“What I was told during the public inquiry [into abuse of children in foster care in Queensland] was alarming and led to the sad realisation that the state’s child protection system had for years failed Queensland children in many important respects. The CMC delivered to State Parliament an extremely comprehensive report which heralded a new era for child protection in Queensland.”
---Chairperson Brendan Butler SC
After almost six years leading the CJC and then the CMC, Brendan Butler SC announced his term as Chairperson would end in 2004.
Foster Care Inquiry
The CMC’s most significant commitment during this period was conducting the major inquiry into the Abuse of Children in Foster Care in Queensland, resulting in a 400-page report containing 110 recommendations for reform. The CCC held public hearings over two weeks and received more than 228 written submissions.
During 2003 information came to light from various sources indicating that the foster care and child protection systems in Queensland, as administered by the Department of Families, had failed many children.
The evidence pointed to systemic failures over many years to prevent children placed in foster care from being further abused or neglected. In July 2003, the Premier referred these concerns to the CMC. The CMC responded immediately by launching two major misconduct investigations and an independent public inquiry.
The inquiry was completed in under six months and included the publication of the report, Protecting children: an inquiry into abuse of children in foster care.
The report was the product of three separate but interrelated exercises, Operations Zellow and Ghost, and Project Park. Operations Zellow and Ghost were misconduct investigations into two particular foster families, and Project Park was concerned with the more general question of how the foster care system in Queensland could be made to operate more effectively. Project Lucid was the name of the project that coordinated and drew together these three exercises.
Between July 2003 and January 2004, the CMC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison and Education Officers assisted the Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Foster Care.
The 400-page report contained 110 recommendations for reform, including the recommendation for a new department — the Department of Child Safety.
In 2003-2004, the CMC also:
- Received 3964 misconduct complaints – a 36 per cent increase on the previous year.
- Conducted 15 organised crime operations, in close partnership with the QPS and other law enforcement agencies. Three of the operations succeeded in considerably disrupting the illicit amphetamine market in Queensland.
- Was involved in 15 paedophilia investigations, greatly assisted by changes to the Criminal Code the previous year.
- Under the Criminal Proceeds Confiscation Act 2002, restrained $10.547m in assets through civil confiscation.
- Investigated allegations that the Brisbane City Council suppressed findings of Brisbane River flood studies. Although the allegations were not substantiated, recommendations for procedural reform were made.
- Continued to work with Indigenous people and their communities via the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultative Committee.
- Made 15 further arrests through Operation Atrax.
- Exposed a network of 12 paedophiles through Operation Xena.
- Exposed an international network of 13 paedophiles (Operation Verona) via forensic analysis of a target’s computers, resulting in seven arrests and 125 charges being laid.
The Hayward investigation
The CMC investigated allegations Queensland Member of Parliament Ken Hayward may have acted improperly in relation to various land transactions between government agencies and business entities with which he had links. Although the matters could not amount to official misconduct, it may have invalidated the contract for the land. A provision of the legislation that prohibits Members of Parliament from transacting business with the state entities may have rendered Mr Hayward's seat vacant.
The CMC also investigated the circumstances of Mr Hayward's claim for parliamentary travel expenses in relation to a trip to Western Australia in 2000 because concerns were raised that this trip may have been related to private business. The CMC found no evidence that Mr Hayward had misused his parliamentary travel entitlements.
In July 2004, the Members Ethics and Parliamentary Privileges Committee reported to the Legislative Assembly on matters arising from the procedural recommendations made by the CMC. The committee noted that:
- Amending legislation had been enacted to reinstate a particular exemption allowing Members of Parliament to transact certain types of business. This exemption had been inadvertently removed, contrary to the intention of the Parliament during a lengthy legislation consolidation exercise.
- Present documentation and certification requirements for parliamentary travel claims were sufficient, but that the matter should be included in a more complete review of members' entitlements.
Operations Ellis, Cube and Harvard
During the year, three joint CMC, Queensland Police Service (QPS) and Australian Crime Commission (ACC) operations — Operations Ellis, Cube and Harvard — resulted in considerable disruption to the illicit amphetamine market in Queensland and well-established drug networks with interstate connections were dismantled.
Operations Ellis and Harvard were protracted joint covert investigations and resulted in charges including amphetamine production and trafficking, unlawful possession of motor vehicles, fraud and weapons offences.
Operation Cube centred on the activity of a suspected criminal network identified through the CMC’s strategic intelligence processes. The network was considered active in North Queensland and likely to be engaged in drugs and weapons offences, property theft and associated money laundering.
A covert tactical operation extending over five months was undertaken in partnership with the QPS Northern Region and the ACC. Three arrests were made and seven charges were laid.
For more information, read the CMC Annual Report 2003-04.