Hilarity Ensues in Court – When Premier’s don’t understand separation of powers…

This appears on Justinian today – a timely reminder of how far Queensland has come (or not) since the dreadful days of the Fitzgerald Inquiry.


Unfortunately, few law students seem to be taught this anymore. For those who don’t know, the inquiry ended up with the deposition of a premier, two by-elections, the jailing of three former ministers and a police commissioner who was jailed and lost his knighthood. It also led directly to the end of the National Party of Australia‘s 32-year run as the government of Queensland.

More unfortunately, where are the law commentators and profound minds to comment on the obvious comparisons with the present outrages and affronts being committed in the state of Queensland to it’s legal system and the rights of its citizens?

This is an exchange from the commission during which former premier Bjelke Peterson is being cross examined by counsel assisting. For more information on the Royal Commission, go here.
Michael Forde (counsel examining Bjelke-Petersen): What do you understand by the doctrine of the separation of powers under the Westminster system?

Bjelke Petersen: The Westminster system? The stock?

Forde: The doctrine of the separation of powers under the Westminster system?

Bjelke-Petersen: No, I don’t quite know what you’re driving at. The document?

Forde: No, I’ll say it again. What do you understand by the doctrine of the separation of powers under the Westminster system?

Bjelke-Petersen: I don’t know which doctrine you refer to.

Forde: There is only one doctrine of the separation of powers. 

Bjelke-Petersen: I believe in it very strongly, and despite what you may say, I believe that we do have a great responsibility to the people who elect us to government. And that’s to maintain their freedom and their rights, and I did that – sought to do it – always.

Forde: I’m sure you’re trying to be responsive to the question, but the question related to the doctrine of the separation of powers or the principles – – –

Bjelke-Petersen: Between the government and the – is it?

Forde: No, you tell me what you understand.

Bjelke-Petersen: Well, the separation of the doctrine that you refer to, in relation to where the government stands, and the rest of the community stands, or where the rest of the instruments of government stand. Is that what – – – ?

Forde: No.

Bjelke-Petersen: Well you tell me. And I’ll tell you whether you’re right or not. Don’t you know?