Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts.These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Australian Story -

View in ParlView

CAROLINE JONES, PRESENTER: Hello I'm Caroline Jones. Tonight's program poses the question, what
would drive a woman to blackmail a state premier? Merri Rose is the former politician who went from
high school drop-out to cabinet minister to prisoner. Last year she was jailed for attempting to
blackmail then Queensland premier, Peter Beattie. For as long as they live, Ms Rose and her family
face imprisonment if they discuss the so called secret at the heart of the case. Despite what she
calls her terror at being returned to jail, Merri Rose is now speaking for the first time, from the
island which has become her home and her refuge. This is her story.

MERRI ROSE: The island lifestyle really does suit me. When I first came and lived here it was
really, I suppose a bit of a test to see how long I'd last. Because it was a complete change from
recognition and, you know lots of people around me all the time, to just Danny and I and nobody
else around.

(Excerpt from ABC News)

ABC REPORTER: Former Minister Merri Rose will face court on Friday charged with extortion. It's now
been revealed it was the Premier she allegedly tried to blackmail while trying to get a job in the
state public service.

(End of Excerpt)

DANNY CORNEY, PARTNER: For the last few years, it, say, with Merri and myself and what she's had to
go through, that side of it, has been really tough. And to see her suffer through what went on,
it's just been a shocker mate.

MERRI ROSE: I just wanted to disappear. As the sand and the waves washed back I just wanted to go
and just disappear. It was a dreadful time.

(Excerpt from ABC News, November 2006)

NEWSREADER: It's alleged that through a government official Merri Rose demanded that the Premier
either give her a job in the public sector, the exact nature of the threat is unknown.

PETER BEATTIE, FORMER QUEENSLAND PREMIER: Two things about it, the rumour mongers can go to hell
and anybody who misbehaves will go to jail.

TERRI O'GORMAN, LAWYER: Merri has no comment to make, on my instructions. This matter will be
defended in court.

(End of Excerpt)

MERRI ROSE: And I suffered the consequences for a really stupid mistake and I went to jail. There's
no soft way of saying it, for three months.

DANNY CORNEY, PARTNER: To me, Merri just shouldn't have been there, in my opinion I thought she was
a political prisoner, so that's just the way I think of it you know.

(Excerpt from ABC News, May last year)

ABC REPORTER 2: While detail of the blackmail and who the information was about has been
suppressed, the judge did reveal it related to the personal aspects of somebody's life, not the
public aspects.

(End of Excerpt)

MERRI ROSE: The suppression order was part of the sentencing process. It is very restrictive and
you know, it's just something that I cannot talk about.

PROFESSOR MARK PEARSON, MEDIA LAW EXPERT, BOND UNIVERSITY: People ah, can quite rightly feel that
they are indeed gagged and they do face very serious repercussions if they are to talk about the
matters at the centre of the suppression order, even if they talk about it with their family or
friends.

MERRI ROSE: I am terrified of the consequences of breaching the suppression order, terrified not
only for myself, but for my mum and for my sister. I'm so terrified I don't even want to say the
words.

MIRIAM GITTENS, MOTHER: Merri hides now. Merri hides from everyone that she can. Merri hides on
Moreton Island. She feels dreadfully ashamed and no matter how much I, as her mother, tell her
she's fine, I'm still proud of her, I've always been proud of her, and I will always be proud of
her.

CHERRY WILLIAMS, SISTER: I believe Mary was naïve because of our upbringing, we were very
protected. Politics is such a dirty game. Not everyone is, you know, trusting and good like the way
we were brought up.

MIRIAM GITTENS, MOTHER: We had five children in six years, six months and six days. We milked cows.
The first years, we didn't have electricity.

MERRI ROSE: I was the eldest, and I suppose they say I was a bit bossy all those years, but we got
on very well. Boarding school and I didn't get on. So after year eleven I dropped out and went
straight into the public service. I never saw myself as a politician. It had never occurred to me
so it was really out of the blue when I was approached to run for a seat on the Gold Coast. I went
from one day being Merri Rose, mum, to Merri Rose Member of Parliament and being in the media every
day.

