Sunday, February 5, 2012

Senators receive Heiner allegations | Daily Telegraph Piers Akerman Blog

Senators receive Heiner allegations | Daily Telegraph Piers Akerman Blog

Meticulously prepared allegations of the most serious misconduct by some of the nation’s most senior public officers, including the Governor General Quentin Bryce, the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, and a raft of Queensland jurists have been received by every member of the Senate.

The allegations were contained in the Rofe Audit of the long-running Heiner Affair and e-mailed to every Senator on Australia Day.

The affair began with the rape of a 14-year-old Aboriginal girl who was in the custody of the Queensland government.

Though guilt was admitted, no charges were ever laid and evidence prepared for an inquiry into the juvenile justice system by former magistrate Noel Heiner was subsequently ordered to be destroyed by Queensland’s Goss government Cabinet.

For the past 22 years, the victim (who was paid about $120,000 in hush money by the Queensland government last year) has sought to have her day in court.

She is expected to travel to Canberra to make her case personally after Parliament resumes tomorrow.

Last year the Senate Privileges Committee voted to bury the matter but members and staff had read the submissions.

The Clerk of the Senate, Dr Rosemary Laing, in Advice 47, wrote last June that “there is no doubt the matter raised is very serious”.

Though the Clerk’s advice was made public, the submission on which her advice based was kept confidential - until now.

An attempt to have the matter debated in the Senate was stopped by the Labor Party and the Greens, with former Family First Senator Steven Fielding voting to stop the matter being raised.

The allegations raised about the Governor General Quentin Bryce’s conduct are far more serious and pertinent than those which led to former Governor General Peter Hollingworth’s resignation in 2003.

The Rev Dr Hollingworth was driven out of office after a vindictive campaign by senior members of the Labor Party who claimed he was not a fit and proper person to hold the post of Governor General.

In the extensive 2,800-page document, titled the Heiner Affair Papers, it is alleged (among other things) that Ms Bryce did not apply the law equally in the matter of destruction of evidence when she was governor of Queensland in 2005. The extensive secret submission was written by senior Sydney QC David Rofe.

A number of senators have confirmed receiving the massive document.

The general distribution of the material places the Senate and the government in a very difficult position. It is impossible for MPs to “unknow” what they have read.

Senior parliamentary officers say it is open for Ms Bryce to request a copy of the papers, indeed, arguably, she is duty bound to do so urgently given the serious nature of the charges and the fact that every senator is now in receipt of allegations which question her integrity and fitness to hold office.

It would also appear that the Senate will have to “send” a message to the House of Representatives about the material as it also contains adverse allegations about a member of the Lower House, Rudd.

Parliamentary sources say that they are reviewing the Hollingworth resignation and the handling of allegations made against the former (now deceased) High Court Justice Lionel Murphy to prepare advice for the Gillard Labor-minority government.

This move dramatically increases the pressure on the government and the Opposition. Members of the public know more about the Heiner Affair than MPs wish, now there is no reason for Senators to plead ignorance.

The allegations are extremely serious and must be tested or the taint will cripple the machinery of government.
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