It started out with fire and passion in the NSW Legislative Council a month ago to force the establishment of a parliamentary committee of inquiry into “who knew what and when” in the arrest of former Aboriginal Affairs Minister Milton Orkopoulos who is now serving 13 years for under-age s-x and drugs charges.
The second aim was to create a forum to hear the gruesome details of how Orkopoulos’s electorate secretary, Gillian Sneddon, was treated by her employer, the NSW Parliament, after she was approached by detectives investigating the MP’s monstrous misbehaviour. Upon informing parliamentary officials she was doing her civic duty and assisting the police inquiry, they sacked her.
Nationals MP Trevor Khan, a shrewd solicitor from Tamworth who was elected to the upper house in March 2007, pressed the upper house to hear from Sneddon and Ben Blackburn, one of Orkopoulos’s victims, as well as others who could throw light on when the government knew of The Acropolis’s crimes and the scapegoating of Sneddon.
But by the time parliament limped to a standstill yesterday, Khan’s bold bid to deepen the exposure of the Orkopoulos scandal was in tatters.
To win the critical support of the Rev Fred Nile, Khan was obliged to accept the Christian Democrat leader’s amendments. And they were extensive.
Orkopoulos wasn’t mentioned, nor was Sneddon. The amended motion called on parliament’s all-party Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) committee to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into whistleblower protections.
It was passed by the combined votes of the Nationals, Liberals, Greens, Shooters and Christian Democrats with only Labor opposing.
Khan tried to scramble some glory from the ashes of his gutted motion saying: “This is welcome news for the people of NSW, some of whom have been too afraid to come forward with concerns over the state’s poor service delivery record.”
He is counting on health workers, doctors, nurses, school principals, teachers and other public servants to give first-hand accounts of how they face harassment, intimidation and job insecurity if they dare to offer public criticism of their workplaces.
“It is fundamental to the efficient functioning of democracy that public servants are able to report their concerns about service delivery,” he said.
“A system unable to do that lets down the very community that it is meant to serve.”
Perhaps the committee could invite some witnesses from Khan’s old home town, Wollongong, where the good citizens have recently formed Wollongong Against Corruption to reclaim the city’s reputation.
A conference of community leaders, anti-corruption activists and whistleblowers will be held on August 16 to hear from former Independent MP crime fighter John Hatton, green bans trade unionist Jack Mundey and town planner and former ICAC commissioner John Mant.
Locals are wondering whether it will attract the attendance of Wollongong MP Noreen Hay and the city’s former mayor, David Campbell, now the Police Minister.