In the ABC’s Australian Story this week Merri Rose indicated she’d like to re-write history. So would dozens of ministerial, department and electorate staff who worked with the former Beattie Government MP and Minister during her time in office.

The award-winning program offered a behind-the-scenes snapshot of a broken woman living a ‘spartan’ life on a remote island off the Queensland coast. From a panoply of menacing party heavyweights, colleagues who couldn’t treat her seriously and a media that immortalized her ever-ready party antics viewers could take their pick on what caused Merri to make her “really stupid mistake” of bribing a State Premier.

And again the solid audience of former staffers who shared the woman’s roller-coaster career with its post productions sat stunned, skeptical and baffled. Yet again another media trawling of the Rose Beattie saga comes up with little more than water haul.

What were the motives of the program? This isn’t a story about a woman and her partner scaling fish and kicking sand. If anyone was in charge of the facts they’d tell the whole story. How offensive to hear Rose and her family lamenting their lot — what about us?

Cindy Shannon is the former driver who went down for the count in mid 2001. She was amazed to hear Rose’s awed report of her meeting with former Premier Beattie and AWU power-broker Bill Ludwig. “He pounded his fist on the table, he pounded and pounded.”

She made out she was some aggrieved victim standing there with Ludwig doing his lolly. Yet it’s what she did in the office, the ministerial car and anywhere else she lost the plot. Try and drive through traffic with that in the back seat as she drags your personal failings through mud. She had no regard for her life or mine.

Another former staffer now in central Victoria where she re-located after two horrendous years with Rose in her Currumbin electorate said: 

It wasn’t credible because the background information that made her so notorious was air-brushed. There was an implication of some big Labor Party plot to get rid of her without reason and no real reference to her well-documented political stench and a track record of personal and professional incompetency. If she so badly wants justice then she should have the courage of her convictions. Tell the secret and do the time.

And the comments from former staff roll in.

A piece to engender sympathy for a person who admitted she made a big mistake; a bit like zeroing in on the corner of a large painting with no one getting the real picture.

Merri has incorrigible concepts of being not good and not bad, half a bully but not a real one. Why offer statements from staff and others whose jobs and careers rested with her, the Premier and the Party as solid evidence of not being the bully she was lawfully found to be — inside and out of the parliament?

Perhaps Australian Story wasn’t the vehicle for a long and tragic saga that centres on failed workplace management practices giving rise to sacked, bullied, career-impaired and compromised staff.

As Deborah Fleming said, her program faced enormous format and time constraints for a story riddled with complexities and story elements. When a topic is so profoundly contorted as the RoseBeattie issue it’s easy to miss the real narrative.

Peter Fray

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