Tony Fitzgerald, the man who led the inquiry into corruption in Queensland’s Bjelke-Petersen government in the 1980s, has issued a statement warning against the abuse of power and describing Queensland today as “effectively a single-party State”.
Fitzgerald, a former judge of the Federal Court of Australia, said the first term of Campbell Newman’s government has seen attacks on the judiciary and judicial independence, emasculation of the anti-corruption commission, and interference with the electoral system.
The Liberal National Party government has “confirmed the critical importance of adequate checks and balances”, Fitzgerald says.
The Fitzgerald Inquiry of the 1980s contributed to the resignation of Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the jailing of Police Commissioner Terry Lewis, and the resignation and jailing of several Cabinet ministers.
Text of statement issued by Tony Fitzgerald.
Statement from Tony Fitzgerald
Queensland is extremely vulnerable to the misuse and abuse of power. There are almost no constitututional limits on the power of the State’s single house of parliament. Unless there is an effective parliamentary opposition to advocate alternative policies, criticise government errors, denounce excesses of power and reflect, inform and influence public opinion, the checks and balances needed for democracy are entirely missing.
Presently, Queensland is effectively a single-party State. The LNP has a huge parliamentary majority which it uses to dominate parliament and, outside parliament, News Corporation publications, which dominate the local print media, consistently publish biased reports which favour the government.
The LNP’s first term in office has confirmed the critical importance of adequate checks and balances. The government has already flaunted its disdain for democracy and good governance by attacks on the judiciary and judicial independence, emasculation of the State’s anti-corruption commission, interference with the electoral system, pursuit of self-interest, preferment of its supporters and irrational, counter-productive and sometimes invalid criminal laws.
Queensland’s future is a matter for its voters. At the next State election, they will simply need to decide which party will do the least long-term damage.