The editor noted with interest on AM quality ABC news
this morning respected semi retired lawyer Sir Laurence Street of NSW has been appointed by the Queensland government in the terribly tragic case of the death of an Aboriginal man, Mulrunji Doomadgee, 36 in 2004 at Palm Island from horrific internal injuries. There has been huge community backlash since then. The story is also carried here
A little research will show Sir Laurence
was asked in March 2006 what he thought of the highly limited terms of reference (TOR) of the Royal Commission like Cole Inquiry of the now infamous scandal over the Australian Wheat Board bribery of now dead Saddam government in Iraq:
"SIR LAURENCE STREET, FORMER ROYAL COMMISSIONER" There is always a temptation when one is a royal commissioner to think, "Well, look, I'll clean up all of this." And one thing I'll suggest to the Government. I'll do this I'll do that. I'm not going to be specific, but we all can recollect a royal commission that got way, way out beyond its original terms of reference, as the commissioner followed various rabbits down various burrows. That's not what a royal commission is about. A royal commission is a specific - or a commission such as this in the federal arena - is a commission to inquire into a particular topic and report back to executive government.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Sir Lawrence Street is one of Australia's most respected legal minds and he's no stranger to royal commissions himself.
SIR LAURENCE STREET: I don't criticise politicians for one moment. I've done high-profile political inquiries myself. That's the political arena is the political arena. The arena is the fourth estate in which you and your colleagues function, Mr Brissenden is another. But the judicial arena, or the judicial arena such as an inquiry such as this, although it's not an adjudicative function, is something which is apart and has to be ruthlessly protected by the integrity of the commissioner to ensure that he or she doesn't find themselves pushed out beyond what is the proper scope of their terms of reference."
and a moment later in the same interveiw:
"MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Veterans like Sir Laurence Street agree the position for Cole is difficult, but he simply has to play it straight.
SIR LAURENCE STREET: His duty is to carry out the inquiry as it is laid down in the terms of reference. He's not the guardian of all aspects of public interest associated with this topic. He's been given a specific task and his duty is to get on with that task and make his report. I may say a duty that he's discharging with admiral balance and, as one would expect, integrity. He's a judge of enormous stature, of shining integrity and he's doing I think a very praiseworthy job in a difficult political climate."
The full interveiw is here: Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT LOCATION: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2006/s1604156.htmBroadcast: 29/03/2006 Cole inquiry lacks powers: Opposition Reporter: Michael Brissenden
Street who it is fair to say is a bastion of the legal establishment in NSW for many decades said that the TOR have to be limited otherwise the AWB inquiry could grow like topsy as per a certain Royal Commission held in Australia in the 1980's.
If memory serves this writer, a junior solicitor here in NSW, thinks Sir Laurence is almost certainly referring to the hugely significant anti corruption Fitzgerald Inquiry in Qld in the 1980's. This is the same Fitzgerald Inquiry that Premier Peter Beatie appears to have obliquely referred to at times as ‘a lawyers picnic’ for becoming very expensive and possibly endless: There is one very serious veiw of history that the Fitz RC was moving from the corrupt Bjelke Peterson government of the National Party to the entrenched corruption in the Qld ALP but never got the chance. Topsy indeed.
Nor is this writer so naive about the legal and moral issues in the tragedy of every single premature Indigenous death. At one time in my life I was effectively a surrogate father figure to a 5 year old Aboriginal lad called Jimari for six months and I worry about his future most days of my life. I have also met a gifted Aboriginal artist friend of my sister called Glen from Palm Island with teeth missing from the frightening violence in that community. On another occassion at an environmental stall held at a peace rally in Belmore Park, Sydney CBD, on Palm Sunday many years ago a drunken Aboriginal young man stole all my Jabiluka stickers and started handing them out: Maybe I should have accepted this situation as paying the rent but when challenged for 'this disrespect to the Gundjehmi elders campaign on Jabiluka' given the stickers were a fundraising project against a uranium mine, he grabbed a stick and started to break it as if to stab me with the pointed end. He wanted my blood. When I took it off him he complained that he was 'homeless' and so it was my fault. But I didn't make him drunk at 11 am in the morning, nor are most Aboriginal People drinkers. Far more in the white community. In 1989 I completed my honours thesis 'A legal foundation for Aboriginal Rights' predicting the famous Mabo High Cout decision 3 years later. Once I got my car window broken while donating books to the Redfern Community centre. The undercover cops watched the whole thing as I negotiated to get my address book back.
