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Thursday, 18 March 2010
Page: 2169

Senator HUTCHINS (10:01 AM) —Madam Acting Deputy President, I did not anticipate that this report would be delivered at this time; I thought it might have been delivered a little later. As many senators would be aware, I was intimately involved in the exposure of what might be one of the dirtiest political tactics that the coalition perpetrated in the last federal election. My colleagues and I were alerted by internal Liberal Party sources that the Liberal Party was going to distribute fake leaflets in the seat of Lindsay in the 2007 election and we were given the opportunity to catch the perpetrators of this action.

It was indeed very gratifying for us in the Labor Party to get a hold of the perpetrators because, as many Liberals in New South Wales would know, they used similar racist material in the 2004 election against our candidate in the seat of Greenway. The candidate in Greenway for the Liberal Party, a well-known member of the Hillsong Church, Louise Markus, was the beneficiary of a sustained and constant, anonymous, racist attack by people associated with the Liberal Party in 2004. As I recall, in 2004, the swing against the Labor Party in Greenway was somewhere in the vicinity of 11 per cent, but I think the informal vote was even higher because our candidate was of the Muslim faith.

Senator Ryan —I raise a point of order on relevance, Madam Acting Deputy President. I am a member of this committee and it was inquiring into the 2007 election, as the report outlines. I believe Senator Hutchins is referring to an election several years before that which was not covered by the committee.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cash)—Thank you, Senator Ryan. The Senate would understand that wide latitude is given when debating these matters. However, I would draw Senator Hutchins’s attention to the report.

Senator HUTCHINS —I will make the point, Madam Acting Deputy President, that I understand Senator Ryan is trying to defend his outrageous colleagues in New South Wales, which is good for a Victorian.

Senator Ryan —On the point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President: Senator Hutchins can cast aspersions across the chamber, but I think that is a complete misrepresentation and is still irrelevant to the report.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.

Senator HUTCHINS —Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. I did not realise that Senator Ryan, who I understand has quite an honourable record of being fairly enlightened and is one of the few liberals left in the Liberal Party, would get up and support his outrageous conservative, racist colleagues in New South Wales. It is interesting that he would get up and do that.

In that election in 2004 the Liberal Party and their conservative allies within the seat of Greenway used the racist material to quite good effect against the Labor Party candidate, Eddie Husic. As I said, not only did we suffer a significant swing against us but we also had a significant informal vote because people were led to believe that they were voting for some Muslim extremist to go into parliament. I want to say that Eddie Husic, who is quite an honourable man, is of Bosnian Muslim extraction. I think his family is European in ethnic origins, but the Liberal Party were targeting him. I think Scott Morrison, the spokesman for immigration in the other House, was executive director of the New South Wales Liberal Party at the time.

Senator Ferguson —Madam Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Hutchins has been here long enough to know that when you are talking about people in the other place you refer to them by their proper title and this is the second time he has done it so I would ask you to draw it to his attention.

Senator HUTCHINS —I was referring to the member for Cook and I was in the electorate of Cook for many years until I moved west. We used to hold the seat of Cook once upon a time. Of course when the member for Cook was director of the Liberal Party in New South Wales, these activities occurred. I think it might be stretching the bow to think that he may have been associated with those activities; nevertheless, they did occur on his watch.

They were successful and the cronies and the morons within the Liberal Party in New South Wales thought they could get away with it again in Lindsay. So a few nights before the election in 2007, a hand-picked group of morons in the Liberal Party in New South Wales were dispatched to go and leaflet an area in the seat of Lindsay, North St Marys, which is full of men and women from an Anglo-Celtic background, to say—I cannot recall the exact words of the leaflet—that part of our policy was to build a mosque and to allow increased Muslim immigration into Australia.

Fortunately, because there are some decent men and women in the Liberal Party in New South Wales, we were alerted to the fact that this scam was about to occur and I was one of the few people who were involved in making sure that we caught them in the act. We caught them in the act when they were leafleting with these disgraceful, racist leaflets. We caught them because I sat waiting near the home of Jackie Kelly, the then member for Lindsay. I sat there waiting for them to come out of her home and go from there to North St Marys. Jackie Kelly lives in a very salubrious part of Penrith right on the Nepean River. We waited there and Jackie Kelly’s husband, Gary Clark, and a number of other people from the Liberal Party, including a member of the Liberal Party state executive, Jeff Egan, were dispatched to North St Marys to anonymously leaflet these unauthorised documents in that area. But fortunately, because there are some good people in the Liberal Party in New South Wales, as I said, we were alerted to this and we caught them in the act.

You may well recall, Madam Acting Deputy President Cash, that not more than two days later a photograph of Jackie Kelly’s husband appeared on the front page of the Daily Telegraph in Sydney where he was covering his face with the leaflet that he was distributing. There was also a member of the executive of the state Liberal Party, Jeff Egan, who had been a councillor on Blue Mountains City Council and was a member of the right wing or the conservative part of the Liberal Party in New South Wales, and his brother. I actually saw Jeff and his brother distributing these leaflets. I pulled them up and said: ‘You should not be doing this. This is wrong. Just go home.’ After I told them to go home, they continued to leaflet the area. I do not know what was going through their bloody minds at the time, but they continued to operate. There were about a dozen of these Liberals there at the time doing this. I was amazed because I had known Egan for some time since he was on the Blue Mountains City Council. I just could not believe that a man of his standing would perpetrate the sort of racist activity that the Liberal Party involved themselves in at the time.

Madam Acting Deputy President Cash, as you would be well aware, a number of people involved in that operation were subsequently convicted and fined for their activities. I must say that I find it amazing that the magistrate convicted Gary Clark on my evidence, even though I never saw Gary Clark actually put the leaflet in a letterbox, but he dismissed the case against Jeff Egan, the state executive member of the Liberal Party, who I did see put the leaflet in a letterbox. Gary Clark is Jackie Kelly’s husband and is not a bad sort of a fellow, but he was convicted on my evidence. I find it interesting that Jeff Egan was not convicted. Subsequently, a few of us had a private prosecution for assault brought against us. I can inform the Senate that I was not convicted because they did not proceed with the assault charges.

I just want to say to the New South Wales Liberal Party—and I am glad that Senator Ryan here is one of the true liberals in this place—that their conservative, racist actions were pulled up on that day. Hopefully, we will never see that sort of action again. Hopefully, we will never again see an attempt to divide the community on racial or religious grounds like the attempt made by those silly men on that day a few days before the election. The one thing I am grateful for is that I think it contributed to the loss of the seat of the Prime Minister.