MIRIAM GITTENS, MOTHER: I was fairly concerned when Merri said she was standing for politics, I'd
seen so many politicians stuff up their own life. Yes, there was cost. It cost her relationship
with her husband actually.

(Excerpt from ABC News, February 1996)

ABC NEWS REPORTER: The man who could be Premier, Peter Beattie -

(End of Excerpt)

MERRI ROSE: I was the only Labor member on the Gold Coast from 1992. I had a call from Beattie
saying, you know, that he was offering me a position in the ministry. At the time it was really,
really hard because, there was some of the senior staff within the department saying, "she's this
and she's that" and really not accepting me in role, as seriously accepting me in the role as a
minister.

(Excerpt of Footage of Merri Rose speaking as a minister)

MERRI ROSE: I believe there should be an independent -

(End of Excerpt)

JOHN WANNA, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, ANU AND GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY: Well, in terms of her ministerial
duties, I think she was reasonably competent. She was certainly among the competent ones in the
cabinet. Initially she was a, sort of, junior minister, Emergency Services. Then she rose to be
Tourism and Racing Minister and a much higher profile.

MERRI ROSE: I'm very proud of the achievements that we had during my terms as minister and
unfortunately that has been clouded and stained and tainted by personal issues.

JOHN WANNA, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, ANU AND GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY: She always had a sort of
superficial image in the media. The "Minister for a Good Time" stuff really hurt her. She looked as
if she was in it for the perks that she was there for the good times. She was there on the cocktail
circuit. That's the image that came out publicly. Behind the scenes she was hard working but you've
got this image issue that's running against her.

MERRI ROSE: I did enjoy those first few years as a minister and I continued to enjoy them. It was
really only that last 12 months that it became very, very difficult.

(Excerpt from ABC News, 13th June 2002)

ABC NEWS REPORTER: For this former chauffeur, driving tourism minister Merri Rose wasn't smooth
ride.

FORMER CHAUFFEUR: Her shouting, her abuse. I just felt very frightened, I felt scared.

(End of Excerpt)

MERRI ROSE: I really believe that it was unfair. Some of the criticism, fair enough.

(Excerpt continued)

ABC NEWS REPORTER: A second ex-staffer has now come forward.

(End of Excerpt)

MERRI ROSE: And see, people feed off it as well. So you get one claim and then, you know, somebody
else puts in a claim.

(Excerpt of footage of Merri Rose speaking in Parliament)

MERRI ROSE: Mr Speaker I am not a bully.

(End of Excerpt)

MERRI ROSE: And then you're being tarnished as a bully. It doesn't matter, it does not matter that
10 other, 12 other staff were saying, this is rubbish, it is not true.

(Excerpt from ABC News)

ABC NEWS REPORTER: Peter Beattie flew back from Japan this morning straight into a political
bunfight.

PETER BEATTIE, FORMER QUEENSLAND PREMIER: And I have full confidence in her.

(End of Excerpt)

JOHN WANNA, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, ANU AND GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY: I think Beattie was very protective
towards her in the early years but he was protective towards many other ministers too that's part
of his style. And I think when she did get on the skids he tried to defend her.

(Excerpt continued)

ABC NEWS REPORTER: Mr Beattie's support for his minister has baffled the former chauffeur at the
centre of the allegations.

FORMER CHAUFFEUR: And still he's saying he believes the minister.

(END OF EXCERPT)

(Excerpt from ABC News, June 15 2002)

REPORTER: What else can you tell us about Merri Rose?

PETER BEATTIE, FORMER QUEENSLAND PREMIER: I've dealt with all this yesterday.

(END OF EXCERPT)

MERRI ROSE: Peter Beattie, he made me feel that he was the one who was keeping me in my position.
There were a lot of people who were out for my job but he was like my protector and he was the one
who was going to look after me. He was, he was, he would make sure that everything was going to be
alright. He made me feel very much that I should be grateful to him for holding onto my job.

JOHN WANNA, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, ANU AND GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY: In racing she oversaw major
re-structuring of the industry trying to make it much more financially viable

(Excerpt of news footage of Merri Rose speaking as minister for racing)

MERRI ROSE: Times are changing and there are now challenges which are facing the industry that
weren't there 5 years ago.

