Six listed for Palm review

By Emma Chalmers

January 02, 2007 11:00pm

REVIEWING the Palm Island death in custody could now become a matter for an interstate jurist after the Queensland Government was yesterday forced to broaden its search for a replacement panellist.

Despite initially rejecting suggestions that the review should automatically go interstate, Attorney-General Kerry Shine revealed the Government's list now included candidates from outside Queensland.

Six people have been or will be approached by the Government to head the review at least five of whom were not on the original shortlist from which retired District Court judge Pat Shanahan was first selected.

Mr Shine said he chose Mr Shanahan from a shortlist of two candidates when the review was first announced almost two weeks ago.

"At the time that Pat was chosen there were only two people put up to me on the Friday afternoon and he was the first of those two," Mr Shine said.

Mr Shanahan resigned from the post last Wednesday because of a perceived conflict of interest.

He had earlier been on a three-person panel which appointed Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare.

The review will examine the DPP's decision not to lay charges against Senior-Sergeant Chris Hurley over the death of Palm Island man Mulrunji, 36, in the watchhouse in November 2004.

Yesterday, Acting Premier Anna Bligh conceded that the State Government would not be in a position to appoint a reviewer until at least Friday, more than a week after Mr Shanahan stepped down.

"We are now in the process of contacting those people to determine their availability, unfortunately at this time of year it's not always easy to make direct contact with people in these sorts of positions," she said.

After Mr Shine's meeting with the Acting Crown Solicitor yesterday morning, senior officers from his department began trying to contact the six legal figures during the afternoon.

Ms Bligh repeated her appeal for the Palm Island community to be patient in the circumstances, and said the Government would work as quickly as possible to find a replacement.

But she continued to reject suggestions from the Aboriginal community and Prime Minister John Howard that the review should be automatically sent outside Queensland.

"We certainly are looking at people outside the state, but equally there are some very well qualified and eminently suitable people within Queensland," she said.

Mr Shine also said finding a reviewer who was independent of the DPP would necessarily mean the Government had to look interstate.