Chris Hartcher, the NSW Liberal MP for Terrigal, believes that the conviction of former Aboriginal Affairs Minister Milton Orkopoulos on 28 child s-x and drugs charges opens the way for a full-scale investigation into his other victims – the Darkinjung Aboriginal people of the Central Coast.
Orkopoulos placed the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council in the hands of an administrator, Peter Hillig, of Parramatta-based chartered accountant Smith Hancock, in May 2006 for a period of six months.
He reappointed him in November 2006 on more generous financial terms just a few hours before his arrest. The arrangements were conducted via a fax machine because Hillig was holidaying in Vietnam.
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On April 3 Hartcher complained in parliament that three weeks before his arrest, Orkopoulos launched a vicious personal attack on two former members of the land council, Alan Vandenburg and David Pross.
The disgraced Orkopoulos referred to the two men as failed directors and thieves even though they are well known and well respected citizens on the Central Coast “who have given a lifetime of commitment to Aboriginal welfare and advancement in NSW”, according to Hartcher, cousin of Sydney Morning Herald senior writer Peter Hartcher.
Hartcher continued: “There was never any evidence of impropriety made or even alleged against Mr Vandenburg or Mr Pross. There was no evidence of their misappropriating a single cent of Darkinjung money.”
Hartcher startled MPs when he told them that he had asked Premier Morris Iemma a series of questions “about an alleged trip Mr Hillig may have made to Vietnam with Mr Orkopolous when Mr Orkopolous was Minister”.
The questions on notice are:
(1) Did the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Milton Orkopoulos travel overseas at any time when he was Minister?
(2) If so:
(b) For how long?
(c) For what purpose?
(d) At what cost?
(3) Who accompanied the Minister on each overseas trip?
(4) (a) Did Peter Hillig ever accompany the Minister on an overseas trip?
(b) If so when and where and at what cost?
Hillig’s appointment ends next month and there is great interest in whether he will be asked to continue as administrator or whether he will finalise his work. Of even greater interest will be the presentation of the council’s statement of affairs following his two-year custodianship.
Much is at stake in this political/financial/cultural stoush, not least the $40 million due to the Darkinjung people for the 2002 sale of a prime site at North Entrance to Mirvac Projects Pty Ltd.