The Fitzgerald Inquiry
It’s impossible to condense the ‘Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct’ into a short article — even the title is long. But here are some key facts about the two-year inquiry that led to the creation of the CJC and ultimately to today’s CMC.
What sparked it?
Anyone living in Queensland in the 1980s would remember the frequent rumblings in the media about possible police corruption. There was talk of illegal gambling and prostitution, of kickbacks and brown bags, of vice at the highest levels. Then came some first-rate investigative journalism by young Courier-Mail reporter Phil Dickie, followed by Chris Masters’s now renowned Four corners episode ‘Moonlight state’ (aired 11 May 1987), and suddenly the rumblings had substance.
Acting Premier Bill Gunn called for an inquiry and appointed Tony Fitzgerald QC to chair it.
Just how significant was it?
The Fitzgerald Inquiry might never have amounted to anything very much but for the fact that Tony Fitzgerald twice insisted on widening the terms of reference.
Fitzgerald didn’t want to be confined to looking just at specific allegations against specific people — he wanted the freedom to look into ‘any other matter or thing appertaining to the aforesaid matters’, and he didn’t want to look only at related matters but at any matter whether it related or not. By the time he was finished looking, two years had passed, the police commissioner had toppled, 30 years of National Party Government was all but over, Queensland was fundamentally altered and Fitzgerald, by giving indemnities in return for evidence, had set a new standard for commissions of inquiry.
The Fitzgerald Inquiry, while set up to look at police corruption, left in its wake a trail of embarrassed celebrities, politicians and business identities, judges and other statutory office holders, companies, banks, law firms, valuers and real estate agents.
The inquiry produced one series of revelations after another and innumerable highlights. Here are a few of the watershed developments across the two years:
|26 May 1987||Initial terms of reference are approved.|
|24 June 1987||Terms of reference expanded. Also in June a number of handpicked QPS officers are seconded from the QPS to investigate police.|
|27 July 1987||Sittings begin with Police Commissioner Sir Terrence Lewis as the first witness.|
|25 August 1987||Terms of reference are again expanded.|
|28 August 1987||Det. Snr Sgt Harry Burgess admits corruption and resigns.|
|16–17 September 1987||Assistant Commissioner Graham Parker admits corruption and resigns.|
|21 September 1987||Lewis is stood down as Police Commissioner.|
|2 November 1987||Retired Inspector Noel Dwyer admits corruption.|
|1 February 1988||Retired Inspector John Boulton admits corruption.|
|9 February 1988||Alleged ‘bagman’ Jack Herbert and his wife Peggy are arrested in London.|
|31 August –
22 September 1988
|Herbert gives evidence, having been granted an indemnity.|
|11 October –
8 November 1988
|Lewis gives further evidence.|
|9 November –
9 December 1988
|Former ministers Don Lane and Russ Hinze and former Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen give evidence.|
|19 April 1989||Lewis is removed as Police Commissioner.|
|3 July 1989||The Fitzgerald report is submitted to parliament.|
A significant number of prosecutions arising from the inquiry were dealt with by the Office of the Special Prosecutor, which was set up in December 1988 with the Hon. Douglas Drummond QC appointed Special Prosecutor.
Among the high-profile people prosecuted were former Police Commissioner Sir Terrence Lewis and former Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
Lewis was convicted of corruption, jailed, and stripped of his knighthood.
Sir Joh was charged with perjury for evidence given to the inquiry but the trial was aborted due to a hung jury. This story became the subject of a 1993 television movie Joh’s jury.
How does an inquiry go for two years?
- covers 238 sitting days
- hears 339 witnesses
- produces 21 504 pages of transcript
- receives 2304 exhibits
- results in 10 indemnities against prosecution.
The report itself contained 630 pages and over 100 recommendations, which were grouped under three major categories covering the establishment of the Electoral and Administrative Review Commission (EARC), the establishment of the CJC, and reform of the then-named Queensland Police Force.
The extensive holdings of the inquiry took up over 250 linear metres in the CMC's Records Management’s large registry. They included not only documents but also some memorable items such as Terry Lewis’s now famous diaries and notebooks, Col Dillon’s bottle of Chivas Regal and some interesting property seized from various houses of ill repute. The majority of these holdings are now with Queensland State Archives.
If you want to know more ...
The Fitzgerald report still makes fascinating reading all these years later.
- Download the Fitzgerald report (PDF, 4 MB)