GIVEN how often I criticise the ABC for what it leaves out of reports, it’s only fair I commend it for providing readers with an admirably bigger picture. Who are Tony Fitzgerald and Alan Wilson, the two men set to review Queensland’s corruption watchdog? Well, amongst other things – renowned ones in the case of the former – both have been opinionated critics in a private capacity of a Liberal National government but not of a Labor one. As Campbell Newman campaigned for a second term as Premier in 2015, ‘corruption buster’ Fitzgerald wrote a column for The Drum advising voters to oust him and his party from the Treasury Benches. He was especially outraged by ‘harsh’ anti-bikie laws but has never weighed in on Annastacia Palaszczuk’s harsher border policies. One per centers had rights but 78 year-old grandfathers left to die in car parks in the name of covid-zero apparently didn’t. In June 2014, Fitzgerald backed an ugly mob that succeeded in chasing Newman-appointed Chief Justice Tim Carmody from the Supreme Court. The Labor Lawyers Union that dominates the Queensland judiciary argued he was too close to the government.
Alan Wilson was appointed to the District Court by Peter Beattie in 2001 and to the Supreme Court by Anna Bligh in 2009. When he retired in 2015, he too made a point of publicly attacking Chief Justice Carmody. “The Supreme Court has for many years had a very sensible protocol which appoints judges to that court in strict order of seniority, to ensure there can never be any suggestion of political influence or motive in the appointment,” Wilson sniffed. A specious dodge, this presupposes a single company never owns most of the cabs on a rank – make and model notwithstanding – and wouldn’t survive scrutiny in a moot court.
When the Palaszczuk government came to office in 2015, a top priority was ending the crackdown on outlaw motorcycle gangs. This was politically tricky because the public was generally in favour of the new, ruthless approach. Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath decided the best policy would be to outsource the undermining of anti-bikie legislation to a “taskforce” of hand-picked reviewers that could be relied upon to recommend dumping it. As with all investigative pretenses of this familiar kind, the important thing was to secure the ‘right’ result. Wilson accepted the Labor government’s invitation to helm the inquiry. Even the national broadcaster raised a plucked eyebrow about this “vocal critic” being appointed to give impartial advice: “Justice Wilson is the third Carmody critic to be promoted by the State Labor Government.”
This track record of hostility to the non-Labor side doesn’t mean Fitzgerald and Wilson, now aged 80 and 72 respectively, cannot be trusted to disinterestedly investigate the multiple scandals now engulfing the corrupt Palaszczuk government. However, unless their commission of inquiry insists on transcending rigged terms of reference designed to divert attention away from the government, the exercise will be an infamous farce and badly damage their reputations. So too will a phony pox-on-both-their-houses cop-out. The Newman government is long gone. The official brief – to review the powers and functionality of the Crime and Corruption Commission – is so obvious a diversion that two grouchy old men may see it as an affront. Let’s hope so.