Indeed respected lawyer Andrew Boe has been involved in the Doomadgee controversy as here March 2005
and here up to late 2006
and notes the complex social problems at Palm Island leading to violence in too many situations. So what share of responsibility of the policeman Chris Hurley in this death? I don't know. The facts and the coroner's findings are highly relevant of course. It's a matter for professionals and family much closer to the facts of the tragedy. Only this writer lacks confidence in Sir Laurence being quite the corruption fighting reformer others, especially in the Aboriginal community, might be hoping for. On the other hand Sir Street may do well in brokering a quasi legal resolution with the family and community stakeholders. Maybe. Here's hoping.
Minimalist lawyer Street to shut down Doomadgee case file as predicted?
by Tom McLoughlin solicitor Monday January 15, 2007 at 03:32 PM
As predicted and advised to [Melbourne Indymedia website] readers perhaps a week ago, this breaking news report on Sydney Daily Telegraph says it all: 'Not open ended', and 'not taking any new evidence'
As I understand it Noel Pearson Aboriginal lawyer of Cape York and national figure wrote in The Australian around 6th January that it was imperative that whoever takes on reviewing this file be able to look at new evidence or new information.
At least as I recall it on the Lavartus Prodeo web blog I read yesterday.
Here we have Street who in one interview on 7.30 Report
1. criticised the famous Fitzgerald corruption inquiry 'for chasing every rabbit down every hole' and
2. commended the cautious narrow rigour (my words) of the Cole AWB as if to bless its limits
also now stating it's going to be a 1 week flash in the pan job after 2 to 3 years of full on controversy over the death in custody riots and national controversy as per Telegraph report below.
Well here is something very interesting I noticed: The heat on the Beattie govt really increased when National President of the ALP prominent Aboriginal man Warren Mundine started hitting the airwaves a few weeks back saying its not good enough after the DPP appeared to cancel out the Coroner.
Warren Mundine is pretty quiet now. But guess what: The big articles that broke the story about the largely but not entirely symbolic and big Githabul native title successful land use agreement with the NSW ALP government over Christmas New Year involved the one and same Warren Mundine. Warren has had a big victory on indigenous rights as "chief executive of NSW Native Title Services, which funded the claim, [and] told the ABC that the deal is a watershed.
"It gives an opportunity for that community to have lands returned. It gives an opportunity for that community to have an economic base as well as a cultural base to operate from" said Mr Mundine"
In The Epoch Times Jan 3-9 2007 quoting AAP.
I'm sure Warren Mundine is more than capable of covering two big items of indigenous controversy at once, but I sure hope he is not trading one State ALP indigenous issue for another State ALP win on Black rights, all in the ALP family so to speak?
Sure is an interesting coincidence. Qld side of the border has not cooperated in the Githabul land use agreement. I wonder what that means?
Street's report looks like a hopeless avenue for the Palm Island Aboriginal community on the basis of this article posted at midday at News Ltd (and notice the spin about Sir Street being an ex WW2 veteran as if this could possibly be relevant. Is this undue vanity?)
Palm Island report 'due soon'
January 15, 2007 12:00
THE man appointed to review Palm Island's controversial death in custody case says he expects to finalise his report in as little as a week.
Sir Laurence Street will arrive in Brisbane from Sydney this afternoon, before flying out to the north Queensland island tomorrow to get a "feel" for where Mulrunji Doomadgee died in November 2004.
