Our Labor insider has all the inside gos on the political storm which has broken out in WA about the son of Labor MP John Quigley being arrested. And check out Quigley’s amazing letter at the bottom.
During the balmy Perth evening of Australia Day, eighteen year old Jack Quigley was arrested by police. He was subsequently charged with disorderly conduct as a result of a fracas which allegedly took place on the banks of the Swan River during the Australia Day fireworks celebrations.
Young Jack is the son of newly elected State Labor member, John Quigley. Quigley senior is an idiosyncratic and outspoken character who as a prominent Perth criminal lawyer, represented the Western Australian Police Union for many years before entering parliament.
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In the process of representing the interests of his police officer clients, Quigley was often embroiled in controversy with the police hierarchy and the Western Australian Anti Corruption Commission. No doubt some of those with whom he was in conflict saw him as a zealot. He certainly represented his clients with great energy and gusto and not without considerable success.
As with other State anti-corruption commissions, the Western Australian Anti Corruption Commission is charged as part of its charter with investigating the conduct of members of the police force. Quigley has frequently represented officers subject to investigation by the ACC. Since its formation in 1989, the ACC has not achieved one successful prosecution.
The ACC is a creature of the Court Government, borne of the WA Inc Royal Commission and the product of the findings of that Commission. We shall return presently to the ACC, however for the moment it is sufficient to observe that the Chairman is Terry O’Connor QC, a former member of the Liberal Party who specialised in defamation prior to his present appointment.
O’Connor is perhaps better known nationally in Australian rules football circles as the first AFL Commissioner to be voted off the Commission by the Club Presidents.
The present controversy has exploded as a result of Quigley ringing and speaking to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Bruce Brennan to complain about his son being arrested and charged and the treatment that his son allegedly received at the hands of the police during his arrest. Jack Quigley required medical treatment following his arrest.
Quigley made clear to Brennan and Brennan acknowledged the fact that Quigley was speaking as a father and not as a member of parliament. Quigley subsequently wrote to Brennan on personal letterhead and reinforced that point.
However, in the same correspondence Quigley threatened that if the charge against his son was not withdrawn, he would personally bring charges of assault against the arresting officers.
Were it not for internal police politics in which Quigley had previously been swept up, the matter may have for the time rested. The charge was not to be withdrawn and Jack Quigley appeared in the Perth Police Court on Thursday and pleaded not guilty.
Within hours of Quigley’s letter hitting the Police Department, Quigley was contacted by the media demanding an interview to answer questions about his letter of complaint and demand to Assistant Police Commissioner Brennan. Far from resting for the moment, the issue is well and truly alight.
Quigley does not blame Brennan for the leaking of the letter however he is convinced that his letter was leaked because of his previous role as legal counsel for the Police Union.
Police Commissioner Barry Matthews has referred the leaking of the letter to the ACC.
Quigley has other ideas. The Western Australian government has recently announced a Royal Commission into the Police Force and Quigley has provided the Commission with documentation relevant to his matter. No doubt with the Royal Commission’s powers to compel attendance and evidence, the hearing of that reference will give new life to this issue.
The coincidental timing of Commissioner Matthews’ reference of the leaking of Quigley’s letter to the ACC is heavily ironic. In a matter of days Quigley is to appear before the Legal Practitioners Complaints Committee to respond to a complaint of unprofessional conduct which was originally made by Terry O’Connor QC.
It is not appropriate for Crikey to go into detail about the grounds of the complaint however it results from comments Quigley made on radio when being interviewed about an investigation into police activities. It related to his police clients, the ACC, Australian Federal Police and the National Crime Authority. Quigley was speaking in support of his clients.
The feeling between O’Connor and Quigley is intense to say the least. When asked on talk back radio on Thursday about his hearing before the Legal Practitioners Complaints Committee, Quigley in his normal robust way told his interviewer that “I am going to pluck O’Connor’s feathers one by one.”
