Former Queensland premier urges Vasta caution
Former Queensland premier Mike Ahern has warned overturning the sacking of Supreme Court Justice Angelo Vasta could send the message Parliament is rejecting the Fitzgerald agenda.
Mr Vasta was removed by the Queensland Parliament in June 1989, when Mr Ahern led the Coalition government.
Member for Mount Isa Robbie Katter has introduced a bill to revoke the decision to remove Mr Vasta as a judge.
Mr Ahern, who was premier from December 1987 to September 1989, said a judicial commission would need to be appointed to review the process and it would trigger calls for reviews of other decisions.
“If the resolution of the Parliament then is overturned, the public of Queensland might gain the impression that today’s Parliament is running away from the Fitzgerald reform agenda,” he wrote in a submission to a Parliamentary committee.
“I doubt the Queensland people would approve of that.
“My view is that the work was well done. The matter should be left to rest.”
Mr Ahern said the process was robust and fair.
While an inquiry had found no misconduct in relation to Mr Vasta’s decisions as a Supreme Court justice, it did find he had committed acts of misconduct in relation to tax arrangements, which prompted the Parliament to vote to sack him.
However, Mr Vasta was not charged with any offences.
Mr Vasta was removed from office eight days after the motion in Parliament was passed.
It was the only time since Federation that an Australian parliament had removed a Supreme Court judge from office.
Lin Powell, who was Speaker from December 1987 to July 1989, said it was “far past time” for the matter to be revisited.
“I was saddened and reviled with the actions of the government in accelerating this matter through the Parliament without giving members due time to consider Judge Vasta’s address to the Parliament,” he said.
Mr Powell said it was a “pinnacle of injustice” that Mr Vasta could be brought down for “very minor indiscretions of which he was charged but that he refuted”.
“That decision [to remove him] was made in a political climate charged with rancor [sic] and in an atmosphere where the government of the day was scrambling for some creditability,” he said.
“By bringing Judge Vasta before the bar of the Parliament, the government was bowing to pressure being brought to bear on it by outside forces.”
Mr Powell also accused the media at the time of carrying out a vendetta against the government.
Former Warrego MP Howard Hobbs said he believed the decision to remove Mr Vasta should be set aside or revoked.
“There was a lynch mob mentality in Queensland developing prior to and after this event that no doubt clouded the views of many Queenslanders,” he said.
The Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee is due to report on the bill by September 4.