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Western Australia: Penny Easton's mother answers Dr Lawrence's criticism of her; criticises secrecy in Family Court and Parliamentary procedures

PETER THOMPSON: Now, let's also focus on the Lawrence Royal Commission that's going on in Western Australia and, of course, Carmen Lawrence has been quite outspoken in her criticisms of the Commission and the Royal Commissioner has responded in kind and said she faces the risk of contempt.

PRU GOWARD: Yes, that's quite a stern rebuke. I guess she should have anticipated it, although the Government has made criticisms of the Royal Commission of this kind before. Perhaps it's a bit different after they'd had their meeting and they'd agreed .. or she'd agreed not to cross-examine witnesses and they had agreed not to lead any more damaging evidence until a High Court discussion on the future of the Royal Commission.

But, yes, I think that's been damaging for her, but I think much more damaging were her criticisms of Penny Easton's parents; only because, I think, to listeners and viewers in Western Australia this couple has become very well known and most people would see them, primarily, as parents rather than as political activists. However, it is also true that Mrs Campbell, particularly, has got involved in the Royal Commission and wants to see a full public parliamentary inquiry if the Royal Commission is closed down. In other words, you could say she is taking an active part in political proceedings.

So, earlier when I spoke to Mrs Campbell who has agreed that she did work .. she was a member of the Liberal Party but resigned and then later stood, after her daughter's death, as an Independent against Dr Lawrence. So, earlier I asked Mrs Campbell whether her standing against Dr Lawrence would have, at least, served the Liberal Party's purposes.

BARBARA CAMPBELL: I suppose, you know, from the point of view of who did I give preferences to: yes, I did give them to the Liberal Party and to other people standing. But I mean, certainly she was last on my list of preferences, but I mean, to be quite honest, I feel my daughter's death is way beyond politics. I mean, what I want to know is why my daughter committed suicide because she felt she'd been set up so well there was no way out but that.

PRU GOWARD: But in a sense don't you also feel that Penny Easton's death was political?

BARBARA CAMPBELL: Yes, I do. I feel that there was no reason for that petition other than political. I mean, you'd have to be deaf, dumb, blind and completely stupid not to have seen the political significance of this whole thing. Also, apart from that, the Attorney-General, Joe Berinson: he was empowered by the Family Law Act, Section 91, to intervene in a Family Court case. So, this whole matter of Easton's perceived injustice could have been dealt with quite normally in a quiet manner. And John Halden, who presented the petition had been a Family Court counsellor, so you would have considered that he would have been interested in protecting a Family Court case rather than exposing it as he did.

So, I mean, there could have been no excuse for that petition other than its use as a political ploy in order to .. I would have said, their attempts were to completely split the Liberal Party because Richard Court had only taken over leadership from Barry McKinnon six months previously and that had left a bit of ill feeling among some people in the Liberal Party. Now, had she been successful in .. or had the Labor Party been successful in making these allegations stick, they could have ended up by completely splitting the Liberal Party, just before an election which she called the following month.

PRU GOWARD: Is it possible that Carmen Lawrence is right when she argues that it is a political witch-hunt of her?

BARBARA CAMPBELL: No, I don't think it's a political witch-hunt of her because, I mean, the whole thing is if anybody used politics in the wrong way it was her, her government. I mean, you know, never forget it was Richard Court that had false allegations made against him as much as my daughter. I blame a whole lot of things because there was the Family Court proceedings: now, there were things that shouldn't have happened in the Family Court. I mean, in fact, the petition contained information from what was called 'a minute of agreed fact' which was obtained in the Family Court under very strange circumstances which I want inquired into.

PRU GOWARD: Does it concern you, Mrs Campbell, that whatever your interests in getting to the bottom of this are, that your daughter's death and your involvement have been put to, if you like, party-political ends?

BARBARA CAMPBELL: Well, I don't care what anybody says, I know I could cheerfully walk away from everything, but the one thing that really motivates me, if you really must know, is that I feel that the damage done to me and my family and the loss of Penny was so great that it can't be .. and nothing can be undone. I feel that by speaking out and exposing what happened, I just hope to God that the necessary checks and balances will be put into place so that this business is never, ever repeated to some other family. I would hate anybody to go through what we've gone through.

PRU GOWARD: But do you see that as part of what you're doing there is a possibility that you and your family, again, are being used in a political struggle here, as Carmen Lawrence suggests?

BARBARA CAMPBELL: No, I don't see any way at all. I feel that at the moment the Federal Government .. I mean, I can see Paul Keating's problem: I mean, he's put so much faith in Carmen Lawrence and her credibility is being questioned at the moment. Now, there'll be a lot more people whose credibility are going to be questioned by this Royal Commission and there could be a few heads roll. I don't know, there may be nobody heads roll, but I just hope that it will bring forth changes to whatever system allowed this to happen.

Now, the first thing I'd like to see changed is secrecy because I blame secrecy as being one of the worst parts of all this because the Official Corruption Commission inquiries were secret, the police inquiries were secret, the Family Court is secret and we didn't even have a clue that the parliamentary petition was coming down.

I can't tell you that it's been the biggest shock to me, all that's happened as a consequence of my daughter going to the Family Court. None of us told lies and yet all this happened. I still believe in my worst nightmares that I can't believe it has really happened to us.

PRU GOWARD: And you deny, categorically, that you are politically motivated in any sense at all.

BARBARA CAMPBELL: No, if anything, most of my work is done with the Council of Civil Liberties, and regardless of what I might feel in my political way - I'm certainly not a Labor voter - but I mean, I do most of my work with the Council of Civil Liberties where we help people from all parties.

PRU GOWARD: Barbara Campbell, thank you very much for your time.

BARBARA CAMPBELL: You're welcome, Pru.

PETER THOMPSON: And, of course, Barbara Campbell is the mother of Penny Easton.