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Tuesday, 26 August 1980
Page: 758


Mr HUMPHREYS (Griffith) - I have certain information which I wish to bring before the House this evening. I preface my statement by saying that the privilege of this Parliament is not meant for abuse by parliamentarians but it is there for use by members of the community who have no other recourse in their attempt to secure justice and expose corruption, and who do so per medium of their elected representatives. For obvious reasons I shall refrain from making subjective comments about the nature of the material I am presenting.

An investigation has revealed to me most disturbing accusations. They concern the operations of what has been, until a few weeks ago, a charity known as the Society of the Helping Hand. It is a registered company and its chairman is Mr Keith Ashton of 589 Logan Road, Greenslopes. The directors are also listed in the Public Register. The company's books were audited recently by an independent assessor, Mr Ken Hayward. It is a company limited by guarantee and the limit of guarantee by individual members is $10. It pays no tax and therefore, as a charity, has not been required to keep records for the Australian Taxation Office. The company's official statement of April 1980 declares that the Chairman, Mr Keith Ashton, received $1,813.39 during the year as wages for work performed in the social welfare area. Mr Ashton states his other business occupation as being involved with Queensland Community Radio Ltd. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard that part of the Society's financial statement listing in detail receipts and expenditures.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows -

 

 


Mr HUMPHREYS - I thank the Minister for Science and the Environment (Mr Thomson) and I thank the House. I have also a copy of the auditor's report to the Society's directors for the year ended 30 June 1979. 1 seek leave to have that report incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows -

THE SOCIETY OF THE HELPING HAND LIMITED

Auditor's report to the members of the Society.

Year ended 30.6.79

Lit has not been possible to establish from the Accounting Controls and records of the Society that all donations and contributions have been received by the Society, or once received, banked to the Society's accounts. In consequence I have been unable to confirm the total of all income.

2.   It has not been possible to establish from the Accounting Controls and records of the Society that all cheques and cash outgoings have been paid to creditors, including employees, of the Society.

3.   No books of original entry have been maintained by the Society.

Because I have been unable to satisfactorily discharge my duty by the use of practicable audit procedures, in my opinion.

(a)   I have not obtained all the information and explanations that I have required, and

(b)   Proper accounting records and other records (including registers) have not been kept in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and

(c)   I am unable to report in respect of the above matters required by Section 167 (2) of the Companies Act 1961-79.

Ken Hayward Chartered Accountant


Mr HUMPHREYS - I thank the Minister, and I thank the House. I have referred before to certain accusations made by more than half a dozen young men and women, mostly in the mid or late teens who passed through either the Society's Amelia Street hostel or its hostel at Kangaroo Point. Accusations have been made by certain persons who have for various periods worked at the Society's hostels, either as volunteers or for payment. I have their names and addresses and I have checked their stories but I am sure that the Parliament respects their right to remain anonymous. They have all indicated that they would be available to speak to the Australian

Federal Police or officials of the Department of Social Security if an investigation proceeds.

Because of the constraint of time I can only summarise factually and objectively their collective accusations. There are numerous references to sexual activity among certain tenants at the hostels - some of them minors - between certain tenants and some members of the Society's management, and among some of the Society's supervisory staff at the hostels. Equally, there are numerous references to condoned drug taking. Several allegations have been made from different individuals that Mr Keith Ashton provided glue to 15-year-old and 16-year-old boys who developed a glue-sniffing habit. There are many references to drunken and belligerent behaviour, not only among the hostels' tenants but also chiefly on the part of the hostels' supervisors.

The Society has been involved also in schemes to sell stationery, Christmas cards, candles et cetera, using hostel tenants as salesmen. All the people who have contacted me confirm that only one dollar in ten was kept by the young unemployed people who made the sales. Also, it has been alleged by people who have worked at the hostels that Mr Keith Ashton has overstated the number of persons at the hostels for the purpose of defrauding State and Commonwealth departments which fund the Society. Further, it has been stated by several persons that considerable amounts of revenue from rent, sales schemes and donations have not been accounted for in the Society's financial statements. I refer honourable members to the statement of the official auditor. All of these accusations can be obtained verbally or in writing from persons whose names I have in my office in the event that a Commonwealth investigation is held.

I could comment a great deal about this sort of operation but, in the best interests of justice, I simply lay these allegations before the House and request the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle), whose Department funds the Society, to have these matters of fraudulent claims investigated. The Fraud and Consorting Squad of the Queensland Police is now inves- tigating the Society of the Helping Hand and, following a letter sent by the Reverend G. R. Griffiths to the State Minister for Welfare Services, the Society has been recently deregistered. I ask for leave to have a copy of that letter incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted. The document read as follows -

JULY TWENTY-SECOND, 1980

The Minister for Welfare Services. Parliament House, BRISBANE

Dear Mr Doumany

In the past two years or so, there has been a growing concern among Welfare Organisations in Brisbane who deal particularly with homeless and unemployed young people, with the activities of the Society of the Helping Hand. This concern is based on three aspects of the Society's work.

1   . The nature and the quality of the work undertaken.

2.   The alarmingly large number of stories of damage - emotional, moral and physical- done to young people while in the care of the Society. These stories come from young people themselves and from those who deal with them.

3.   The financial aspects of the Society's dealings with young people in their care.

The undersigned Agencies have met to discuss their concern and have resolved to communicate this concern to you. We feel that on the basis of our perceptions the situation is fairly critical and that something ought to be done to investigate our concern to see whether in fact our perceptions are substantiated.

We are happy to co-operate with you in whatever investigation you may want to initiate into this matter. We also understand that both the Police Department and the Justice Department are carrying out their own investigations and we will co-operate with them too if invited.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. G. R. Griffiths

For: Teen Challenge,

Brisbane Youth Service, Lifeline Brisbane,

Youth Emergency Shelter (Windsor), Salvation Army Social Service, R.A.D.C., Q.C.O.S.S.


Mr HUMPHREYS - I thank the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and I thank the House. It is understood that Mr Ashton may have more than one bank account and that he may have an open ticket to an overseas destination. Also, I ask the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) to urge the Federal Police to investigate the matter.







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