The final report of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry investigating the 2010-2011 Queensland floods has been released.  Not suprisingly I haven’t yet read it but in light of an earlier post it is important to see what has been recommended against the engineers.  Unlike the suggestion in The Australian the inquiry has not recommeded criminal charges against the flood engineers.  It has however recommended that

The Crime and Misconduct Commission should investigate whether the conduct of Mr Tibaldi, Mr Ayre and Mr Malone relating to:

• preparation of documents surrounding the January 2011 flood event, including the 17 January 2011 brief to the Minister, the 2 March 2011 flood event report, and statements provided to the Commission
• oral testimony given to the Commission

evidences offence/s against the Criminal Code, and/or official misconduct under the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001 committed by any, or all, of them. (Recommendation 16.1)

It should be noted that the Commission said it:

makes no finding as to whether the evidence before it establishes any offence or official misconduct: it is not appropriate for it to do so for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that the Commission’s Terms of Reference do not charge it with the responsibility of investigating whether any criminal offence or official misconduct has been committed in respect to matters arising out of the January 2011 flood event and Wivenhoe Dam.

There is some reassurance that the reference does not relate to the actual operation of the dam by the engineers.  They are not being referred for further investigation because of the way they operated the dam but because of the way they gave evidence to the inquiry.  As the Commission noted, it is not the Commission’s job to determine if a criminal offence has been committed.  It will be the Crime and Misconduct Commission’s job to determine if there is sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution and then it will be up to the court to determine whether or not any allegation is proved, beyond reasonable doubt.   Resolution of those matters may take some time.   Until they are resolved we must remember that the named persons continue to enjoy a presumption of innocence and we, like the inquiry, should not rush to judge or to assume that blaming some individuals means that ‘they’ were the problem and future floods will not occur.

We, the community, the government and the flood and emergency management sector now need to take time to carefully read the report to see what actually happened and what lessons may be learned from the events of 2010-11.

Michael Eburn

17 March 2012.