Politicians (Or: Disorder in the House)

Paedophile politicians pose a particular problem. They have power – and have often used it – to protect themselves. It probably means that those caught so far may represent only the tip of an iceberg. This is an other classic example of a large power distance between abuser and victim. Indeed, it also applies to whistleblowers and media coverage.

The case of Swansea Labor MP, Milton Orkopoulos, who was NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister, shows this dramatically. Whistleblower and political staffer, Gillian Sneddon, assisted police in gathering evidence against Orkopoulos. She was sacked from her staff position. Orkopoulos’ replacement, Robert Coombs, declined to reemploy her and referred to her publicly as a “ratbag”. Mr Orkopoulos’ former chief of staff, Nathan Rees, later became Premier of NSW and Ms Sneddon had accused Rees of possibly protecting Orkopoulos.

In this instance, justice eventually prevailed when Ms Sneddon was awarded $435,613 damages by a court. Mr Orkopoulos was gaoled with the minimum non-parole period of 9 years. It was found that he had “helped” a boy inject heroin so he was also convicted of drug-related charges.

Another case involved Bill D’Arcy, who was Deputy Speaker of the Queensland Parliament, and part of the Beattie Labor Government when he was facing 50 charges including child rape from his time as a schoolteacher. Under an obscure law, a person facing child sexual abuse charges, but not yet committed to trial, cannot be named. One Nation Party member, Mr Balson, posted D’Arcy’s name on the party website.

Mr Balson was arrested on the direct instructions of the Beattie Government Attorney-General, Matt Foley, and charged under the old law. He is the only person ever to be charged under that law. Fortunately, justice again prevailed when Balson was acquitted by a Magistrate of the charge, 9 months after being arrested. D’Arcy was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to several years’ imprisonment (in an interesting aside, D’Arcy had been acting Speaker during the Parliament’s discussion of paedophilia in 1999).

The media was controlled farcically in the case of Bernard Finnigan of the South Australian Parliament. Finnigan was Acting Police Minister at the time of his arrest relating to child pornography. After Finnigan had been named in the media, a new court order meant that this had to stop. The suppression order only applied in South Australia under an unusual law, so inter-state media and Internet sites continued to name him. Eventually, sanity prevailed – on application by South Australian media companies, the order was removed when new laws came into effect. Finnegan’s case remains unresolved.

Another case of a powerful politician also being a paedophile was that of Keith Wright, who was Labor Leader of the Opposition (the alternative Premier) in the Queensland Parliament and later a federal Member of Parliament. In 1993, he was convicted of child rape, sentenced to 8 years’ prison, and paroled after 5 and ½ years. The main offence occurred in his parliamentary office while he was still Party Leader. Anecdotal evidence suggests internal Labor critics had been silenced for many years.

Senators do not normally have great individual power, but in the Northern Territory there are only two senators so, there, they are very important people. When the Senator had also been Leader of the Opposition in the Northern Territory, the power is further increased. This applied to Senator Bob Collins, who had multiple child sexual abuse charges pending, including against Aboriginal boys, from his time as a social worker. Collins died by suicide before the charges were processed. Collins had even been awarded an Order of Australia medal.

All of the recorded cases in Australia have been against Labor Party politicians, except for one Independent. That Independent was Terry Martin, from Tasmania. He was convicted of producing child pornography. He was also convicted of using a 12-year-old girl who was being prostituted by her mother. The judge, David Porter, agreed that his medication had contributed to an unusually large sex drive. Martin walked free with a suspended 12-month sentence, backdated to when he was taken into custody.

The Labor Party will need to revisit its protocols for pre-selecting candidates during the course of the royal commission. It has not yet implemented any procedure to address the issue. No other political party has had a serving or past politician charged or convicted with child sexual abuse offences so clearly something is wrong with the Labor Party.

Of course, it may well be that the other parties have been more effective in covering up cases, but there are no current claims that this is the situation.

Read more here:

TOMORROW: A first look at children’s homes

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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