June 30th, all but one of the inquiry's phones were cut off, and Mr Cooke was left with just one typist. He wrote much of his report on the AWU in longhand;

While Mr Cooke was writing his report in longhand, Public Works Department staff were busily trampling through his personal office measuring petitions and detailing renovations;

In the end, a fed-up Mr Cooke worked on the report from his Chambers, while his two remaining staffer proof read drafts in another building - Forestry House. This arrangement, where the Cooke Inquiry was geographically split, continued for three weeks.

At one stage the government threatened to withdraw the inquiry's cars because they were more than two years old. The government had asked the Cooke Inquiry to hire cars which inquiry staff regarded as enormously expensive;

The government constantly whittled away support staff seconded from departments who were returned while they were still needed by the inquiry;

He also faced political attacks - that his inquiry was extremely expensive, that it had found little, and that his reports were "B-class".