Premier Gallop has publicly supported Quigley over his intercession with Brennan, something he must find very galling. Quigley won endorsement for his seat, albeit by one vote, thanks to the influence of former Premier Brian Burke with whom Gallop maintains a very frosty relationship. No friend of Burke’s is a friend of Gallop’s.
The Liberal Party has now jumped into the fray in the belief that it is on a political winner. Commissioner Matthews while criticising the tone of the letter and acknowledging that Quigley only managed to speak with Brennan because of his former association and his present position as a member of parliament, accepts that Quigley’s contact with his Deputy Commissioner was completely proper.
The Liberal shadow police spokesman, Matt Birney, has accused Quigley of attempting to influence the Deputy Commissioner. Birney, a young man in his first term, has in the exuberance and brashness of youth gone so far as to congratulate the police officer who leaked the document. This seems unwise given that the culprit committed a criminal offence and that it is a view that will not be shared by the Royal Commission.
Birney was not part of the previous Coalition so he does not bear its sins, however it may serve his future purposes to inquire into the conduct of members of the Court government in matters of political interference and conflict of interest.
The Minister for Agriculture, Mr Monty House directly interfered to prevent the prosecution of Goundrey Wines for unlawful land clearing in the Margaret River region; an offence that carries a very substantial penalty. Goundrey Wines is owned by multimillionaire and previous media owner, Jack Bendat.
Premier Court’s response was to enthusiastically declare that the Minister was only doing his job as a good local member and that members of parliament are frequently asked to intercede on behalf of constituents in matters of prosecution. Court said he thought it was entirely appropriate for members of parliament to make such representations.
The Liberal member for Geraldton, Mr Bob Bloffwich publicly and privately lobbied for public funding for a company in his electorate in which he had shares however he neglected to disclose his pecuniary interest in that company. Coincidently the company, Kingstream Resources which has just gone into receivership, was chaired by Court’s brother.
The present Liberal Party Leader, Mr Colin Barnett, then the Deputy Liberal Party leader and the Minister responsible for the Kingstream project, subsequently flew to Geraldton to declare that Mr Bloffwich had Ministerial qualities. Barnett has attacked Quigley for contacting Deputy Commissioner Brennan describing it as improper, and claiming that Quigley had used his influence and political connections.
The Minister for Transport, Mr Murray Criddle successfully recommended to Cabinet that the State government rail freight operation be sold to Wesfarmers. Criddle overcame the need to declare his share holding in Wesfarmers by selling his shares to his wife.
In each case, Premier Court energetically defended his colleagues and strongly supported their behaviour. If it were any other government accept the present one, it would be obvious how this issue is going to be played out when the parliament resumes.
With the worst government and worst opposition since self government, the prospect of a lawyers disciplinary committee doing over one of its own and a pollie to boot, an ACC inquiry, a Police Royal Commission, Quigley senior suing the police and promising to pluck the ACC chairman and Quigley junior in the dock, State political writers have for the time being, something to report.
John Quigley’s letter to The West
The bald facts . . .
YOUR letters’ headline asked: Can we all do a Quigley? (1/2). If you were asking how many people each morning can shave their head bald while standing under a shower and without a mirror, never inflicting a wound, I would say very few.
Go on, I dare you. See how many of you can do my shaving feat under the shower every morning. I’ll bet there would be a lot of heads in town wearing bandaids. Don’t you think I am skilful?
As to whether many parents could come to their children’s aid by contacting the police hierarchy to make a proper representation for review of their child’s arrest, from the letters and phone calls I have received, there are some, but few. As to whether as an MP I should have done it for my son, I say that as a lawyer with 28 years experience, I had the wherewithal to do it, and I do it on a regular basis for my constituents. Why would I do less for my son?
If any families in my electorate find themselves in similar circumstances, they have only to contact me and I promise to use all of my skills and position as an MP to protect them, so long as it is within the law.
JOHN QUIGLEY, MLA, Innaloo