It’s only what, six weeks, since the Beattie Labor Government was returned in yet another landslide – but there’s already a scandal running with enough good old Queensland Labor thuggery and lack of subtlety to give old timers like Joe Ludwig a warm feeling inside.

We refer, of course, to the case of new Indigenous Affairs Minister Liddy Clark, her press sec Teresa Mullan and a bottle of rather nasty wine.

The story has been running hot in the Sunshine State, but is only just breaking south of the border, with the Crime and Misconduct Commission now involved.

The story goes something like this. New minister Clark, her pressie, the Director General of the Department, Warren Hoey, and a few others went on a tour of Aboriginals communities. Their government jet (a cute relic of Sir Joh days) touched down at number of places – including a dry community.

At the start of the trip, Mullan had given the pilot a bottle of plonk to mind until the final leg home. Bad move. It was spotted by a refueller.

Calls were made, and Beattie staff ordered the police and licensing authorities onto the plane to seize the bootleg.

They missed it the first time, in true Keystone Kops tradition, but finally located the contraband.

It was always intended that the bottle would stay on the plane – but the alarm bells were already going off.

The Courier Mail got onto the yarn, and Premier Pete’s chief of staff, Rob Whitton, talked to Mullan, who was given her marching orders.

Beattie then flew up to the community – media in tow – to deliver an apology to the local elder. He proclaimed that justice had been done – and that he would have sacked Clark or her DG if they had known about the grog. To underline matters, various shadowy heavies helpfully bagged Mullan.

There is no more tempting target to journos than a fallen press sec. They jumped on Mullan. And that’s where things have got difficult.

She has fought back – and said that others in the plane, including Clark, knew about the wine.

She says that she was effectively offered a job if she stayed quiet, but has spoken out after repeated attacks on her integrity.

If she is right, Clark, Hoey, Whitton and a few others are going to lose their jobs.

The media tart Premier might be booked for soliciting.

Graham Young from Online Opinion uncorks the details of the scandal at http://nationalforum.com.au/the_domain/archives/ambit_gambit/000195.html

And his comments:

“It is certainly strange that in Queensland foster children can be sent back by the Families Department to carers who have abused them and infected them with STDs and no-one at any level is sacked, yet a minor infraction of an absurdly punitive and restrictive law risks the careers of three senior members of the government.”

Perhaps that’s an issue that’s more deserving of some detailed media scrutiny – and a big public performance from the Premier.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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