In my post titled Angelique, I noted that she was not the only Aboriginal person to have been discriminated against and forced out of the Australian Capital Territory Revenue Office (ACTRO). I have just received permission to discuss the matter of a former Commissioner of ACT Revenue, a Wiradjuri, member of the Stolen Generations and cousin of Ms. Isabel Coe, whose husband Mr. Billy Craigie was one of the founding members of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra.
As certain matters pertinent to this case are heading to the United Nations and hopefully the High Court, I will refer to the former Commissioner simply as Pat. Pat was Commissioner for ACT Revenue from May 2002 until 10 October 2003. During that time he was continually racially vilified by several of his subordinate officers and forced out of his employment. Subsequent action by the ACT Chief Minister Mr. Jon Stanhope (a man who stands on a platform of equality) resulted in Pat’s financial murder and his destruction and meaning as a man.
During the course of Pat’s employment he had cause to write to Mr. Stanhope and bring to his attention matters relating to the racism he was experiencing and other issues indicating a breakdown in the ‘rule of law’ in the ACT Public Service. Mr. Stanhope denies receiving this letter, and ACTRO, under subpoena, denied its existence. The issue with this is that on 26 June 2005 Mr. Chris Roberts of the Australian Capital Territory Ombudsman’s Office wrote to Pat stating that:
“…The Department [ACT Treasury] advised me that you had made an oblique reference to a PID in a letter of 27 June 2003 to the Chief Minister [Jon Stanhope] and that the Chief Executive indicated to you in a letter of 4 July 2003 that the matters you raised were subject to a separate investigation and he does not intend to separately investigate them under the PID…”
If ACT Treasury was in possession of the letter on or about 26 June 2005 and referred it to an Ombudsman’s Office investigator, what happened to it between then and April 2006 when it was subpoenaed? More importantly, why have the Ombudsman, the AFP and the ACT Government all refused to investigate the letters disappearance?
In 2007 the matter was transferred to another Ombudsman’s Office investigator, Mr. Rowan Anderson, who just prior to his secondment to the Office of the Canadian Ombudsman advised Pat that the matter could not and would not be progressed by the Ombudsman because the issues brought into question the integrity of officers at the highest levels of the Public Service and the Australian Labor Party. He further advised Pat that while he personally found the conduct of the ACTRO unprofessional and racist, he had taken the matters as far as he could.
The issue that should be of concern to all Australians is the total disregard a government department and a senior politician have shown for the ‘rule of law’. If a letter calling the integrity of the ACTRO into question, a letter written by the then head of the ACTRO, can just disappear without question, investigation or penalty, what does that say about the society in which we live?
Now either Mr. Robert’s, a senior investigator with the Ombudsman’s Office, or the ACTRO is lying. Either way, the implications for average Australias are monumental. With the disappearance of this letter and the subsequent cover up over its existence, any pretence to the pre-eminence of the ‘rule of law’ in Australia has died.
Pat’s objective in writing the letter to the Chief Minister at first instance was to challenge the myth that all white people are law abiding, while all blacks are criminals. It was a gauntlet to ministerial integrity in the ACT and by inference, Australia. Ministerial integrity failed the test; all Australians are the worse for it.
In theory, the ‘rule of law’ is our supreme sovereign. Cromwell had Charles the First’s head because of his disregard for the ‘rule of law’ in England. That set the standard. The ‘rule of law’ came with the English Settlers when they arrived in Australia, or did it? One of the justifications 18th Century imperial nation-states used for imposing their rule on indigenous cultures was the imposition of the ‘rule of law’ on the savage. A gift from the civilized to the uncivilized…etc. What a boon it has proved to be.
The actions of Mr. Stanhope and the ACTRO challenge the very basis on which Australia was first seized and then colonised by Europeans in the face of objection from Indigenous Australia.
If those in power can disregard ‘the rule of law’ as it applies to them and impose it in the harshest terms imaginable when it comes to Indigenous Australians or Muslim Australians or the poor, then the ‘rule of law’ does not rule supreme in Australia. What do we have in place of the ‘rule of law’ in Australia? Power, greed and hypocrisy; this troika governs us.
Each day when we open the paper we read that the government has stripped the average citizen of more rights in the name of ensuring the continued operation of the ‘rule of law’ in the face of the terrorist threat. It’s time we started asking ourselves and the government who the real threat is – someone living in a cave in Afghanistan – the troika of power, greed and hypocrisy? You be the judge.