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Thursday, 1 September 1994
Page: 852

Senator COLSTON (7.20 p.m.) —Yesterday Senator Parer made some comments in this place during a debate on the report on public interest whistleblowing. A letter has subsequently been written to the President on this matter from a minister in the Queensland government. I shall read a copy of this letter to the Senate. It is headed `Minister for Family Services and Aboriginal and Islander Affairs'. The letter states:





Dear Senator Beahan,

In the Senate yesterday, Senator Parer made a statement under privilege regarding an inquiry into the John Oxley Youth Centre in Queensland and its then manager Peter Coyne.

The matters he raised were reported on the front page of the Courier-Mail today.

Senator Parer made a number of erroneous statements to the Senate. At no time have I, or my staff, been contacted by Senator Parer to answer any questions he may have had on the issues he raised in the Senate.

Senator Parer's statements are wrong and I would like the opportunity to correct his statements.

There are a number of facts which should be placed on the public record in light of Senator Parer's incorrect and unsubstantiated attack.

In early November 1989, Mr N.J. Heiner, a retired Stipendiary Magistrate was engaged under the former National Party government by the Department of Family Services to investigate and report on certain matters relating to the John Oxley Youth Centre.

In January 1990, Mr Heiner approached the Acting Director-General Ms Ruth Matchett expressing concern about the legal basis and authority of Mr Heiner's appointment, the establishment of the investigation and hence, the conditions under which it was being conducted.

Advice received from the Crown Solicitor indicated that, although Mr Heiner had been lawfully appointed as an independent contractor to perform his tasks, there were certain practical considerations which made it inadvisable for the investigation to continue.

Because of the potentially defamatory nature of the material gathered and the limited value of its continuation, the Department of Family Services decided to terminate the investigation.

Following advice from the State Archivist and Crown Solicitor, Cabinet decided on 5th March 1990 that the material gathered by Mr Heiner be handed to the State Archivist for destruction under the terms of section 55 of the Librarian and Archives Act 1988. On 23rd March 1990, the State Archivist destroyed the material.

Considerations in reaching this decision were:

(a) the inquiry had ceased and no report would be produced, therefore there was no further need for the material;

(b) all parties involved in the inquiry would be assured that any material gathered would not be used in future deliberations or decisions—this applied to Mr Coyne as well as other members of staff; and

(c) disposal of the material reduced the risk of legal action against any party involved such as Mr Heiner and youth workers employed in caring for children at John Oxley Youth Centre.

Any suggestion, real or imagined, that a public official was led to "falsely destroy public records in order to obstruct justice" is not only totally wrong, but also without foundation.

Senator Parer also insinuated that Mr Nunan's appointment as Magistrate was somehow linked to his association with the Premier Wayne Goss through their involvement in the Caxton Street Legal Service.

Again, this is totally without foundation.

Mr Nunan, a member of the Queensland Bar, was appointed by the independent Criminal Justice Commission, not the Queensland Government, to investigate a payment made by the Government to Mr Coyne. The CJC investigation concluded there was no reasonable basis for any suspicion of official misconduct on the part of any person.

Mr Nunan, like hundreds of other barristers and solicitors, was involved in the Caxton Street Legal Service some 15 to 20 years ago. Any conclusion that this provides grounds for allegations of Mr Nunan's recent appointment is totally ludicrous.

Yours sincerely,

Anne Warner

Minister for Family Services and Aboriginal and Islander Affairs.