(End of Excerpt)

MERRI ROSE: Reforming the racing industry was one of the most controversial things that I ever did,
and that was because the industry was so entrenched with old boy clubs.

(Excerpt from "The Numbers Game", 4 Corners, October 2000)

ABC REPORTER: Bill Ludwig sits at the head of the Australian Workers Union in Queensland.

(END OF EXCERPT)

MERRI ROSE: ALP heavyweight and union boss Bill Ludwig was desperate to get on the racing board. I
was called to the Premier's office, there was only Bill Ludwig, Peter Beattie and myself in the
room and Bill Ludwig pounded his fist on the table, pounded and pounded his fist and in complete
anger he screamed at me that he had to be on that shortlist. Usually what Bill Ludwig wanted, Bill
Ludwig got. But I said no and I knew when I walked away that that was the beginning of the end of
my political career.

JOHN WANNA, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, ANU AND GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY: She would have ruffled feathers. So
yes she probably made a lot of enemies in that process and some people would have wanted a bit of
pay-back against her.

MIRIAM GITTENS, MOTHER: Merri really didn't have any idea on just how powerful some of these higher
political figures were. After this time, there was a groundswell of "Let's get Merri".

MERRI ROSE: Whilst I was in politics, living such a hectic life all the time, I would come to the
island, and of course there was no makeup, no blow-dried hair, it was just being able to be
yourself. I was sitting on the beach about 6 years ago now, minding my own business, watching the
sun set, very relaxed and Danny walked up and started a conversation with me.

DANNY CORNEY, PARTNER: I suppose the fortunate thing there was there was dog there and Merri said
"Well is that your dog?" and I said "No".

MERRI ROSE: And you sort of wait to see if he was going to say "oh you're Merri Rose, oh you look
like Merri Rose or something". Nah, It wouldn't have mattered what I did he said. He was attracted
to me obviously.

DANNY CORNEY, PARTNER: I don't follow politics, you know, so I really did not know who she was. And
then, yeah, just as she told me I thought oh okay. And then I suppose, that's why I didn't worry
about asking for her number. I thought well why would she be interested in a fisherman? So um. We
did keep in contact, we did, did that for a long time, I don't know, maybe 5 months something like
that, before we really got together.

MERRI ROSE: I didn't actually get to see him very much for that first six months. As time got on, I
had my holidays and we got to know each other a little bit more and the relationship developed from
there. After there had been some publicity about, the new relationship that I had formed with a
fisherman, a commercial fisherman. Peter Beattie had asked to speak to me about it. And he had
expressed that he was not happy, and it was sort of around that time that everything started to go
wrong for me.

(Excerpt from ABC News)

ABC NEWS REPORTER: Fresh fuel was injected into the politically embarrassing ministerial car
furore.

(END OF EXCERPT)

JOHN WANNA, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, ANU AND GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY: And the wheels fell off almost
simultaneously. I mean she was, and once the journalists I think, you know, smelt some blood
there's a bit of a pack mentality that followed her and that was quite harassing, I think for her.

(Excerpt from ABC News)

ABC NEWS REPORTER: The Gold Coast based Merri Rose has been plagued by scandal.

(END OF EXCERPT)

MERRI ROSE: I was getting to the point where I was, you know, just getting so beaten up media wise,
and there was an election looming. And, you know, I was in that frame of mind that I just didn't
even want to run again.

(Excerpt from ABC News, January 2004)

ABC NEWS READER: In a shock development on day two of Queensland's election campaign, Tourism
Minister, Merri Rose has resigned. Late today there was confirmation a former staffer had succeeded
in bringing a bullying claim against the minister.

PETER BEATTIE, FORMER QUEENSLAND PREMIER: I don't think we should pursue her to the political
grave.

(End of Excerpt)

(Excerpt from ABC News, 7th February 2004 - Election night coverage)

ABC NEWS REPORTER: The seat of Currumbin of course on the Gold Coast. Merri Rose defeated.

ABC NEWS REPORTER: The government's biggest casualty was former Tourism Minister, Merri Rose.