The respected former NSW chief justice was appointed earlier this month to review the Director of Public Prosecution's (DPP) decision not to charge Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over Mulrunji's death in custody in 2004. Leanne Clare's ruling came despite a coroner finding the officer was responsible for Mulrunji's death.
Sir Laurence said he would take his senior counsel assisting, a barrister and crown law officers with him on a "three or four" hour trip to Palm Island.
The WWII veteran said his visit came after working "virtually full-time" on the matter since receiving the files last Monday.
"It's a matter which should be finished within a matter of a week or so," Sir Laurence said today.
"It's not open-ended. I have the material. It's a question of our team evaluating it."
Sir Laurence will visit the site of Mulrunji's death in the island's watchhouse, which was later burnt down in a riot.
He stressed he would not be collecting any evidence during the trip.
"I won't be receiving any information or interviewing anybody," Sir Laurence said.
"All the information is already in the documents that have been gathered by the coroner and by the DPP.
"I'm going over to enlarge my understanding (of what happened)."
Sir Laurence said that included rejecting any attempt by Mulrunji's family to provide him with further information.
"It's not within my province to do so. In any event, there's no purpose in doing so because there's exhausted material already gathered by the coroner and by the DPP," he said.
Sir Laurence will return to Brisbane on Wednesday before flying back to Sydney to continue reviewing the case.
Even Laurence Street had the self knowledge to hesitate on camera on late SBS tv news tonight at the death of the critical 24 year old witness who swung from a noose and died in the last 24 hours.
The witness that likely had more to say but Sir Street said was irrelevant to his review because they were not taking any 'new evidence'.
Perhaps the dead man agreed that silence was indeed his future fate, and there indeed is nothing more silent than DEATH.
The report below is at
timed at midday Tues 16th January 07
with Sir Street referring to his 'coincidental' visit. Trouble it seems related not coincidental.
My belief is Street's visit and the form and shape of his investigation could well have influenced the deceased Bramwell that he wasn't going to be listened to yet again. He was 'nothing' yet again, to a legal system, and broader Australian society, and he'd had enough of it and us, and in particular the 'Street Review'.
Sir Street made it very clear he was not even going to talk to Bramwell as per reports in the last day or two in the general press, and echoed here on Melb IMC
Doomadgee co-arrested found hanged
By Dave Donaghy
January 16, 2007 12:00
Article from: AAP
A WITNESS in the Mulrunji Doomadgee death-in-custody case has been found hanged on Palm Island.
The discovery coincided with the arrival on Palm Island of New South Wales chief justice Sir Laurence Street', who is reviewing the Queensland Director of Public Prosecution's (DPP) decision not to charge Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over Mulrunji's death in custody in November 2004.
When he arrived on the island today Sir Laurence learned that Patrick Bramwell, who was arrested alongside Mulrunji, had committed suicide on the north Queensland island overnight.
"There's maybe even more point in me coming here on a day like this because it's very tragic," Sir Laurence said.
Mr Bramwell was arrested by police for swearing on November 19, 2004, just before Mulrunji was arrested for the same offence.
The two men, who knew each other, were taken to the watchhouse in the same paddy wagon.
Mulrunji later died from injuries deputy state coroner Christine Clements found had been caused by Snr Sgt Hurley during a scuffle at the police watchhouse.
Sir Laurence visited the site of Mulrunji's death and the local council during his brief visit to the island, 60km northeast of Townsville.
He expects to finish his report soon and the State Government has promised to release the results when parliament resumes next month.
However, Acting Premier Anna Bligh has said if Sir Laurence made a finding against Snr Sgt Hurley, the report would not be tabled in the parliament until after the matter went to court "to ensure that nothing in the report jeopardised the success or otherwise of the prosecution".
Ms Bligh said Mr Bramwell's death was a "tragic incident" but declined to comment further for cultural reasons.
"The death of a young person is always a tragedy," she said.
[You can say that again, and tragic for the administration of justice in the whole state of Qld.]