Clark on holiday as fare row grows
Steve Wardill and Michael McKenna

ABORIGINAL and Torres Strait Islander Policy Minister Liddy Clark will begin a four-week Christmas holiday tomorrow despite growing calls for her to be sacked.

Ms Clark, whose 10 months in the job have been dogged by controversy, is facing a Crime and Misconduct Commission investigation into her office's handling of the so-called "Airfare Affair".

The former actor has been accused of giving taxpayer-funded airfares on her recent Palm Island trip to controversial Aboriginal activist Murrandoo Yanner and Carpentaria Land Council chief executive Brad Foster.

The move enraged the Queensland Police Union as it came within weeks of Mr Yanner being accused of inciting violence against officers after last month's Palm Island riots.

Ms Clark has conceded her office booked the airfares but had always planned to invoice the two men.

But Mr Yanner has said Ms Clark's senior adviser, Bruce Picard, had advised them the Minister would publicly say they would be required to reimburse the airfares but they would not have to pay.

Mr Yanner also claims the Premier's office was behind the attempted ruse.

A spokeswoman for Ms Clark yesterday said the Minister was away for the weekend and would not comment further on the allegations as she had said all she planned.

The spokeswoman said despite the affair Ms Clark would begin a "pre-arranged" holiday from Tuesday until January 17.

But she could not explain why another minister had not been appointed by the Governor to assume her responsibilities and a notice placed in the Government Gazette as custom dictates.

The Courier-Mail repeatedly attempted to contact Ms Clark but her home remained deserted last night.

Acting Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney yesterday said he would today write to the CMC urging the corruption watchdog to investigate.

Mr Seeney said the scenario was "uncannily similar" to the Winegate affair in which Ms Clark was accused of lying to police about her knowledge of a bottle of wine taken on the government jet to an alcohol-restricted Aboriginal community.

"We will be referring this (the Airfare Affair) to the CMC if Ms Clark is still the minister tomorrow afternoon," he said.

Late yesterday Mr Foster reversed an earlier statement not to co-operate with any "witchhunt" inquiry.

"If it's necessary I will talk to them but the important issue is the death in custody (of Cameron Doomadgee)."

A spokesman for Mr Beattie said the Premier believed the Opposition should pay for wasting taxpayers' money sending "silly nonsense" to the CMC.

"They can take a complaint to the CMC or to the Pope or whoever they believe will help them but if the CMC investigation is held and nothing is found then they should be billed," he said.

But Mr Seeney said that the CMC had a clear charter to investigate allegations of an orchestrated lie to the public by high-level ministerial staff, including some of the Premier's own, which would constitute "official misconduct".

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