Monthly Archives: December 2006

Land, Justice, Worker Control

Land, Justice, Worker Controlaboriginal-language-groups.jpg

The Queensland Labor Government is mired in secrecy and guilt over its treatment of Aboriginal people on Palm Island. Even in its own terms of reform, it has forfeited its right to govern.

The debate around the killing of Mulrunji by a Queensland Police officer and the subsequent actions taken against the people of Palm Island in the courts has centred on what form due process should take.

In the media we have witnessed a public debate between social democrats and liberals about what should be done about Snr Sgt Hurley. This debate has ensured a place for the protagonists on the front page or 6 o’clock news. It does sell newspapers, but has achieved nothing. It goes on and on, just as it has over the past 2 years, the past 40 years, the last 200 years. Whatever is done comes too late, too late for Mulrunji, too late for his son and mother. Too late for Palm. Too late for all.

On the sidelines we hear concern about the need for moderation in public demonstrations.

These concerns are based upon a false premise. The media grab is only a reflection of Queensland seen from the TV screen. It does not reflect people’s behaviour at political demonstrations.

Political demonstrations in Brisbane and elsewhere in Queensland are non-violent. From time to time, there has been provocation used against such demonstrations. But we rarely see provocation. The right wing media, police, governments or agent-provocateurs are behind the camera, hidden from view. Occasionally the politician or the public official is sent into the limelight to explain what went wrong.

In spite of non-violence, some still feel the need to state that a demonstration will be or was peaceful. Such statements are a play to the media and unecessary. Such statements are counterproductive as they distance protestors away from the victims of violence i.e. the people on Palm Island.

In one brief outbreak of grief, Palm Islanders were forced by police killing their son, Mulrunji, to retaliate against an uncaring and inhumane response by police, bureaucrats and government ministers.

The people on Palm knew justice will never be done. Events before and after demonstrate this.

National Newspapers would rather beat up Aboriginal rioters on Palm, talk of Lebanese youth in Sydney, African gangs in Melbourne.

No attempt is made to find a solution to inequality. No talk of discarding the rule of master over servant, the dominion of settler over aborigine.

When all else fails they cry: “Send in the independent umpire, Tony Fitzgerald!”

But that is how we are governed, by the unjust, the liar, the thief.

Bring out the punching bag, look for scapegoats, put up a Howard-clone to win government and ignore fundamental issues of aboriginal land, justice and worker control. Never before has so much land been in the hands of so few capitalists. The workers are in debt, equity is lost. In 2006 share markets boomed, Telstra was sold again, as was QANTAS and many other companies once in public hands.

Never before has so much profit been made by the privateer by distributing land to the wealthy speculator. Many have ignored or accepted by buying in on the boom. Few have stood up against the privateer and the master holds sway over servant. Meanwhile workers are sold onto the scrap heap.

Take the National Airline, QANTAS, privatised by Labor, now in the hands of finance capitalists, Allco Equity. Who benefits?

QANTAS bosses: Dickson, Gregg and Borghetti refuse to disclose their financial interest in the deal as they storm around Australia telling workers what a great thing this deal will be. Meanwhile bosses malign the few unions and pilots who attempt resistance. No longer the strike weapon for workers and their unions, as they buy shares to block the move by capitalists.

How do bosses and their backers promote their takeover bid to the public?

“Dixon (QANTAS CEO) is donating his shares to a charitable trust he is setting up mainly to help medical research and indigenous health and education” – [Flight checked on 28 December 2006]

Just another con where the middle class are the real beneficiaries while diabetes, heart disease, and premature ageing kills off another generation of Aboriginees. “Let them eat cake” is their message.

Yet a light shines from a Brisbane Demonstration on 21 December 2006. Leadership by aboriginal women and men in their struggle for justice in Queensland. Good role models to their brothers and sisters, both black and white.

Click here, be patient (best viewed on broadband)


No Justice for Mulrunji: no rational explanation from Premier for DPP decision

palm-island-demonstration-10-oct-2006-web.jpgIn a cynical move before Christmas, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) released a media statement on 14 December 2006 to say the death of Mulrunji was an accident. Leanne Claire fails to explain why she adopted this view except to say her legal responsibilities are different to those of the coroner. Coroner Clements found that Snr Sgt Hurley was responsible for Mulrunji’s death.

