Clark backflips over purchase of Yanner's air ticket

Michael McKenna and Ryan Heffernan
21st December 2004

ABORIGINAL and Torres Strait Islander Policy Minister Liddy Clark has denied she spoke to activist Murrandoo Yanner about the Government buying him a ticket to Palm Island – which is at odds with her recollection last week.

The backflip came after Ms Clark returned to work for a day yesterday, before taking a three-week holiday, and hours before the Crime and Misconduct Commission began looking into allegations she tried to cover up the purchase of the ticket.

A CMC spokeswoman confirmed "preliminary inquiries" were under way after the Opposition made a complaint over the allegations Ms Clark asked Mr Yanner and Carpentaria Land Council chief executive Brad Foster to lie on her behalf.

"We need to assess the matter before deciding whether a full investigation is warranted," the CMC spokeswoman said.

Ms Clark also announced she had personally repaid the $1775 taxpayer-funded airfare for Mr Yanner and Mr Foster to accompany her last Friday on her first trip to the troubled community since last month's riots.

"If I am approached by the CMC I will, of course, co-operate fully," Ms Clark added.

Mr Yanner travelled from Brisbane to Townsville, but decided against going to Palm Island.

The taxpayer-funded purchase of the tickets enraged the Queensland Police Union, as it came only weeks after Mr Yanner was accused of inciting violence against officers after the Palm Island riots.

Mr Yanner has claimed Ms Clark's senior adviser, Bruce Picard, told him she would publicly say that the two Aboriginal leaders would be required to reimburse the airfares, but they would not have to pay.

Ms Clark has denied the cover-up allegations.

Contacted yesterday about the circumstances surrounding the trip to Palm Island, Ms Clark was asked whether she had had any personal contact with Mr Yanner over the ticket.

"No," she replied.

The comments are in contrast to her recollections in a phone interview on Friday before she flew to Brisbane.

At the time, Ms Clark said the possibility of Mr Yanner and Mr Foster accompanying her to Palm Island had been raised at the end of a meeting last Wednesday with the two men.

"There were very few seats (on the aircraft) on to Palm, and I said I will book the seats to Palm Island," she said.

Ms Clark later in the interview said the agreement was that the men would reimburse the costs.

"We have talked and that was the agreement, we would book and he would pay it," she said at the time.