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DNA test reveals truth behind Abbott's 'son'

DNA test reveals truth behind Abbott's 'son'

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

Kerry O'Brien: welcome to the program. First tonight, the latest incredible twist in what was
already one of the most fascinating political stories for a long time, certainly of a personal
kind. Just one month ago, it was revealed that Health Minister Tony Abbott had been reunited with
the son he and his then-girlfriend had given up for adoption 27 years ago. In a further twist, the
son was revealed as Daniel O'Connor, who had been working in Parliament House as an ABC sound
recordist. And tonight we learn that DNA tests have confirmed Tony Abbott is not Daniel's father.
Here's how the story first unfolded.

KATHY DONNELLY: He said, "Hello, Daniel?" I said, "Hello, Daniel. It is Kathy." He said, "Oh,
hello." I said, "Hello." Then we both started to laugh and we laughed and laughed and laughed. I
always thought I would cry, but it was joy and relief - just huge relief.

DANIEL O'CONNOR: I was quite shocked, really. I was surprised more than anything that I worked in
the same building as him and have met him on numerous occasions.

TONY ABBOT, HEALTH MINISTER: Well, I certainly was I suppose flabbergasted, but at the same time
thought to myself, "Well, what do you know, hey? Truth is stranger than fiction."

KERRY O'BRIEN: Did you have moments where you thought very basic things like, "Is he safe, is he
still alive? Is he happy, is he in poverty, is he well looked after?"

TONY ABBOTT: What are his interests? Is he an intellectual, is he a sportsman? You know, I must
confess I often fantasised about him being the kind of footballer that I'd always wished I would
have been, but wasn't, of course.

KERRY O'BRIEN: As your only son.

TONY ABBOTT: That's right. I mean, it is a trap that we parents often fall into of living our lives
through our kids and projecting our own sometimes unrealised hopes on to our kids. As I said, I
sometimes fantasised about Daniel being the kind of footballer, or the kind of debater, or the kind
of academic that I might have wanted at some stage of my life to be. He's turned out to be himself.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Himself, but not Tony Abbott's son.

So, how did tonight's further sensational news unfold that Tony Abbott is not Daniel O'Connor's
father? I'm joined now by political editor Michael Brissenden in Canberra.

Michael, what have we learnt since the story broke on the Seven Network tonight?

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well, Kerry, we've certainly learnt, as Tony Abbott says, that truth is
stranger than fiction, there's no doubt about that. It seems what happened is when all of this got
into the public eye, a man who had known Kathy Donnelly at that time rang her up and said, "Listen,
I think he might be mine because he looks very much like my other son." This man has a couple of
other kids and he thinks that Daniel O'Connor looked very much like his other children. Then he
understand that Kathy then contacted Tony Abbott and said this man had rung and this was a
possibility. Tony Abbott then said, "Well, I had an inkling that something like this might be the
case." So DNA tests were done. Then obviously this week we've learnt that the DNA tests show that
Daniel O'Connor is not Tony Abbott's son. The new man that is the father has decided clearly he
doesn't want to go through the hoops that everybody else has gone through in this story so far and
he's staying out of the public spotlight.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, as you say, it's an extraordinary story, but I guess one great pity is that
there wasn't some DNA testing done beforehand - before the first - it first - well, when, I guess,
they knew it was first going to be exposed. Terribly awkward circumstance for anyone to have to
face.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well, it's been, you know, an incredible circus since this story broke and
clearly it's affected a lot of people now we are talking about four or five families. Daniel's
adopted parents, as I understand it, are divorced. So there's five families here have been affected
by this. It really has been an incredible story and you have to feel for everybody that's been
involved in this so far.

KERRY O'BRIEN: The only one of those that is talking right now is Tony Abbott, albeit a little
reluctantly, but here's an excerpt of what Tony Abbott had to say at Sydney Airport tonight.

TONY ABBOTT, HEALTH MINISTER: Look, this has been the whole time since Christmas has been a bit
wild, frankly. To find the boy that I thought I had all of those years ago and to go through a
reunion and now to lose him like this is pretty shocking and I feel a bit numb about it all.

REPORTER: You said a while back you weren't sure how the story would end. Is it over now?

TONY ABBOTT: That's absolutely right. The truth is stranger than fiction. This story has certainly
developed some pretty surreal twists.

REPORTER: No, fairytale ending, minister, sadly?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, that's right, but, look, for Daniel and for Kathy I hope a continuing great
story. But, not one that will obviously involve me.

REPORTER: Closed a chapter on your life.