In her 32 line statement to the media the DPP makes no mention of why Mulrunji was left to die unaided in his cell while police heard Mulrunji’s death throes on the video monitoring system.

In October 2006, the coroner made the following observations:

“There is clear evidence that this must have been able to be heard from the police station dayroom where the monitor was running.

Indeed the timing of Senior Sergeant Hurley’s visit to the cell suggests that the sounds were heard.

But the response was completely inadequate and offered no proper review of Mulrunji’s condition or call for medical attention.” (See page 26 of  “Finding of Inquest”).

Yet the DPP says that her investigation is based on the evidence. She implies that an aboriginal witness was unreliable. However the DPP makes no mention of the way in which Snr Sgt Hurley changed his testimony when a second autopsy suggested that his earlier version(s) were not plausible.

In fact no proper police investigations were made because of personal friendship between Hurley and the investigating police from Townsville CIB. No proper evidence was collected and aboriginal statements were ignored.

The coroner stated in her report:

“It was unwise and inappropriate for an officer serving on Palm Island, who was known to be a friend of Senior Sergeant Hurley to be involved in the investigation …
It was inappropriate for the officer most likely to be under investigation to be the person picking up the investigators from the airport.
It was a serious error of judgement for the investigating team, including officers from ethical standards, to be sharing a meal at the home of that officer that evening.”

The DPP stated in the 14th December 2006 media release that ‘Mr Doomadgee died from internal injuries caused by a crushing force to the front of his abdomen.’

How can a man sustain injuries of four broken ribs, a ruptured portal vein and a ‘liver cleaved in two’ from an innocent fall ? How can a man die from tripping over steps? The DPP has made no explanation except to say:

“It is clear both Mulrunji and Sergeant Hurley fell together through the open door at the police station and this fall is the only explanation for his death.”

What about the other explanations given by witnesses that Hurley punched Mulrunji?

Beattie cannot be believed.
Here are just a few comments from more than 80 people who endorsed the Mulrunji letter to the Premier:

I fully support the above letter – it’s time to see the human rights of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander …

I endorse this letter. Are we going to have a state government that embodies truth, justice and honesty or hypocrisy, …

The lack of transparency, accountability and honesty about Mulrunji’s death reveal a shocking revelation that equality, democracy and justice are …

I fully support this letter too

palm-island-march-10-october-2006-512-kbytes.jpg I fully support this message

another government lie we will follow due process? why is it such a fight to get the govenment to do the right thing…

In 1956 Michael Jorgensen was taken into police custody in Mt Isa. ‘Jorgie’, as he was known, was put in …(another death in custody)

I am an Australian Muslim and I would like to say that when we invited the Police Minister for “Iftar” … (told police minister that the muslim community would be looking at what the government does about Mulrunji)

I endorse this letter

beattie-takes-away-petitions.JPG I really feel that your government’s failure to deal with this matter smacks of racism as aboriginal people are gaoled …

Dear Premier, Justice delayed is justice denied. Please ensure that the DPP is considering the decision about laying charges over the …

palm-island-demonstration-burragubbah-spk-as-sam-negotiates-with-policeman.jpgThis letter raises matters of justice which should not be delayed nor denied. The rule of law is only upheld …

Despite these accusations of bias against his government, Premier Beattie  still claims the contrary.

More Murris in Jail — killer cop runs free

Mulrunji’s killing by Queensland police officer Chris Hurley rates only a footnote in the annals of justice.

Footnote number seven (7) in the twenty (20) page judgement of the Court of Appeal reads:

Inquest into the death of Mulrunji, Coroner’s Court, Cor 2857/04(9), 27 September 2006, Clements M (Acting State Coroner).

On 8th December 2006 the Court of Appeal increased the jail terms already served by three Palm Islanders and issued warrants for their arrest.

In his judgement, the Chief Justice De Jersey of Supreme Court said the following:

I first provide a summary of what occurred.