MERRI ROSE: It's been a very tough few months, but you know, I mean that's politics.

(END OF EXCERPT)

(Excerpt from ABC News, October 2004)

ABC NEWS REPORTER: The opposition pursued the Government in Parliament today over the appointment
of union heavy-weight Bill Ludwig to the Queensland Racing Board.

(END OF EXCERPT)

MERRI ROSE: After the election, Bill Ludwig ended up on the Queensland Racing Board appointed by
the minister who took over from me.

CHERRY WILLIAMS, SISTER: She lost the elections in February 2004, the same month we lost our
grandmother, dad passed away so suddenly and just shattered her world. She was starting to feel a
little bit desperate I suppose. Financially it was a struggle on the island. Mum had been really
sick, yeah the pressure was really on.

MERRI ROSE: I was given the impression by Peter Beattie that there would be a position for me.

JOHN WANNA, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, ANU AND GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY: I think in Queensland there has
been a tradition of senior ministers in Government, particularly Labor ones, they have a kind of
expectation that they'll get other careers and other, other positions.

MERRI ROSE: I certainly had been given the impression that there was going to be a position. Oh, in
no uncertain terms, I was told, there was going to be a position available for me. He made that
very clear and then it didn't happen. And the promises, you know they just sort of went on and
nothing was happening, but then he just cut me off and I lost it and I did a really stupid thing. I
said things I didn't mean. I wanted to hit back because I'd felt so betrayed, like I had had this
trust in him which was misguided.

(Excerpt from ABC News, November 2006)

ABC NEWS REPORTER: After being out of the public spotlight for three years, Merri Rose is now at
the centre of a legal and political storm. The former Beattie government minister today fronted the
Brisbane Magistrate's Court accused of trying to blackmail the Premier.

TERRI O'GORMAN, LAWYER: Ms Rose has no comment to make.

ABC NEWS REPORTER: The Court heard that 52-year-old Rose made the threat in Brisbane's Queen Street
Mall in October last year. She got a Government media advisor to write down her demands for a job
and warned that she had information against someone that would cause them to suffer and lose
everything personally. When Peter Beattie heard about the threat, he referred it to the Crime and
Misconduct Commission.

(End of Excerpt)

MERRI ROSE: I was stunned, absolutely stunned when the CMC came and interviewed me. And I was
trying to say, hey you know, I'm sorry I didn't mean it. I didn't even get legal advice. I just
went ahead and met with them.

(Excerpt from ABC News, May 30, last year)

PETER BEATTIE, FORMER QUEENSLAND PREMIER: I'm the complainant here and I will make myself available
to answer any of your questions after the court decision.

ABC NEWS REPORTER: Her lawyer had just told the hearing, his client would be pleading guilty and
asked for a date to be set for sentencing.

(END OF EXCERPT)

MERRI ROSE: And I didn't try to get out of it. I copped it. I copped it on the chin. The
consequences were dire. They were extremely serious and I went to jail.

(Excerpt from ABC News, May 31, last year)

ABC NEWS REPORTER: Merri Rose showed no emotion as she was told she was going to jail.

PETER BEATTIE, FORMER QUEENSLAND PREMIER: I think these events have been sad for Merri Rose and her
family. They've been sad for politics. I don't have sleepless nights. I'm very happy to look at
myself in the mirror every morning and know I've got nothing to hide. I've done the right thing.

ABC NEWS REPORTER: Exactly what the blackmail entails is yet to be revealed and may never be so.

(END OF EXCERPT)

MERRI ROSE: There has been, a lot of the media focus, speculation, what was the secret? And still,
I've maintained a silence on it. The last time that I even hinted, that I hinted that I would talk
about it, I ended up in jail.

PROFESSOR MARK PEARSON, MEDIA LAW EXPERT, BOND UNIVERSITY: The reason that suppression orders are
issued, is that, if the court was to actually allow full discussion in the courtroom, then the
blackmail material would become public which in some cases was the original purpose of the
extortion.

MIRIAM GITTENS, MOTHER: We understand that anything that was revealed in the court that day might
be suppressed. But what we knew before, why would that ever need to be suppressed? So why should we
have a gag for the rest of our lives? And we take known facts to the grave.

