The Queensland Opposition has referred to the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission serious allegations relating to attempts to conceal a relationship between then-Premier Peter Beattie and his Tourism and Racing Minister Merri Rose.
In May 2007, Rose was sentenced to eighteen months gaol for attempting to blackmail Beattie. She was released after three months. There was considerable speculation at the time about the nature of Rose’s blackmail threat.
Yesterday, Nationals frontbencher Rob Messenger wrote to the Crime and Misconduct Commission with allegations from a former Rose staff member that Rose forced staff “to shred official documents, sign off on invalid overseas and intrastate trips, schedule unofficial business and official business and process false parliamentary leave requests to conceal a relationship between former Premier Peter Beattie and Merri Rose.”
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The allegations were made by Ms Barbara Daddow, Rose’s former personal secretary, who died in May 2006. Daddow prepared an extensive statement relating to the activities she was required to undertake for Rose, which Crikey has seen, along with Messenger’s letter. Daddow’s statement alleges extensive bullying and offensive behaviour by Rose, as well as repeated requirements to falsify documents facilitating and concealing meetings between Beattie and Rose.
The material does not suggest that Beattie ordered any illegal or inappropriate activities or even knew of efforts to conceal the relationship. However, efforts to bring Rose’s behaviour toward staff and others to the attention of the Premier’s office and Beattie’s chief of staff, Rob Whiddon, were unsuccessful.
Crikey understands that the material was brought to Messenger’s attention by another former Rose staff member in the context of a Parliamentary debate over the right of public servants to speak to MPs.
Ms Daddow’s statement indicates that her role in assisting Rose to conceal the relationship, as well as Rose’s behaviour, placed enormous pressure on her. The stress is considered by a former colleague to have directly contributed to her death.
The statement said in part: “Many times in the lead up to my breakdown I told the Minister I was finding it difficult to handle the demands of the workplace and the additional work that I had to carry out as a result of being ‘the only person’ who could manage her relationship with the Premier and other liaisons. I also realised that I had been instrumental in many illegal and corrupt activities.
“I had to shred documents, sign off on invalid overseas, inter/intrastate trips, scheduled unofficial business as official business, process false parliamentary leave requests so that she could meet with the Premier on Parliamentary evenings. He also filled in parliamentary leave forms for fictitious functions for her to represent him so that they could meet on Parliamentary evenings.. I found it offensive, immoral and unethical that so many people in public office were so unaware that staff such as myself were being imposed on.”
Rose was appointed Emergency Services minister in 1998-99, Minister for Tourism and Racing from 1999 to 2001, and later Minister for Tourism, Racing and Fair Trading. There were repeated allegations that Rose bullied staff, and two successful compensation claims against her. She lost her seat of Currumbin in the 2004 election, after which she demanded that Beattie provide her with a high-paying public sector position.
The statements seen by Crikey paint a sad picture of a woman wholly out of her depth and incapable of managing her staff or her life. This dysfunctional minister’s office inflicted a massive toll on Daddow, as well as another staff member who has since died. The real story here is how a Premier could decide that a women like Rose was capable of performing effectively as a Minister – or whether her appointment reflected other motivations on the part of Beattie.