Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 15 May 1985
Page: 2028

Senator RICHARDSON(7.00) —Tonight in the adjournment debate I wish to answer some queries put to me by certain journalists concerning the Enmore conspiracy case. As all honourable senators will by now be aware, long ago, in 1980, six people were charged with, among other things, forgery and conspiracy relating to the records of the Enmore Branch of the Australian Labor Party. Beginning with the Panorama program last year and continued in recent days by shows such as the National, a myth has been perpetuated that there were hundreds-the number varied between 600 and 750-of charges concerning the administration of the books of the Enmore Branch. According to the best information I can come across, there were 746 charges which related entirely to two of the defendants-Mr Meissner and Ms Perger. These charges concerned events surrounding the non-payment of parking fines and the alleged issuing of false statements and declarations in connection with those fines. That is of no great concern to the Australian Labor Party; it is of no great concern to me.

The prosecution alleged that statutory declarations concerning the parking fines were forgeries because they contained false information. The magistrate held that this was wrong in law and dismissed the charges. The prosecution claimed that the documents were improperly executed because the justices of the peace who witnessed them did not exist. The magistrate said that the prosecution would have to prove that the JPs did not exist; the prosecution was not even able to begin that task. It was also alleged that Mr Meissner's left hand had been used to forge the signatures of some of the JPs. The magistrate did not accept that this could be established.

There were approximately 21 charges relating to the minute book, the attendance book and the membership ticket books of the Enmore Branch. One of the defendants was even charged with forging his own ticket, on the basis that the definition of forgery was extended to mean that if the dates on the ticket were wrong and false information was contained on the ticket it was a forgery. I find it amazing after all this time that we still keep hearing of the 750 charges related to ALP books when almost all of them related to parking fines.

The Panorama program, which featured Mr Domican in yet another tedious repetition of his allegations concerning the Enmore case, had its research work done by none other than Mr David Halpin, a freelance journalist who acted as Ms Perger's agent in this now discredited and rather silly love boat affair. The same Mr Halpin prepared the statement which Mr Domican gave to the Stewart Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking. When the contents of that statement were examined, the royal commissioner, Mr Justice Stewart, having gone over all the facts, stated that Mr Domican had 'prevaricated and told half-truths and untruths' and that 'he was prepared to, and did lie upon his oath to suit his own purposes'. Further, Domican admitted that he had lied.

Mr Halpin appears to be bailing out of this current controversy, given what I have read and heard of the robbery of his car. The break and entry into his vehicle can be described as the most convenient robbery in living memory. He alleged that important documents relating to this case had been stolen. It was not a very original story. During this period when the Labor Party was examining books, taking charters off branches and expelling people, one branch secretary claimed that his car had been stolen and that when it was returned the next day the books had gone missing. Other people said that they had left the books in the pub. One person claimed that the books had been left in a bottom drawer and the rats had got at them. However, Mr Halpin has asserted what occurred and I cannot prove that it did or did not. However, it does help one to understand why Mr Halpin describes himself as a freelance journalist; it is because no reputable organisation will hire him. After his failure to put up in this fiasco I am sure that it will be a long time between drinks.

To understand the ALP's opposition to criminal charges being laid against Party members, it is first necessary to understand the history behind that opposition. In the past there have been instances of book-rigging, forgery and falsification of records. In the almost 100-year history of the ALP these instances, which have occurred from time to time, had never attracted the interest of the police. No person had ever been charged over such matters until the Enmore case and no one has been charged since, despite the fact that there have been at least two well publicised instances of this sort of behaviour. When these matters were discussed in the appropriate Party forums, as the Secretary of the Party, I was instructed to convey the Party's wishes. As the letter I wrote to all Cabinet Ministers has apparently attracted the interest of some people, I seek to read it into Hansard. It is not a long letter; I do not think it will take up much time.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —You may read it without seeking permission. Of course, if you wish to incorporate it you will need leave.

