Contributed from Townsville
Police were accused of unlawfully discriminated against the island’s Indigenous residents during a death in custody investigation and their handling of subsequent riots in 2004.
At the time, this caused a great deal of furor in Townsville, as it is one of its suburbs, a few minutes by plane from the centre of town and a bit longer by sea ( the barge). There was much discussion around the place, especially as one of the police had a reputation of being “a bit of a thug”. The local wisdom was that there is a widespread was that there was a major cover up.
Last Month the Federal Court ruled that police racially discriminated against Indigenous residents. The current Palaszczuk government in Queensland is now caught in the crossfire and this is causing a reaction within the government and the ranks of the state branch of the Labor Party, over a move to appeal the Federal Court decision. Many are against the appeal.
The appeal was lodged by the attorney general, Yvette D’Ath on 17 January, without consultation with the government. But because the premier has failed to come out with a clear position to clean the air, there is a lot of confusion. There could even be an internal revolt.
The cabinet is expected to make a fresh decision after considering further legal advice to be received from the former solicitor-general Walter Sofronoff.
Indigenous communities could also be isolated, because of the failure to consult even with the government’s own ministers. Let alone the affected community.
Stewart Levitt, the lawyer who acted in the Palm Island class action, said it was “a sad state of affairs when the Indigenous affairs minister is not consulted about a decision which has such a profound effect on the morale and dignity of Indigenous Queenslanders”.