PROFESSOR MARK PEARSON, MEDIA LAW EXPERT, BOND UNIVERSITY: Well, suppression orders unfortunately
over the years have been growing and we're having more issued. It seems judges and magistrates are
often putting precedence on other matters over public interest matters.

MIRIAM GITTENS, MOTHER: We all went to prison with Merri, her whole family. Her sisters and brother
cried for a week.

MERRI ROSE: It's humiliating. It's the loss of freedom, but it's, it's the indignities. It's being
watched all the time. Having, you know, your decision-making taken away from you. I used to say to
myself, I was never going to complain about going doing the grocery shopping again.

DANNY CORNEY, PARTNER: To go and see Mary in prison there, to see someone that you love in the
circumstance, I just hated it, absolutely hated it. Yeah so every, well yeah naturally nearly every
time I went to see Mary there at Wacol I shed a few tears all the time so.

(Excerpt from Channel 10 News - August 30 last year)

CHANNEL 10 NEWS READER: The Premier says he has forgiven former minister Merri Rose, who walked
free from jail today.

(End of Excerpt)

(Excerpt from ABC News, August 30 last year)

PETER BEATTIE, FORMER QUEENSLAND PREMIER: I have always subscribed to a Christian philosophy in my
life and ah, I think at the end of it, one of the philosophies of that is to forgive and forget.

(End of Excerpt)

MERRI ROSE: For most people, the day they're released, I mean, there'd be a big family gathering,
but mine was about, staying away you know, just staying away from the media. Where would I go?
Danny picked me up. We came back by boat, and we went camping for a few days. It's been really hard
for Danny ever since he met me, and even now, years later, I'm still being put out in the media and
very negative in a lot of ways. And he does try and protect me from it. If something comes up on
the TV screen, he'll flick it over so I don't see it. So, he really is very protective.

DANNY CORNEY, PARTNER: She never ducked doing any hard work mate. She was always there with me,
even freezing cold and helping the crew out and I really admire her for that, so yeah. We've had a
few disagreements on the beach and she sort of politely tells me, "OK, you're the boss out here but
at home, it's a different story".

MERRI ROSE: I think our relationship has been tested in so many ways. And I think that if there was
any doubt about the strength of our relationship and the love that we have for each other, then I
don't think there's any doubt about it now. It's really hard to get on with the next chapter of my
life because stories and the same stories keep hitting the media and I try and shut myself off from
that but it is very, very hard, particularly when I can't respond.

CHERRY WILLIAMS, SISTER: I hope one day that it can just be back where you can walk down the street
and she's not worrying about whether somebody, you know, is judging her. It is frustrating that the
truth can't get out there. Well, maybe one day it will. Hopefully it just will be all out there and
she can just move on.

MERRI ROSE: The last few years, I have really been giving myself a pretty hard time about the
really serious mistakes that I have made. Really serious choices, wrong choices that I have made
over the last few years.

MIRIAM GITTENS, MOTHER: Merri and I have agreed that we're going to have a real mother-daughter
conversation and she's going to tell me, in detail, what happened to her and I think this will be
best for Merri and she'll, it'll help her, it'll help her get over her guilt. She has to know that
we're all human. We all make mistakes. And what she's done isn't really very bad at all She's paid
an unbelievable price for not very much.

MERRI ROSE: I'm feeling stronger all the time. Like I can really now take on challenges that I
couldn't have done a few years ago because I had lost so much confidence, really had lost a lot of
confidence in myself. If you have family and a partner that loves you then you're a hell of a lot
better off than a lot of people. So how lucky am I?

END CAPTIONS:

Both Bill Ludwig and Peter Beattie dispute Merri Rose's account in relation to the Queensland
Racing Board matter.

Mr Beattie, now Queensland Trade Commissioner to the US, denies speaking with Ms Rose about Mr
Corney, but says he did speak to her on a number of occasions about appropriate standards of
behaviour, before finally seeking her resignation.

He also says her referred Ms Rose to the CMC along with details of all dealings with her; he adds
that the CMC found no evidence of a job offer to Ms Rose and charged her with an offence to which
she pleaded guilty.