Study the recent history of alleged abuses of parliamentary privilege in Australia and you would be forgiven for concluding that our politicians have an obsession with prostitution, homos-xuality and p-edophilia.
Those subjects cover most of the accusations that politicians are using Parliament as a Coward’s Castle from which to make allegations they would not dare utter outside the chamber.
The imputation in the NSW Parliament during question time yesterday by Liberal Leader Peter Debnam that the Labor Attorney-General Bob Debus had somehow done something wrong was just the latest of many. Earlier in the week the NSW Premier Morris Iemma had all but declared his sacked Aboriginal Affairs Minister Milton Orkopoulos guilty of having s-x with a minor.
The smearing of Attorney-General Debus was less specific. Mr Debnam first asked on Wednesday about an investigation into an unnamed minister by the Police Integrity Commission for an unspecified offence. By yesterday the investigation was downgraded to a complaint to the PIC with Mr Debnam only saying that the accusation involved Mr Debus misusing his power when minister for corrective services between 1995 and 2001. The exact nature of the alleged dirty deed was left to the imagination of listeners.
Then when the government disclosed that there had been an unsubstantiated complaint in 1988 of s-x with a 15-year-old which the PIC dismissed in 2003 as being false, Mr Debnam’s staff, according to the Daily Telegraph, started mysteriously referring to the alleged PIC complaint in January being new “and not related to claims made almost nine years ago against Mr Debus which were all dismissed as untrue”. Once again Mr Debus is left to answer a smear without detail.
But lest we forget, the art of character assassination in the NSW Parliament is not a preserve of the Liberal Party. In 1994 New South Wales Labor MP Diedre Grusovin accused the lawyer John Marsden of pedophilia. Her leader disowned her after she read a statutory declaration in Parliament against his advice naming John Marsden and Frank Arkel as pederasts.
Then Labor MP Franca Arena used the words “What about former Supreme Court judge David Albert Yeldham. Was he or was he not interviewed?” when talking about illicit s-xual contacts. The 67-year-old Justice David Yeldham gassed himself in the family car.
That the Federal Parliament is not immune from engendering a little hatred, ridicule and contempt was proved by Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan who declared, quite falsely, in the Senate that High Court Judge Justice Michael Kirby “has come to the attention of senior police and the child protection enforcement agency in NSW. Over a period of years, I’ve personally interviewed at great lengths and obtained statutory declarations from former rent boys from Sydney and Wollongong.” A grovelling apology by Heffernan eventually followed.
In 1996 Liberal MHR Ken Aldred put the Department of Foreign Affairs in the gun when he alleged that about 20 senior officers of DFAT were engaged in pedophile activities within Australia and overseas. He said there were photographs and videos to support his charges but never produced them.
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Not that s-xual allegations have to involve men and boys. Liberal backbencher Don Randell proved that when he rose to refer to former Democrat Leader Cheryl Kernot in this way: “If I had of had an affair with somebody probably 10 years younger than me, I would have been in trouble. She’s got the morals of an alley cat on heat.”