Merri Rose has served her time in prison and deserves to be able to get on with her life.

Others, who worked for her, will always struggle to do the same because of what they endured while in her office. And some of their families went through worse than watching a relative go to gaol.

Those voices weren’t heard on Australian Story last night, which continued its finest whitewashing tradition by providing half an hour for the former Minister to explain how she was a victim of the media and powerful ALP figures like Peter Beattie and Bill Ludwig.

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Absent from the program, for legal reasons, was any discussion by Rose of her relationship with Beattie.

Also absent — for no reason other than the program makers were apparently determined to offer a hagiography — was any input from staff who were bullied by her. Crikey understands that a number of interviews with former staff — not all of them negative — were recorded by the program makers and not used, ensuring Rose’s bullying behaviour was glossed over as just another of her travails.

Accordingly, there are a number of former staffers of Rose who were deeply angered by what the ABC aired. “It was it was yet another attempt by Merri to justify what she can’t,” said a relative of one of the worst-affected staff. “The program lost all credibility.”

Another former staff member complained that Rose was playing the part of a casualty in something of her own making. “The big boys doing her over is all part of the dirty and particularly nasty virus known as the Queensland ALP. What did she expect?”

Chris Johnson, who worked for Rose and later for Police Minister Judy Spence, said:

The program simply veneered a ghastly time for too many people involved with both Rose and Beattie. It offended because there are years full of events and circumstances that should be documented accurately and in depth…. the real story is what went on behind the scenes as tax-funded time and resources were used for dysfunctional, questionable purposes. That’s what’s in the public interest.

Journalist Madeleine Doherty worked for Rose for five months before leaving, unable to handle what she called the worst job she ever had. She made the point that Rose’s behaviour towards Beattie — threatening him when she didn’t get what she felt she was entitled to — was exactly how she treated her staff. “Her own behaviour in the end came back and bit her on the bum.”

Doherty believes there is a system-wide problem of MPs with no experience of managing staff being required to manage complex and demanding workplaces.

Staff are sent to courses on how to manage electorate office customers but it’s MPs who need that sort of training as well to ensure they can manage staff. They are offered it but very few take it up. The political parties have to be more careful about how they preselect candidates.

Time and again ex-staffers make the same point — that MPs with no experience of managing people are not being provided with sufficient help from their parties or Parliaments. The cost in human terms can be seen in the scores of ex-electorate office staff who are still trying to get their lives together for years afterward. Some never work again.

Perhaps Merri Rose reflects on that while she’s wandering along the beach on Moreton Island. But don’t count on it.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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