Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

New book on Palm Island’s history

The latest inquest into the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee in police custody on Palm Island – now well over five years ago - has concluded.  Once again Mulrunji’s family and the wider community will wait for findings to be published – just as they still await the publication of the report by the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) in the flaws in the Police investigation into the death.  The ...


Palm Island Inquest Resumes (again)

It is well over five years since Mulrunji Doomagee died in police custody on Palm Island, his ribs broken and his liver nearly sliced in two.  Previous coronial inquests and trials have wound a tortuous path, with various assertions about the cause of death ranging from the consequences of a “complicated fall” to suggestions Mulrunji’s injuries were inflicted by a more direct methods. Despite past coroner’s investigations, a trial, ...

Palm Island death – 4 years on

November 19 marks four years since the notorious wrongful arrest and death in police custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island. Many Aboriginal men have been arrested, charged, exiled from their homes and jailed in the four years since.  Meanwhile, investigations into allegations regarding actions and investigations by police have yet to be completed and no disciplinary action of any sort against police has occurred. As this article from the ...

It might be legal but it isn’t just

Palm Island man Lex Wotton has been handed a seven year jail sentence (less one year for time previously served) as a result of being found guilty by a jury of rioting with destruction. Although I’ve spoken with people who were present on the day which led t the charges, I wasn’t there, so I won’t give a view on who did what. If you want to see a ...

Various versions of justice in Queensland

On Wednesday I attended a rally outside the Brisbane District Court, held to show support for Palm Island man, Lex Wotton, whose trial had been going for two weeks. The jury started deliberating on the Thursday. When I saw news that they were still going on the Friday afternoon, I decided to go to the court to bear witness with Lex and his family and supporters as they ...

Back on Palm Island

I've been in Townsville and Cairns this week, helping to publicise the local services featured in the Success Stories in Indigenous Health put out by ANTaR, which I wrote about in this post, as well as held some meetings with a range of people about housing and Indigenous issues. I also visited Palm Island for the first time since the rally for justice was held there late last ...

Citizenship on Invasion Day

I had a hectic mix of activities on Australia Day, participating in 3 separate citizenship ceremonies, plus dropping in on part of the Invasion Day rally and march outside state Parliament House and also attending some of the later festivities to mark the day at the Jagera centre near Musgrave Park in South Brisbane. The Invasion Day rally was well attended, with over 500 people there, buoyed by the ...

Has the Palm Island “review” just become a “second opinion”?

Queensland’s Acting Premier, Anna Bligh has announced Sir Laurence Street, the former NSW Chief Justice, has been appointed to review the actions of the Director of Public Prosecutions relating to the death of Mulrunji in police custody on Palm Island. I notice that the statement announcing the appointment does not use the term “review” at all, instead using the term “second opinion” on four occasions. This is a change ...

More on Palm Island and Indigneous justice

It is good that mainstream media interest and public pressure about the ongoing fight for justice for the Aboriginal community on Palm Island, and more widely for Indigenous people in Queensland has continued in the so-called ‘silly season’, with a number of substantial articles in recent days. Before I list a few of them, I’ll quote a few paragraphs from this report in the Torres News about the rally ...

Palm Island inquiry mess gets worse

Unfortunately, Christmas has done nothing to improve the shambles surrounding the way our justice system has dealt with the death in custody in Palm Island. This situation is about justice being seen to be done and people feeling they are getting a fair go, but the application of one short-term fix piled on top of another has now created such a mess that I doubt it will appear ...

There must be justice before there can be reconciliation

Yesterday’s rally on Palm Island was attended by a few hundred locals, a good number of supporters from the mainland, many police (including the state Commissioner of Police, Bob Atkinson) and at least 20 people from the mainstream media. The Premier of course was also there, along with Attorney-General, Kerry Shine. I arrived on the island earlier on the day, talking with locals about their feelings and listening to ...

Palm Island – some fragments of history

I'm visiting Palm Island today on the invitation of some community members. There will be a lot of media focus with the Premier and some other people of note also visiting. My aim is to help ensure a commitment for change and positive support continues past the immediacy of the moment. The reaction to the Queensland Director of Public Prosecution's decision not to lay charges in regard to the ...

