History seems to be repeating itself for Peter Beattie. His margin of victory in 2006 was just about the same as in 2004. His third term began with a ministerial stuff up. His fourth term has begun with a ministerial stuff up.

Beattie is in increasing trouble over the ham-fisted attempts by Attorney-General Linda Lavarch to defend her rejection of the deal offered by Dr Jayant Patel’s lawyers for his voluntary return.

Lavarch asserted last weekend that she had had no written advice about the deal. Subsequently, she apologized profusely – she was actually briefed in writing. Beattie has spent the weekend lauding the Minister’s honesty.

But it has now emerged – courtesy of Patel’s Brisbane lawyer Damien Scattini, that one key aspect of Lavarch’s defence is wrong. He claims that there was no provision for a “media blackout” in the deal. Lavarch made much of the fact that it would be contrary to justice for Patel to be charged in secret.

The problem for Lavarch is that unlike her other statement, this one was made in Parliament.

It seems highly unlikely that secrecy would have been an element of the deal. Lavarch is right to say that this would have been a horrendous provision – both for the government politically and for the interests of justice. But it’s difficult to see how a Court would have gone along with such a provision.

Lavarch needs either to demonstrate that this was an aspect of the proposed deal. Or resign.

The other aspect that’s uncannily similar to the resignation of former minister Liddy Clark is that Lavarch is relatively inexperienced, and was elevated to high office personally by the Premier. Both could be said to be politically naïve. Beattie let Clark hang in the wind for far too long. He’d do well to ponder the lessons of the past when deciding Lavarch’s fate.

Peter Fray

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