When NSW Premier Nathan Rees took his regional Cabinet meeting to Newcastle last week he was ambushed in front of a roomful of voters by Gillian Sneddon, the former electorate officer for the jailed pedophile, Milton Orkopoulos, the former NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
Smuggled into the meeting using a fake name tag, Ms Sneddon got hold of the microphone to deliver a scathing attack on Rees, claiming that as Orkopoulos’s chief of staff he must have known that the minister was s-xually abusing under-age boys.
Rees listed patiently and then told Ms Sneddon to take her allegations and/or evidence to the appropriate authorities for investigation.
Some sections of the media are repeating the highly damaging allegation that Rees was somehow involved in a cover-up because he must have known, as the former minister’s COS, what Orkopoulos was up to.
He didn’t. Nor did Orkopoulos’s own family, his friends and his ALP colleagues. He led a weird double life.
The calumny that Rees was involved in a cover-up is being pushed by Nationals Leader Andrew Stoner and his deputy Adrian Piccoli. Neither has produced a shred of evidence.
One of the Press Gallery’s most experienced journalists, Lisa Carty, interviewed Ms Sneddon over a year ago and specifically asked her: “Have you any evidence showing that Rees knew Orkopoulos was engaged in pedophile activities before he was arrested by police?” Sneddon replied: “No, I don’t.”
I am hugely sympatheic to Ms Sneddon’s plight. She was treated shamefully by her employer, the NSW parliament. When she informed her bosses that Orkopoulos was under police investigation and that she was helping them with their inquiries, she was locked out of her office in the Swansea electorate and sacked. (See Crikey Milton Orkopoulos’ other victim, March 20, 2008)
However, it is one thing to support her claim for compensation and an apology for the mistreatment she received from the Labor Party and the parliamentary hierarchy, it is quite another to give her a blank cheque to make insupportable and inflammatory allegations against the Premier.
Regrettably, this is a well-trodden path for well-meaning and courageous whisteblowers. They set out doing the right thing but then become the instrument of other forces who carry them off the rails.
Stoner is a leading member of the NSW Parliament’s all-party prayer group. I wonder how he reconciles the recycling of horrendously damaging accusations with his god-bothering. Probably from the Old Testament.
If Stoner, Piccoli or Ms Sneddon have any evidence to incriminate the premier they should put up. Otherwise, shut up.