Senator RICHARDSON —I would like to read it because it explains some of the matters. The letter, dated 8 February 1982, was addressed to all Cabinet Ministers in New South Wales and stated:

The Administrative Committee at its meeting held on Friday, 5 February, 1982, carried the following resolution in relation to criminal charges laid against a number of Party members and ex-Party members, over the administration of the books of the Enmore Branch of the Party:

''That this Administrative Committee reaffirms the decision carried by the 1981 Annual Conference of the N.S.W. Branch of the Australian Labor Party to the effect that neither the police nor the courts should have any role in the internal affairs of the A.L.P.

The Committee views with grave concern the development of the practice whereby police and courts intrude upon the internal affairs of the Labor Party to the extent that members of the A.L.P. have been arrested and charged with offences relating to internal party matters.

We further express the definite view that questions of A.L.P. rules, and issues affecting the welfare of the Labor movement, should be the sole responsibility of the duly constituted bodies of our Party.

We therefore call upon the responsible Ministers of the N.S.W. Government, the Attorney-General, Frank Walker, Q.C., M.P., and the Minister for Police, Peter Anderson, M.P., to withdraw those charges which have been laid against A.L.P. members in respect of internal A.L.P. affairs.

It is an absurdity to suggest that breaches of A.L.P. rules should be subject to police and court action and the Government must act to bring an end to this farce.''

The Administration of Party books has never before in the history of any Party, and indeed the history of New South Wales, been the subject of criminal charges and investigations. If this precedent is allowed to stand, one can only imagine how a future conservative Government would be able to disrupt, harass and even rip asunder our great Party.

If any of the persons charged in this case were to be committed for trial, how many other Party members, whose Branches have been the subject of investigation and disciplinary action by the Party over the past five years, can expect police investigation followed by arrest?

This principle, however, should not only be applied to our Party, but to all political Parties. It would be just as unacceptable for the police to be involved in an investigation of those malpractices in the Liberal Party, made so public during the preselection for the Federal seat of North Sydney, now known as ''The Solomon Affair''.

The fact that both the resolutions of the Annual Conference last June and the Administrative Committee last Friday were carried unanimously, shows the depth of feeling and the unity of all sections of the Party on this matter.

The Defendants have been informed that the Prosecution intends to call some eighty witnesses during a committal proceeding, expected to last six to eight weeks. Such an extravaganza will be gleefully greeted by the press and the media in general.

The reaction of the Leader of the Opposition on the ABC Programme ''AM'' this morning can only confirm the obvious-that this action represents the greatest gift to the Liberal party since the Wran Government same to Office.

I respectfully request, therefore, that the Government gives this matter its most serious and urgent attention.

With kind regards,

G. F. RICHARDSON General Secretary

Senator RICHARDSON —Over 800 delegates at our 1981 Conference, at which there was some bitter and acrimonious debates, were united on this one point. The administrative committee, representative of all groups in the ALP, was also united. The fact that I had written in such terms to the Ministers, which seems to be attracting interest now, attracted almost no interest at the time. If anyone wanted to suggest that such action was improper or wrong, he or she had plenty of opportunities to do so. In the Sydney Morning Herald, not some obscure journal, of 9 February 1982-there must have been an inspired leak on this occasion-Mike Steketee, who was then the State political correspondent, repeated all of the resolution which I have just read out in full. He mentioned that I had sent this information to all State Ministers.

The New South Wales Opposition Leader at the time-the Opposition did have quite a few in that period-Mr Dowd, described the Administrative Committee's decision as disgraceful. He said that Labor Party members had contempt for the law. He was, of course, entitled to that view but at no stage did he or anyone else suggest that there was anything improper in what the Committee did or what I did as its Secretary in conveying its resolution. I had every right to convey the resolution. That matter was never in dispute. The Ministers had every right to do what they in fact did in the end, and that was to completely ignore them. I was not given a response. They were not discussed at Cabinet and, as we all now know, the case went ahead. It is well known-it is no great state secret-that Frank Walker and I were not close and that for a very considerable period, to the best of my recollection for some six or seven years, we did not exchange a word. I never spoke to him at the time about this matter and certainly not between the time that those who were charged were arrested and the conclusion of the case. It goes without saying that I have never spoken to the magistrate, Mr Brown. I have never met him. I have never sought to speak to him and I have never sought to communicate with him directly or indirectly. On this aspect there was no secret, there was no conspiracy and there is no problem.