TONY ABBOTT: It seems so.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Michael, I don't know how you begin to isolate the politics from the human interest
side of this story and the personal story, but to the extend that you can, obviously this was a
very political issue up to the point where all was revealed a month ago. I mean, where does that
leave it?

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well, not only up to a month ago, I think this the whole idea that Tony Abbott
has thought he's had an illegitimate son for 27 years. It's been brought up in the Parliament in
the past and used against him because he is something of a morals crusader, and has made that very
much his own personal political platform, so it's been used against him in the past. It was used in
the context of the abortion debate that reared its head at the same time when all of this was being
discussed. So the political impact has been pretty significant for Tony Abbott, I'd suggest.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Michael, we might leave you to try and continue to wrap your own head around this,
but thanks for that.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Thanks, Kerry.

Investors fuming over Nu-Tec investment scheme

Investors fuming over Nu-Tec investment scheme

Reporter: Emma Alberici

KERRY O'BRIEN: It was a scandal that floored one of the Labor Party's toughest political
practitioners, Graham Richardson - a dodge migration racket in the South Pacific that came to be
known as the "Marshall Islands Affair".

Now the disgraced businessman at the centre of that ugly saga 13 years ago has resurfaced with
another deeply dubious operation.

This time the victims are more than 100 investors and one of Australia's most respected scientists,
Professor Leslie Kemeny.

Professor Kemeny is one of the world's leading nuclear physicists, so when he thinks he's got a few
good ideas worth developing, it's worth paying attention.

Trouble is, the man who stepped in to parlay Professor Kemeny's ideas into business is Gregory
Symons, jailed in the '90s for forging signatures and fleecing his clientele of more than $1
million in the Marshall Islands Affair.

With no prospectus, Symons raised close to $3 million on the back of Professor Kemeny's ideas,
managed to secure astonishing growth predictions from two of the world's leading accounting firms
without a single patent lodged or any guarantee that the professor's theories could be turned into
industry.

Had the initial investors known about Gregory Symons' past, they would undoubtedly have thought
twice about giving him their money. This special investigation from finance editor Emma Alberici.

EMMA ALBERICI: It was the most unlikely alliance. Professor Leslie Kemeny, the man the Government
calls "Australia's greatest living scientist" and Gregory Symons, the smooth-talking businessman
with a shady past. On the table was a proposal to commercialise a range of nuclear technologies
that would do everything from extracting uranium from old mine sites and improving water quality to
upgrading airport security.

ROBERT DABBS, NU-TEC INVESTOR: That sounded very good, so we thought we'd chase it up and see what
come out of it.

ROD OWENS: NU-TEC INVESTOR It looked like a pretty well a win-win situation. Annual cash flow in
2002 - $140 million; 2003 - $450 million; three quarters of a billion in 2004.

EMMA ALBERICI: While he might not have understood the science, Rod Owens had no problem reading the
Nu- spreadsheets.

ROD OWENS: If we get down to the valuation of the company, it is even more staggering because in
2004 it is nearly $4.5 billion.

EMMA ALBERICI: Four-and-a-half years since those stellar forecasts the only money the company has
made is the $3 million it received from its 112 investors. Rod Owens had recently sold his
motor-wrecking business in 2000 when he was introduced to the Nu-Tec management. He was asked for
what they called a loan of $20,000 to fund a fact-finding mission to the US. Since then, he's
invested a total of $100,000 in Nu-Tec.

ROD OWENS: Uhm, every couple of months we were getting a Nu-Tec newsletter. Now, this kept us on
track, if you like. It kept us enthusiastic about what was going on. That would tell us
theoretically exactly what our team was doing.

EMMA ALBERICI: The Nu-Tec team was led by Gregory Symons. The newsletters introduced him to
investors as an international commercial lawyer and world business development consultant. He
registered the company in the US and told shareholders that got around the Australian prospectus
laws but, as you're about to see, that wasn't the only tale he told. Claims he made in these
newsletters about owning patents on the technology and about contracts signed with high-profile
companies overseas were a complete fiction. Glossy business plans and information memoranda put
together by international accountants Dolomites and OK predicted a stunning future for Nu-Tec and
it was on the strength of all of these documents and the big names attached to them that so many
people agreed to part with so much money.

ROD OWENS: I went to a lunch, a Chinese lunch, and I'm not exactly quite sure, it was early 21.
Gregory Symons was there, his girlfriend was there, his girlfriend's daughter was there and they
discussed about their trip to America which Mute paid for and it was Greg, Caroline, her daughter,
her daughter's friend down the road. I started to shake my head and go, "What's this?"