Palm Island: demanding a way forward

The lack of legal or government action over the death of Mulrunji in police custody on Palm Island is a watershed moment. It has brought home very starkly the inequality faced by Indigenous people in Queensland and the fact that the political and legal systems do not deliver justice for them – indeed it often delivers the opposite. The starkness of this tragedy and injustice also provides a big ...

No charges over Palm Island death

The news that the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions has decided not to lay charges against the police sergeant involved in the death of an Aboriginal man on Palm Island two years ago will seriously damage any faith Indigenous people have in the justice system. It is not for me to dispute the reasoning behind the DPP’s decision, but you don’t need to be Einstein to know that the ...

Media coverage of Palm Island and launch of the Errol Wyles Justice Foundation

Last night I attended a fundraising dinner in Sydney to launch the Errol Wyles Justice Foundation. The Foundation is aiming to provide legal and counselling assistance to some Indigenous Australians where there is evidence of failures in the Australian justice system. Channel Nine’s Sunday program did a story on the killing of Errol Wyles in a hit and run accident earlier this year. You can read the transcript here, ...

Palm Island & Justice

The police officer found by a Coroner to be responsible for the death of a man on Palm Island has finally been suspended from duty on full pay. It is hard to understand why this decision wasn’t made straight away. There will be a rally to protest this issue in Brisbane this coming Tuesday at the re-opening of Parliament following the state election. There will no doubt be a ...

Woorabinda II- housing funding threatened

Following on from the piece I just posted about my visit to Woorabinda, I was surprised to hear news that the Queensland Housing Minister Robert Schwarten had frozen housing funding to the community, allegedly due to ongoing damage to houses. I understand that, after meeting with Council officers later in the day, the freeze has been lifted - at least temporarily. You can read my media release on ...

Yarrabah, Kowrowa and Mona Mona

A month or so ago (following on from going to Palm Island), I visited the Aboriginal township at Yarrabah, as well as two small communities near Kuranda called Mona Mona and Kowrowa.

Palm Island

Three weeks ago I spent most of the week travelling around far northern Queensland. It started with a flight to Townsville to talk with a group of people about the Senate Inquiry I initiated into the Stolen Wages issue. I also took the chance to go over to Palm Island again to give some of the locals there an update on the Senate Inquiry and also hear from them ...

Put our First Peoples First

Tonight in Brisbane I am launching a campaign aimed at making Indigenous issues a much greater priority in political and public debate. A key part of the campaign is to try to ensure the voices of Indigenous Australians are heard much more frequently and prominently in those debates, so the public forum accompanying the campaign launch will feature three local Aboriginal speakers. They will give their views on ...


Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good. The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one.

    More... (7)
  • A final comment on Labor's leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there. Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition. But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

  • A long time between hits

    In amongst all the politics and policy stuff, I try to make time to do some things that are completely disconnected from that*.  One thing I’ve found myself doing recently is doing a bit of practicing with a band, which has led to me doing a live performance for the first time in a long time.  Readers of this blog with a very long memory for minor matters may recall that I played keyboards in a couple of mini-performances with a band as part of promoting the Rock Against Howard compilation CD prior to the 2004 election.  However, drumming is what I’m better at – although I’m still a long way short of being able to say I’m good at it – which is what I am doing in the band I’m currently doing stuff with.  They’re doing their first full live Brisbane show tonight – which I think will be the first time since 1988 I’ve played drums in a live show.  It’s all nice and low-key, and for peoples’ enjoyment rather with an eye to making money out of it, so will make a nice change. *Actually, I don’t think anything is completely disconnected from politics. By coincidence, today also happens to be National SLAM Day – Save Live Australian Music.  As their website shows,

    More... (0)
  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs - interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it. It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same. You can listen to the interview at this link.

  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.

  • Stuff from my 4ZZZ shift this week

    Every Monday morning I do a shift on radio 4ZzZ FM102.1 – Brisbane’s longest serving community radio station (36 years old this year). And almost every week I talk with social media expert and lawyer Peter Black about some current political and other issues. You can listen to our talk this week by clicking on this link (it goes for over 30 minutes and has the occasional sweary word, so probably best just for dedicated fans). You can see the songlist I played this week – as usual featuring a sizable number of local artists – at this link, which in most cases also contains further links to other videos, information or photos of the artists.