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Monday, 6 December 1993
Page: 3922

Senator IAN MACDONALD (10.26 p.m.) —On 18 November last I spoke in the Senate about the fabulous Whitsunday area of Queensland, the Whitsunday Shire Council and the CJC investigations currently taking place in the Whitsunday area. On 29 November, a letter was received at my Townsville office dated 24 November 1993, signed by a Mr P.M. Le Grand on behalf of the Queensland Criminal Justice Commission and written by a Ms Hamilton.

  I am impressed by the commission's prompt response to my speech on 18 November 1993. Its monitoring of parliamentary speeches is quite exemplary—unless, of course, some politician happened to refer my speech to it. But I doubt that because the commission says that it is not interested in political tactics. I appreciate the information contained in the letter from the CJC and I thank the commission for its gratuitous advice.

  As the commission has opened up the lines of communication, I would like to find out a little more about its investigations. Accordingly, I would be grateful for the commission's advice in response to a series of questions. They are: (1) Is Mrs Bird, the Labor member for Whitsunday, a member of the parliamentary committee overseeing the Criminal Justice Commission? (2) What input does Mrs Bird and the parliamentary committee have in matters considered by the commission? (3) Do members of the committee and other parliamentarians supply the commission with information and requests for investigations? (4) Has Mrs Bird passed on information to the commission or requested the commission to investigate any matter in relation to the Whitsunday Shire Council? (5) Is the commission aware of a constant stream of media releases by Mrs Bird attacking the Whitsunday Shire Council?

  (6) Is the commission aware that, with two exceptions, the members of the Whitsunday Shire Council are not members of the Australian Labor Party and in fact follow other political views? (7) Could the commission indicate in a broad way what the 11 separate allegations of misconduct against the Whitsunday Shire Council are? (8) Can the commission indicate the dates on which each separate allegation was received by the commission?

  (9) Is it true that the shire chairman has requested the CJC to conduct investigations? If it is true, would the commission supply details of those investigations? (10) Could the commission also describe—without naming them of course—the types of people who have made allegations; that is, are they ordinary members of the public, members of political parties, senior staff, other clerical staff, outside staff or other members of the council?

  (11) Ms Hamilton indicates in her letter that `most of the complaints are made by members of the public or staff of the council'. Does this mean that the other complaints were made by Mrs Bird? If not, from what category of persons did the balance of complaints come? (12) How many of the complaints actually came from the shire clerk herself? (13) Is there is any official whistleblowers' protection legislation in Queensland. (14) If not, has it been discussed and what is the present state of legislation in that regard?

  (15) Regarding the evidence that the CJC used to invoke the commission's statutory obligation under the Criminal Justice Act 1989 to investigate and take action where it appears that a person has been victimised, did the evidence come only from the person involved or was there other independent evidence? (16) I ask that the CJC might let me have the terms of the interim injunction issued. (17) When is the formal hearing on the injunction action to take place(?) (18) Is it possible to have a copy of the judgment granting the interim injunction.

  (19) How many of the staff of the Whitsunday Shire Council have now applied for whistleblowers' protection? (20) Would the effect of a permanent injunction be to guarantee the awardee a permanent job for life without any possibility of ever being dismissed? (21) For someone who has obtained a permanent injunction to restrain a council from dismissing him or her, can that person ever be dismissed, regardless of how incompetent, disobedient or unsuitable that person might be. Will there be any way that a person can ever be replaced with a shire clerk, who, in the view of the elected shire councillors, is competent, performs his or her duties and is able to have a comfortable working relationship with the elected representatives?

  (22) Could the commission indicate how long the CJC has been investigating the Whitsunday Shire Council and when it is expected that its investigations will be completed? (23) On completion of the commission's investigation, what form does the commission's report into its investigations take? (24) Bearing in mind that the shire council elections are to be held on 26 March 1994, at what time is it expected that findings will be made publicly available? (25) Does the commission usually publishes in the media its private correspondence with members of parliament?

  My interest in this matter arises from approaches made to me by constituents. I also have an interest in ensuring that elected members of local governments are able to govern and manage their councils as they have been democratically elected to do. As one who has had continuing concerns over the excesses of previous and current state governments, I am a long-term supporter of a criminal justice type of organisation, but I do understand the delicacy and sensitivity of the role of the CJC. In conclusion, I wish the CJC well in its continuing role and in its difficult task of identifying the genuine from the politically motivated.