Beattie criticised by federal colleagues over Palm Island

Annabel Stafford, Canberra
December 20, 2006

Doomadgee: No justice.
Photo: Courtesy Abc

FEDERAL Labor politicians have condemned Queensland's Premier for failing to intervene in a decision not to press charges over the 2004 death in custody of a Palm Island man.

But they have stopped short of backing Labor Party president Warren Mundine's call for a campaign of civil disobedience against the Queensland Government similar to the one waged against apartheid South Africa.

Mr Mundine threatened Queensland with a campaign of civil disobedience after the state's Director of Public Prosecutions, Leanne Clare, last week decided not to lay charges against police sergeant Chris Hurley over the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee, despite a coronial finding that Sergeant Hurley had played a part in Mr Doomadgee's death.

Mr Mundine will lead protests on Palm Island today as Premier Peter Beattie arrives to try to explain the DPP's decision.

Labor's Senator Trish Crossin said yesterday that she was "disappointed" by the Queensland Government's response.

"For the Beattie Government to almost totally ignore the situation does not provide any answers to the people of Palm Island, and certainly flies in the face of all the recommendations of the (1996) report into Aboriginal deaths in custody," she said.

But Senator Crossin said there was "a mediation line we could take" before turning to the extreme action of civil disobedience.

A colleague, Labor MP Warren Snowdon, said it was "an absolute travesty" that there appeared to be no justice for Mr Doomadgee's family.

But a campaign of civil disobedience was not "in the short-term", a way to go about it, he said.

"We have got to rely upon the institutions of the state to deal with all Australians, regardless of where they are from."

Mr Snowdon said that at the very least the DPP's finding should be reviewed by an "independent person" and that review be made public.

A review of sorts is looking likely, with Brisbane lawyer Andrew Boe — who represented the Palm Island community — preparing to challenge the DPP's finding.

Mr Boe is waiting on some final advice from a Sydney silk before going ahead with the challenge, but expects to make a decision today.

He hopes this might see a court direct Ms Clare to set aside her decision and start again. "And I'm hopeful that if it gets to that, that she will consider it appropriate to refer it to an interstate DPP," he said.