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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11340

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (12:36): I'm one of the rare people in this place that has actually been through the grinding machine. I was one of the two ministers in Queensland who made the decision to bring on the Fitzgerald inquiry, which changed the politics of Queensland—hopefully forever, but certainly for the last 20 or 30 years. There were 54 murders or murder-suicides that had taken place in Queensland, and it turned out that they were attributable to one small group of policemen. It was referred to as 'the joke' in North Queensland by Steve Austin, the famous journalist. It was referred to as the 'Crooked Creek Cattle Company' in North Queensland. The first person to make noise was an ALP member. When I rang him up about it, he said he knew nothing about it and continued to say he knew nothing about it, and then hung up on me on the telephone. He was obviously terrified. But in an environment where 54 people have been murdered, it gets very, very scary indeed. So a decision was taken to have the inquiry.

If we'd had the Criminal Justice Commission, as we call it in Queensland, seven or eight or nine years before, would we have stopped all of those murders?

Mr Perrett: You were in Joh's cabinet.

Mr KATTER: I take the interjection. I was in Joh's cabinet. I was under attack by the corrupt coppers. I went to the person you would naturally go to—the commissioner of police—to put the objections in. Well, as it turns out, according to the courts, the commissioner of police was in fact the source of their protection. He wasn't the centre of the corruption, but he was most certainly the protector that had enabled the corruption to bloom. If I'd had the Criminal Justice Commission to go to, I still think I'd have probably gone to the commissioner—after all, I was a senior minister in the government; that was the natural person to go to. We had no idea, at that stage, that he was the source. That's one of the things with corruption—you don't know who's on whose side. That's the scary part about it.

The good part from the point of view of this legislation—I applaud the member for Indi for precipitating the whole thing. I think we crossbenchers could claim the credit for the banking inquiry; I don't think that that's entirely unreasonable. Labor was there for six years or however long they were there for, and they had no intention of having a banking inquiry, so we precipitated it. I want to praise both sides of the House for having a bipartisan approach, and I would plead with both sides of the House that there needs to be a bipartisan approach here. We congratulate the member for Indi for precipitating the thing. I don't think anything would have happened if she hadn't precipitated it. I plead now for a bipartisan approach. The polls are indicating a Labor government is coming in—you blokes will be in the hot seat and the Liberals won't be. There's no point in going after the Liberals if they're not in government. There's plenty of point in going after them.

Let me come back to Queensland. If a CJC had been there, it's possible that those murders would not have occurred. The murders, by the way, are a matter of public record. It's not my opinion; it's all a matter of public record. That they were related to 'the joke' is a matter of public record. When the Fitzgerald inquiry came in and was subsequently rolled over into what was called the Criminal Justice Commission, you had this witch burning. There was a wild bushfire raging out of control and it was going to burn a hell of a lot of people. One of them was a Labor premier. He and two National Party ministers that were under attack got cancer. Two of the three died. I don't doubt for a moment that cancer is somewhat related to extreme stress, and that's what occurred in these cases. A number of people were burnt subsequently. A minister, Brian Austin, went to jail because he had used his government car to go up and visit his kids at a private school in New South Wales on the weekend. This is a matter of public record. Once the fire starts, there are going to be an awful lot of people burnt—and an awful lot of innocent people.

There was a judge stood down in Queensland. There was not the slightest scintilla of evidence ever produced against that judge. Not at any stage. Nothing. He was hung, drawn and quartered—his whole life destroyed—with not the slightest scintilla of evidence. But everyone knew why they were out to get him: because he was not a member of the club, the legal establishment that ran Queensland. They all went to rich private schools. They had all mixed with each other. They all knew each other. They were a very tight-knit club. And here was a bloke whose daddy was a Sicilian cane cutter from North Queensland, who had been to a state school and was suddenly thrown in as a judge. 'We can't have this. We can't have this.' They had the judges group assess him. Surprise, surprise, the judges group decided that he wasn't a proper person. But I just use that as an example.

The Premier of Queensland—whatever else I might say about him—was a man of unquestionable honesty and decency, but there was a person in there that just hated him. Now, once you get a Criminal Justice Commission or an ICAC—you understand this. Totally innocent—but it gets in there, and then the headline in the newspaper is, 'Minister under attack: referred to the Criminal Justice Commission.' From then on, your name is besmirched. Now, for those of you who like reading history books, you would have read about the Stuarts Star Chamber—a kangaroo court we'd call it here in Australia. You've read about the House Un-American Activities Committee in the United States—rampant McCarthyism—where hundreds of people had their lives totally destroyed by a bushfire out of control. We could go through hundreds of examples of this. But what happened in the aftermath of the Fitzgerald inquiry was horrific to me, and I had to take responsibility for it, because it was Bill Gunn's decision but he needed my support to get it through cabinet. We were the two that made the decision to bring it down.

I urge the parliament to consider: the greatest upheaval on corruption in recent Australian history was in Queensland—fairly or unfairly. Fifty-four people were murdered or murder-suicided. Fifty-four people—all a matter of public record—attributed to 'the joke' or, if you like, the 'Crooked Creek Cattle Company'. On the other hand, myriads of innocent people had their lives totally destroyed by what followed afterwards, including a Labor premier—a man whose honesty and integrity would never, ever be questioned in the public arena, yet the damage to him was colossal.

So I find it very difficult because I can see the need for it but, on the other hand, I can see the grave dangers that exist here. I think a lot can be done to make it in camera, to do everything humanly possible to make it secret, so that some petty vendetta that some public servant had against some other public servant 20 years ago is not dredged up and then used to destroy a person who is totally innocent. I could give you case after case, but I'm not going to do that—time is too short.

So I urge a bipartisan approach. I thank and congratulate the member for Indi. If she does nothing else in her life, this would be a great achievement and contribution to the Australian nation. We came through. It wasn't what we wanted with the banking inquiry, but there was a banking inquiry and it's done a hell of a lot of good. My colleague sitting on my left here—appropriately!—deserves a lot of the credit, as do a number of other backbenchers. So we need to be bipartisan. There is one thing that is absolutely a necessity—total secrecy. We know that that's not really a reality, but we can do a lot to ensure secrecy. I think that that is vitally important. But I urge this House to just say you have the memory, that it is there, of what occurred in Queensland—54 deaths on the one hand and, on the other hand—the negative side—hundreds of innocent people with their lives totally destroyed.