Panel has insight ..Murphy's Creek


DETAILS of floods at Murphys Creek at the foot of the Toowoomba range will not surprise Jim O'Sullivan, a former Queensland police commissioner and newly appointed member of the commission of inquiry into the flood crisis.
Mr O'Sullivan, 72, spent the first 14 years of his life at Murphys Creek, completed his primary school education at the local state school and used to fish in Lockyer Creek -- scene of the most destructive flooding last week.
``Dad was a railway department employee, and like many others in that era, we were very poor,'' he said yesterday.
``In those days the steam train would come from Brisbane and the range was too steep for it to go up pulling carriages, so another locomotive would be sent down from Toowoomba, go around a big loop line at Murphys Creek, and it would help pull the train.
``Dad was an engine operator. It was his job to pump the water to ensure it was softened and then put it into the steam engine boilers. There were always plenty of floods in the area there, but nothing like we have just seen.''
Mr O'Sullivan said he began his working career with the post office in Toowoomba and nearby Oakey before joining the police department in 1959, serving initially at Roma and Mitchell in western Queensland. And when the inquiry into political and police corruption was announced in 1987, its head, Tony Fitzgerald QC, insisted that then inspector Jim O'Sullivan be appointed to lead the investigation team.
Mr O'Sullivan was known among fellow officers as ``Mr Incorruptible''. He gave evidence against more than 100 officers and investigated and gave evidence against then police commissioner Terence Lewis.
Mr O'Sullivan was appointed commissioner in 1994 and served two three-year terms before retiring after 41 years on the force.
His retirement was short-lived, with requests from governments throughout Australia for his help and advice on policing and security issues. In 2003, he headed a team restructuring the Northern Territory police force and in 2006 was one of three members of the board of inquiry into the death of Private Jake Kovco, who was shot with his own pistol at the Australian security detachment headquarters in Baghdad. The commission found Kovco had been ``skylarking'' and accidentally inflicted the wound.
Joining Mr O'Sullivan and commission chairwoman Cate Holmes is inquiry deputy commissioner Phil Cummins.
Mr Cummins has done engineering work at hundreds of dams, but not at Wivenhoe.
He said one of his focuses would be to come up with strategies to avoid a repeat of the floods.
``There will be lots of technical questions asked and some of them would look at whether the dam operated in accordance to agreed procedures,'' Mr Cummins said.
``The more important ones are the lessons for the future. Can we do something better?''
Mr Cummins, based in central Victoria, said he had been aware of the lengthy royal commission that followed the Black Saturday bushfires.
``It gave me a much better understanding of how a royal commission works,'' he said. ``It made me more aware of the importance of listening to the people in an inquiry, not just the experts.''