REPORTER: Mr Symons, did you forge any Government documents?

EMMA ALBERICI: It was an infamous moment in Australian political and business history. The Marshall
Islands , this man Gregory Symons was at the centre of it, but if you read all of the information
surrounding Nu-Tec you'd never know it.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON: Federal Transport and Communication Minister I knew he had a business migration
scheme in the Marshall Island, but as to having knowledge of his business affairs I have none.

EMMA ALBERICI: The then Communications and Transport Minister Graham Richardson paid a high
political price for the affair. It cost him his portfolio and landed Gregory Symons in jail for
deceiving five Taiwanese investors. Gregory Symons, a relative by marriage, used a reference from
the former Senator to try to gain favour with the Marshall Island Government.

ANONYMOUS REPORTER: Do you have any comment about your Sydney companies, there's been a lot of talk
in the Sydney media?

GREGORY SYMONS: I've been instructed not to say anything at this stage.

EMMA ALBERICI: He was convicted of 15 counts of forgery after signing the names of government
officials on documents, claiming to give the Taiwanese men visa-free entry to the United States in
return for $1.25 million.

ROD OWENS: The Marshall Island's affair made me feel very foolish. I mean, I suppose you should do
more checks on these people.

PROFESSOR LESLIE KEMENY NUCLEAR SCIENTIST: I left the company because I found its financial policy
completed flawed. I found the science and technology directions abysmally flawed and a disgrace and
I found that I had no support whatsoever in the area of science and technology. There was no
allocation of money to scientific staff, to laboratories and to materials.

EMMA ALBERICI: Professor Leslie Kemeny is an academic and internationally renowned nuclear engineer
and physicist. His ideas, and that's all they ever were, aren't in a neat package. They're based on
a broad application of his nuclear know-how. Did you personally talk about the returns investors
could make on their investments?

LESLIE KEMENY: Never, that embarrassed me greatly and I could not stop any of the early news
sheets. They never carried the realities.

ROBERT DABBS: What first started to raise our suspicions was the fact that they used to keep
changing technologies all the time. They would say, "We're trying to get this one up and running",
and that would be a story you'd be told for six or nine months and then, "Oh, no, we're not doing
that anymore because someone has advised us to go with this other technology."

EMMA ALBERICI: Over a 7-month period Robert and Carol Dabbs invested $48,000 of their
superannuation money with Nu-Tec.

ROBERT DABBS: That's the aqua tech one.

EMMA ALBERICI: Leslie Kemeny's international reputation plus the claims of big contracts with
overseas companies impressed them, as did repeated promises that Nu-Tec was about to list on the
Canadian Stock Exchange.

ROBERT DABBS: They were a $1 US a share, the first lot to buy, and they were talking about just
from a Moab site they were talking about going into, et cetera, and they were supposedly quoting
outside figures that these shares would end up being worth about $188.

EMMA ALBERICI: The American town of Moab in the state of you Utah borrows its name from the Bible.
It means "the place beside the promised land". It's a bitter irony for the Nu-Tec investors who
thought their $3 million was going to be spent here cleaning up the environment. Every day Moab's
abandoned uranium mine leeches thousands of gallons of toxic water into the Colorado River. Nu-Tec
said its technologies would clear the site, purify the water and re-cover valuable uranium from the
mine tailings to sell back to the US Government. 140 mines like it around the US were going the
make the investors millions. The problem was that the technologies never left the drawing board and
Professor Kemeny's patent applications never got past the first step.

LESLIE KEMENY: To get a full international patent you might spend as much as 200 to $250,000 and at
the crunch all that just wasn't available.

EMMA ALBERICI: Gregory Symons told Professor Kemeny he would take him on the ride of his life.
Commercialising the technologies he'd been working on for more than three decades. Professor Kemeny
would spend four hours a day three days a week commuting from his home in country NSW to attend
meetings in Sydney. But Gregory Symons didn't want to spend money on proving that the professor's
technologies actually worked. Instead, he and his girlfriend flew first-class around the world
attempting to sell the concepts to big institutional investors.

LESLIE KEMENY: I'm aware that travel was necessary in the early days, but I believed all the way,
right from the start, that the original money should have been spent on something in Australia. So
that when you go overseas you have something to demonstrate.

EMMA ALBERICI: Nu-Tec paid a business match-making service in the US $100,000 to introduce them to
potential end users of the technology, but despite countless meetings, no-one signed on the dotted
line.

ANONYMOUS REPORTER: You say there were no contracts signed with Nu-Tec. Why not?