However, because interest was stirred up in the Panorama program and some of Mr Domican's other allegations, I believe that these matters should also be put into some proper prospective. First, we have the claim that he was provided with lists of witnesses so that he could visit them and persuade them to change their story. The facts are, as I am sure will eventually be revealed in the police investigation, that the prosecution provided the defence lawyers with copies of those membership tickets alleged to have been forged, minutes alleged to have been forged and pages of the attendance book alleged to have been forged or falsified. It would not take a genius to work out from the list that was provided by the prosecution just who might be called as a witness against those charged. But even if the prosecution had not provided that information the defendants would have been well aware just whom the prosecution would call against them.

I am sure that neither Mr Brown nor the police knew what they were walking into when they walked into the Enmore branch. The reason that some unscrupulous people in the Labor Party have tried to manipulate and falsify branch records over the years is to ensure extra votes in preselections. Gough Whitlam once said that too often the person preselected was the person who could put the most friends and relatives into the local branch, not necessarily the person with the most talent. Of course, that is what happened at Enmore. There was an attempt to put a large number of friends and relatives into the Party. That there was forgery and falsification of the records of the Enmore branch has never been denied. In fact, I will give a brief history of how the Party dealt with complaints about the branch.

The first complaint was lodged on 1 February 1980 and was acted upon immediately. By March 1980 an official had been to the branch, confiscated the books and its annual general meeting had been postponed. By April 1980 a full inquiry into the affairs of the branch was underway. Meetings of the branch had been suspended and the former secretary of the branch had been declared to be no longer a member of the Party because his original membership had been falsified. By July 1980, prior to the Baldwin bashing I might add, the branch charter had been withdrawn and it had been decided to resuscitate it at a later date, and that no Enmore branch members would participate in Marrickville Council preselections. These actions show that the Party had its own way of applying an appropriate Party penalty to those who broke the rules.

That friends and relatives, therefore, would go into court and change their evidence to protect those close to them should hardly come as a great shock to anyone. Nevertheless, if any person was threatened about the evidence he or she was to give in the court case, the persons responsible for the threat should be charged appropriately. I am more than confident that the police can get to the bottom of that.

The next matter of interest is the magistrate's concern over the defence team being in possession of some of the statements of the witnesses for the prosecution. At one stage during the case, because of that concern, the defence was asked to hand over to the prosecution all the statements that were in its possession. There were four statements, three concerning the Enmore branch. These were all from relatives of one of those charged, a Mr Kennedy, a garbologist from the Marrickville Council who had never been heard of prior to being charged in this case and who has never been heard of since. Apparently, three of the statements were from his wife, his mother-in-law and someone who, I am told, was his sister-in-law. The fourth statement, which was entirely concerned with the parking fine charges and which apparently had been at least photocopied from the police file, was from Virginia Perger's mother. I would not have thought it would be too difficult for anyone to work out how the defence would come into possession of those statements. It did not require Ministers to pressure police to lift them from the files. It did not require anything other than asking those involved.

The only other statement that Mr Domican could possibly be referring to is the fact that at one stage he had in his possession the original record of interview with Peter Baldwin taken at Peter Baldwin's bedside after the bashing. While the defence lawyers are not certain of the exact date, when he did produce this and wave it in front of their eyes-they think it was at least 12 months after the interview had been conducted-they gave it straight back to him because it had absolutely no relevance to the case that they were preparing for the defence.

Some people have gone so far as to say that there should be a royal commission into these matters. I suppose we could have a royal commission into the love boat allegations made by an unfortunate woman, who is a prostitute and a heroin addict, and a journo on the make, even though there are no photographs and no evidence-and there cannot be. All of the Party officials over the period have now been contacted and none of them have ever been compromised by Virginia Perger. I suppose we could have a royal commission into 746 charges relating to parking fines. I suppose we could have a royal commission into how four relatives gave the defence their statements. I suppose we could have a royal commission into whether Tom Domican visited a witness. However, I am sure that all fair-minded people would agree that the police can more than handle those matters. The tying up of the sorts of resources involved in a royal commission on this trivia would be the real way to pervert the course of justice.