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Monday, 26 March 2001
Page: 23010


Senator HEFFERNAN (Parliamentary Secretary to Cabinet) (10:30 PM) —I would like to respond to the outrageous abuse of me by Mr Mark Latham, the member for Werriwa. His unqualified medical diagnosis was provided on 6 March during speeches in the second reading debate on appropriation bills Nos. 3 and 4. Mr Latham's assertions included that I have abused my parliamentary entitlements, am a person of unfit character to hold a parliamentary office and am sick and in need of help. Mr Latham's attack incorrectly confuses my concerns about sex offences against children with the private affairs of consenting adults.

I am unaware of the context from which Mr Latham drew his abusive outburst; however, if his diagnosis that I am sick and unfit for a parliamentary office is based on my concerns for the safety our children and the protection of our children's inalienable rights to unconditional protection and safe passage through their years of innocence and my relentless pursuit of zero tolerance to predators who traffic in children and their images for sex, then thank God Mr Latham is not my doctor! Maybe his outburst was because I have concerns with the devastating legacy of an acquaintance of Mr Latham—an acquaintance who is a former New South Wales Law Society President who has had two judgments against him in the District Court of New South Wales, before Judges Coorey and Taylor, for child sex offences and has admitted under oath to being a drug taker, giving a false name upon arrest, having sex with numerous dysfunctional destitute clients and inciting a witness to alter expert medical evidence to mislead court proceedings. Maybe it was because I believe this solicitor should be struck off.

Maybe it was because I believe the Law Society and Bar Association in New South Wales are at grave risk of a loss of public confidence, and there is a mountain of evidence to support the view that sections of the legal, judicial, parliamentary and religious institutions of New South Wales are compromised and guilty of turning a blind eye. Maybe it was because I think the Wood royal commission, constrained by its charter, failed to address the issues surrounding crimes of sexual offences against children. Maybe it was because I think predators and not the victims of child sexual abuse should be the point of shame and that these victims whose lifestyle often leads to the street, drugs and suicide should have political access and stronger advocacy. Maybe it was because I believe that a judge who has come to the attention of the Child Protection Enforcement Agency in New South Wales, whose file—in the words of the Wood royal commission—`was mismanaged and its contents lost', fails the test of judicial legitimacy and should not sit in judgment on people charged with sex offences against children.

Maybe it was because I think the screening of predators in our government agencies and religious institutions, including the ordination process, has been a breathtaking failure and produced protected enclaves of child abusers—so starkly highlighted by Father Usher in the Wood royal commission. On page 1,000 of the final report, Volume 5, Paedophilia inquiry, at section 11.34 `Celibacy', Father Usher says:

... there has been a widely held belief that the vow of celibacy has been confined to heterosexual relations involving penetration and did not extend, for example, to acts of indecency or encounters with boys, or adolescent males. Clergy might see it as a moral wrong, but not define it as a serious sexual offence or as a breach of the vow of celibacy.

The commission concludes:

... this has the traditional overtones of paedophilia minimisation and distortion in cognitive thinking.

If Mr Latham or anyone else for that matter thinks abuse, threats and intimidation will weaken my resolve to end the code of silence on all these issues and protect our children from people who think it is a perk of office to have sex with children, they will be sadly disappointed. I would like to read into the Hansard a response to my last speech, which is quite different from Mr Latham's reaction. The letter says:

Dear Senator Heffernan,

Your exposure of the law's inadequacies in parliament was a wonderful community service and I thank you for picking up the ball and running with it. Much work is still to be done to expose how poorly sexual assault victims are dealt with. I am the mother of sons who were sexually abused, to the point that at the age of 9 one son had to undergo a sphincterectomy due to this abuse. During this operation it was discovered that his anus had prolapsed due to repeated forcible dilation. I have been attempting to have his named perpetrators, the DOCS and education department people who covered up his original disclosures brought to justice since the police royal commission in New South Wales. No charges have ever been laid. The CSC has recently sent selected documentation to ICAC but have omitted much of the strongest evidence. Mr Carr has since had the CSC investigations halted. After three years of investigation from the Ombudsman's Office, Mr Bruce Barber, finally intervened and asked for an investigation as to why no interviews and charges have ever been laid in relation to this. I am awaiting the police report on that, but do not expect results, as everyone seems more content to cover up the misgivings of the system than expose them. Is there any way you will be able to assist me in exposing what has occurred in our case?

Sincerely,

Karlene Connolly