Home > Opinion > Journey asks John Harrison: What impact did the Fitzgerald Inquiry have on your life and work?

Journey asks John Harrison: What impact did the Fitzgerald Inquiry have on your life and work?

The cover of Journey March 1989
REPENT. JUST one word on the cover of Journey in March 1989 as the revelations about police and political corruption in Queensland reached a crescendo.

As the then editor of Journey, I had to see we reported the issues with theological integrity, rather than political partisanship, while avoiding the legal minefields of sub judice and contempt.

But the bigger thrills and spills came from being media minder for the Moderator and Synod Secretary.

Church leaders were determinedly behind Fitzgerald. After all, we’d pressured the Government to set it up. In 1986, “Minister for Everything” Russ Hinze, a long-time member of Pimpama church, was asked at a media conference about the brothels in the Valley. Russ replied: “Brothels? What brothels?”

The comment was received by the assembled hacks with raucous laughter.

When this was broadcast on the TV news that night, I drafted a media release suggesting the government was taking a “frivolous” approach to a serious social problem.

After a decade of copping a beating from Joh on social justice issues, we were on the moral high ground; none of this left-wing stuff about peace, land rights or civil liberties.

“Social purity” had been on the Brisbane Methodist Conference and Presbyterian Assemblies agenda since the 1880s.

Moderator Barry Dangerfield was at Aurukun, so Synod Secretary Duncan Harrison made the statement to media.

A few minutes after it hit Ten News, a furious Acting Premier Bill Gunn was on the phone giving Mr Harrison a blast.

Threatening to walk away from his lifetime membership of the Uniting Church, Mr Gunn complained the church had delivered him into the hands of the enemies of the government.

Ten days later, while Joh was visiting Disneyland, Mr Gunn appointed Fitzgerald. And the rest is history.

John Harrison is an author and lectures in strategic communications at the University of Queensland.

Photo : The cover of Journey March 1989