LESLIE KEMENY: Well, because I would not allow that sort of thing to happen. I had to - my
embarrassment was very simple that sometimes conversation in high places mentioned there were a
large number of people working in Australia with me on project, which was just not true.

EMMA ALBERICI: For more than four years Nu-Tec investors have subsidised Gregory Symons' lavish
lifestyle. They've paid the rent on his waterside home here in Sydney's Elizabeth Bay and for a
Caribbean cruise for Gregory Symons, his girlfriend Caroline Miller, who was incidentally listed as
Nu-Tec's international executive officer, her daughter and another director. A tax return obtained
by the '7.30 Report' for that year reveals that Nu-Tec spent more than $US200,000 on travel, meals
and entertainment.

ROD OWENS: That's quit disgusting. There were so many people that had their fingers in the pie that
there was nobody that was actually doing any work.

EMMA ALBERICI: The Nu-Tec trust account is held here at Dennis & Company. Noel Dennis is known as
the Nu-Tec legal representative although he hasn't practised as a lawyer since the early '80s. Back
in 1981 his certificate was revoked after he was found guilty of misusing a trust account. He took
$10,000, proceeds from a client's divorce settlement, and used it to fund his own real estate deal.
Noel Dennis refused to speak to us on camera, but confirmed in writing he was until recently on the
Nutec pay roll. A copy of the trust account revealed also on the payroll was Gregory Symons's
girlfriend and his ex-wife.

ROD OWENS: I did question Symons as to if we are going to go through with this, what sort of salary
would he put himself on. His answer to this was, "As little as possible."

EMMA ALBERICI: How do you fell about the fact your name was used, the people invested on the back
of your good name and have now lost so much money?

LESLIE KEMENY: Uhm, I believe that's reprehensible, especially because they were not institutional
investors whose due diligence is at a much higher level.

EMMA ALBERICI: Many of the investors belief Deloittes should have engaged in some due diligence
before committing its name to a 60-page business plan. The world's second biggest accounting firm
also allowed Gregory Symons to use its boardroom to conduct his pitch to potential shareholders.
Deloittes wasn't put off by the fact that Nu-Tec had no assets, no labs, no prototypes, just
Professor Kemeny's ideas. Still, Deloittes valued Nutec at $773 million US or around $1 billion
Australian. The '7.30 Report' asked the company for an explanation of how exactly they came up with
that figure and just how much independent research it did for the $65,000 fee it charged Nu-Tec. We
got this written response from the company's Australian director of communications.

WRITTEN RESPONSE FROM DELOITTES: The company and its officers were the source of the information
upon which Deloittes relied on preparing its report The report was prepared solely for the
Directors of Nu-Tec and it clearly states that no other person should rely upon any statement made
in this report for any purpose

EMMA ALBERICI: In September 2002, a little less than a year after the Deloittes report, and still
with no proof the technology actually worked, Gregory Symons got PKF involved, also a big
international accounting practice. They wrote an information memorandum which projected profits of
$5 million US in 2003, rising to $100 million in 2004. PKF didn't answer questions emailed to them
from the '7.30 Report' but their document has a lengthy disclaimer and states the information is
sourced from the Nu-Tec management.

ROD OWENS: These companies have the ability to check everything out. Now, if they're going to
accept money and write up business plans, et cetera, yes, one would expect that PKF and Deloittes
would have checked out what was there. I mean, surely they would, otherwise why would they put
their name to it.

ROBERT DABBS: I just figured it probably made the whole thing a little bit more legitimate because
I had heard of Deloittes, et cetera. Yeah, it made it feel like a more legitimate type of business.

EMMA ALBERICI: Gregory Symons was staying at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas when we requested an
interview with him. We sent him a series of questions, which he's refused to answer.

ROBERT DABBS: Gregory Symons has had a nice time. He's flown first-class all over the world and
lived in 5-star accommodation obviously on our money.

EMMA ALBERICI: How do you feel about that?

ROBERT DABBS: Not very happy because I've never stayed in 5-star or flown first-class myself, so I
don't like somebody else doing it on my money.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Emma Alberici with that report, which throws up more questions that we didn't have
time to answer tonight, so we'll be revisiting it tomorrow.

Domestic violence cost put at $8b

Domestic violence cost put at $8b

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

KERRY O'BRIEN: For a long time, domestic violence was one of the great hidden shames of Australian
society, and to a degree that's still the case. But over the past couple of decades, researchers
have slowly been able to piece together a picture suggesting that it is one of this country's great
social problems.

