Turning back the clock

Issue 

By Bill Mason

BRISBANE — The Queensland Coalition government has launched an attack on the state's anti-corruption watchdog, the Criminal Justice Commission, in a bid to return to the "good old days" when former premier Joh Bjelke Petersen and a corrupt police hierarchy ruled the roost.

Premier Rob Borbidge and Attorney-General Denver Beanland attacked the credibility of the CJC and its chair, Frank Clair, in the weeks leading up to the September 16 announcement of a judicial inquiry into the CJC.

Clair responded by vowing that the CJC would not give in to "intimidation". He expects the "program of denigration" against the CJC will intensify in the lead up to the Carruthers inquiry report.

Fallout from the CJC-appointed Carruthers inquiry into the "memorandum of understanding" between the Queensland Police Union and now-Police Minister Russell Cooper is set to endanger the future the state government. This the immediate motive behind the Coalition's drive to destroy the CJC.

It is widely predicted that the Carruthers inquiry may recommend criminal charges against Cooper, and possibly others involved in the police-National Party memorandum.

The memorandum, signed before the Mundingburra by-election early this year which led to the Borbidge government coming to office, promised police a veto over appointment of leading officers and control over disciplinary proceedings as trade-offs for campaigning vigorously against the then Goss Labor government.

The conflict between the new Coalition government and the CJC escalated when the government slashed some 10% from the organisation's budget. Clair caused an uproar by responding that significant corruption at senior levels continued in the Queensland police, and that the CJC would now be limited in its ability to hold a public inquiry into the matter.

The government responded by calling its own review of CJC operations. Clair then announced an inquiry into the necessity for a probe into police corruption.

Confused? Well, the Queensland public might well be excused for becoming so. But one thing is clear: the Borbidge government is in strife and is seeking to cover its back by undermining the credibility of the CJC in preparation for a disastrous finding of the Carruthers inquiry.

Faced with a mounting public outcry against its reactionary policies, a forced retreat over its plan to fully privatise school cleaning, an escalating strike wave over its proposals to slash the state workers' compensation scheme, and other outbreaks of public opposition to its land rights and environmental policies, the state government is floundering. A criminal trial against a senior minister would be a body blow.