Queensland Nationals Senators, Ron Boswell and Barnaby Joyce, will today take advantage of Parliamentary Privilege to table – or make public – the 3,000 word Rofe Report into the 1989 ‘Heiner Affair’.
A seeming vulturous flock of conservative apologistic pundits seem to think doing so will bring Kevin Rudd down. Tellingly, this story is not right across the news, nor even right across the conservative press. It is, however, being touted by the usual suspects in a predictable slavering junk-yard dog manner.
Let’s take a synoptic look at the infamous ‘Heiner Affair’.
- an aboriginal girl was raped during an excursion by inmates from the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre (JOYDC) in 1988/89 – an issue remarkably which has never been resolved from the perspective of button-holing the guilty party, or delivering justice to the abused;
- an inquiry fronted by then retired magistrate, Noel Heiner, was instigated by the then National Party Russell Cooper-led government which focussed on the JOYDC manager, Peter Coyne and then Qld Professional Officers Union senior organiser, Kevin Lindeberg who represented Coyne;
- the affair degenerated from a legal issue to one of whistleblowing on a then conservative government and what appears to be a political witch-hunt against Union / ALP officials, namely Lindeberg, Janine Walker of the then Qld State Services Union and sundry other players both legal and public service oriented;
- politics changed in Queensland. In late 1989, Wayne Goss swept Labor to power, inheriting the Heiner Inquiry, which had become mired in it’s own political bastardry. Goss ordered the inquiry shut down in March 1990 and some of the inquiry results destroyed. The rationale never completely explained, but some put this action down to a young, inexperienced government and freshly gutted public service. Remember, of course, that the real stain of the Heiner Inquiry would have fallen on the mismanagement of the JOYDC and similar childrens services authorities under the auspices of the former National Party governments;
- Lindeberg, without relevant access to the now destroyed documentation, was unable to clear his name which had been tarnished by the Heiner Inquiry, and it’s from this point that things really went to that hot place in a wicker carrycase.
With Labor formly entrenched in Queensland, and the damning results of the Forde Inquiry into children’s services becoming public knowledge in 1998, the ‘Heiner Affair’ became a hobby horse for anti-Labor apologists, and has remained so for the past 9 years. Was anything untoward done? Well, five seperate investigations over time have all failed to deliver the political knife to the ribs of Labor in Qld, which conservative forces have so avidly been seeking. Black-letter law specialists claim that certain legal statutes have not been adhered to and seriously need to be addressed, and yet, even with the support of some very high-level, powerful people, nothing seems to have condensed which would put this matter into it’s grave for good. Interestingly, when the Goss government fell in 1996, to be replaced by a Borbidge-led coalition, nothing was done to unearth the supposed truths of the ‘Heiner Affair’ by said coalition. One wonders why not, if the entire affair is so damning to Labor?
Now, yet again, the anti-Labor forces have exhumed the mouldering cadaver of Heiner in an attempt to raise a suitable stink from it, sufficient to send intending Labor voters screaming from their ballot boxes on polling day. The rationale? Well, it’s pretty simple really. Kevin Rudd, as we now all know, just happened to be Wayne Goss’s Chief of Staff (1988-1992) and Director-General of the Cabinet Office (1992-1995). Exactly why that first lot of documents were disposed of, we will probably never know. Certainly, 17 years of investigations, pot-stirring, court and parliamentary petitions and newspaper articles have all failed to deliver concrete evidence of any impropriety, either in 1990 or later. Was Kevin Rudd integral to the shredding? Was there something in those documents which bode ill for Labor? Highly unlikely, given that the real nexus of events occurred under a conservative government, and we all know just how corrupt the Bjelke-Petersen and successor coalition governments were.
So….just what do Nationals Joyce and Boswell hope to achieve from this tabling of yet another investigation into ancient history? The answer appears ludicruously simple. They hope that when dropped from a great height into the mire which is political intrigue, a huge splash of mud will cover Rudd from head to toe, damaging him politically. Muck raking 101.
The real shame in this entire matter being that an un-named and unknown indigenous girl, who was raped some 19-odd years ago, has never received justice and her abuser never brought before a court and punished. Politicians and bureaucrats would prefer to play powergames with the circumstances her situation engendered. That is the real failing, not who approved the shredding of paper or why. If there is any mud to be dispensed, I believe it needs to be lathered onto Messrs Boswell and Joyce and the political masters they are clearly serving.