Today came a set of figures that will make it hard for governments not to tackle the problem in a
serious and accountable way. According to the survey by Access Economics for the Federal Office of
the Status of Women, domestic violence is the biggest single health risk factor for women aged
between 15 and 44. It's also the biggest single cause of early death or disability in women.

To make it more compelling for action by cost-conscious governments, Access Economics estimates a
health cost to the nation of more than $8 billion. Donna Chung is a domestic violence expert from
the University of South Australia and special consultant to the federal government. I spoke with
her in our Brisbane studio earlier tonight.

Donna Chung, I guess the statistic that really hits you between the eyes is that domestic violence
is the biggest single cause of death or disability for women aged between 15 and 44. That's women
who are killed or who suicide or who are disabled. Did that figure shock you when you first saw it?

DONNA CHUNG, FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CONSULTANT: I think it's a heavy realisation
about the serious impact of domestic violence on a large number of women's lives, compared to other
types of health-risk factors. So I think it was a very sobering piece of information as well as
quite shocking for people who don't work in the area.

KERRY O'BRIEN: An estimated 400,000 people experienced domestic violence, this is an estimate, in
2002/2003. is an estimate - in 2002/2003. If that is an estimate, do you think the reality is
better or worse than that. Or do you think that is a fairly accurate figure?

DONNA CHUNG: I think that it tends to be an underestimate, given it's a social problem which
there's still a fair amount of shame and privacy about, that it tends to be an underestimate. Only
when people are in fairly dire straits and their safety is at risk do think come forward. It would
be a conservative estimate of a number of women affected.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Apart from death and disability, what are the main health impacts on women?
Especially the VicHealth study shows women's health is impacted by domestic violence. In
particular, depression and anxiety. Both whilst they are living with a violent partner, but also
after the relationship has ended, there's also continued issues around anxiety, depression and also
the take-up maybe of smoking or prescription drugs to manage the situation for them.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And nearly 200,000 children witness domestic violence in a given year on those
2002/2003 estimates. How does that impact on the children?

DONNA CHUNG: It has a number of effects on children, particularly in terms of obviously their
relationships with their parents, but also their education may be affected in terms of how they act
out behaviours at school. They become more extroverted and anti-social or they may become extremely
withdrawn. They may have difficulties socialising and mixing with other kids as part of the
experience as well.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Now, as I understand it, this is also the main reason for women's homelessness?

DONNA CHUNG: That's correct.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Obviously not so much with men. There are a variety of reasons with men, but for
women this is the main cause for homelessness.

KERRY O'BRIEN: How serious a problem is that?

DONNA CHUNG: Women who are trying to escape domestic violence. Often women flow relationships at
the last minute when safety is at a premium and so they often leave the home with very few
possessions. We encourage women to try and plan if they are going to leave so they actually can
have their financial situation into hand a bit more. But what it means is that women when they
leave the situation then move into emergency accommodation, if they're able to get into it, and
after that if they are able to access kind of medium- to long-term accommodation, they are starting
from scratch again. So no furniture, no household goods, none of the sorts of things we take for
granted as part of our daily life. It's a hard grind and if women aren't able to find
accommodation, they'll often return to the violent partner just to have a roof over their heads, as
well as the heads of their kids.

KERRY O'BRIEN: What's the relationship to socio-economic groups, what's the pattern?

DONNA CHUNG: There's an idea it affects lower socio-economic groups more than any other group. I
think they are more visible in the community because people with other financial means can use
different means of escaping domestic violence.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Okay, we've spoken about domestic violence and there's been a growing picture emerge
over at least the last decade, maybe 25 years really, we've been talking about this issue. What are
the solutions?

DONNA CHUNG: I think as we said earlier the homelessness for women is a major issue. I guess there
are two things in that area that are really important. One is access to affordable, suitable
accommodation for women who may be escaping domestic violence they leave refuge and shelter if they
are able the access it and, secondly, considering the removal of men from the home as well, in
terms of maintaining the women's accommodation and children's access to schools. Obviously, that's
not an option available to all women. It's available to women under some circumstances where they
believe their safety can be maintained, but that's another way that has only been trialled in
fairly small pilots in Sydney and Melbourne at this stage.

KERRY O'BRIEN: In terms of long-term solutions it is true, is it, that there 's an extreme shortage
of properly trained counsellors in the field?

DONNA CHUNG: Particularly for working with men. There are a large number of workers in the field
who are highly skilled in working with women, even though services still have large waiting lists,
but our research shows that the availability of qualified staff to work with perpetrators of
domestic violence still has a shortfall over the country.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Donna Chung, thank you for talking with us. Thanks. And I wonder how governments
will react.