An Aboriginal man died on 19 November 2004 while in police custody on Palm Island. Over the following week, with increasing tension within the Palm Island community, the police presence there was increased. The riot on 26 November followed a community meeting, attended by up to 300 persons, at which some details from an autopsy report were publicly disclosed by Ms Kyle, the Council chairperson.

They included the assertion the death was caused by an accidental fall.

Dissatisfied with the disclosure, the crowd became very angry. Some suspected a police officer was responsible for the death.

Nowhere in the judgement did the Chief Justice mention the ‘suspicion’ by Palm Islanders was true.

Two years later the ‘suspicion‘ was backed up by the coroner’s finding that Snr Sgt Hurley killed Mulrunji Doomadgee in the police watch house on Palm Island on 19 November 2004.

Nor did the appeal court judge who supported the Chief Justice’s finding make any comment about the coroner’s finding.

It was left to the dissenting judge to place the small footnote in his judgment alluding to but not actually stating that the coroner had found that Mulrunji was killed by Hurley.

How did this come about?

Ted Reithmuller Collection

While Premier Peater Beattie stood at the gates of parliament accepting a petition of 1160 people from Alec Domadgee for Snr Sgt Hurley to be charged his Attorney General was insisting Palm Island residents should be jailed for longer terms than had already been served.

At the gates of parliament the Premier made no mention of the systematic whitewash being performed by the Queensland Chief Justice.

Instead what Peter Beattie said was:

“Many people said at the beginning (when Mulrunji died) that there would not be due process…I said at the time that the coroner would go through due process and the matter would be followed appropriately and that’s what has happened.”

But the coroner has made her findings.

The Chief Justice has duly refused to take those findings into account in the sentencing of Palm Islanders.

More Murris in jail while Hurley runs free on full pay.

Labor’s reform of the Justice System
So, post-Fitzgerald, Labor governments have opened up the magistrate courts so that people like Coroner Clements is prepared to criticise the police.

But how does that change anything?

Particularly when the Supreme Court of Queensland is stacked with cold hearted conservatives who will not recognise a finding of fact when it is staring them in the face. Nothing has changed from the Joh years, the conservatives still retain power in key positions.

How many years do we have to wait for justice, Mr Beattie, while you are cutting trade deals over aboriginal land with multinational mining companies?

Please sign Mulrunji Letter Click here

Ian Curr
9 December 2006

WorkChoices: an analysis of union legal and parliamentary strategies

Union Membership 1911 – 2005.


The graph above shows the rise and fall of union membership in Australia over the past 100 years. Historic milestones have been added. To view the graph in detail click on the image and then click again to enlarge to see the detail.

The recent decline in the union movement is of great concern to unionists.

Soon (in 2007) the LeftPress collective will publish a book that analyses this decline and discusses strategies for renewal.


The QCU website states:

“Take action on November 30 – all around Queensland! Attend a venue from 8:30am onwards to watch the ACTU broadcast from the MCG”

So no march is planned and no speakers apart from the broadcast from the MCG.

In Brisbane, the Rank and File platform may be the only live platform on the day! [This platform was blasted off by the sound system put up by the QCU] I heard from a couple of rank and file people on the weekend that the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU) are marching from Musgrave to South Bank for the broadcast and then marching back after.etu-marches-to-workchoices-rally.jpg

The Qld Council of Unions (QCU) do not appear to be even pretending that they are doing anything anymore.

If the Left were properly organised it could (in alliance with the Communications Electrical & Plumbers Unions (including the ETU), Construction Forestry Mining & Engineering Union & Builders Labourers Federation (Qld), the Qld Teachers Union, the LHMU (Misos) and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union) probably take over the entire day.

It is clear that these unions will be the mainstay of the protest.

Come to the open platform organised by the Rank and File Group.

Legal Strategy: High Court WorkChoices Decision

ALP-led Unions were briefed on the likely outcome of the High Court challenge as early as March, 2005:

The WorkChoices legislation will be passed because after 1 July 2005 the Coalition controls the Senate and challenges to the legislation in the High Court will almost certainly fail.”

—Griffith University industrial lawyer and union advisor, Margaret Lee, at Brisbane Labour History Conference “Unions and Industrial Relations Legislation: the Past and the Future” held at the Terminus Hotel, South Brisbane, on Saturday March 12, 2005.

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