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EYE-BALL Opinion on – Wow – yet again the integrity of Elected Officials fails …

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Wow – yet again the integrity of Elected Officials fails …
The now two-year investigation in a Sydney Priest’s abuse of Sydney schoolgirls – has yet again proved that men and women with past skeletons should never have been given the opportunity to run for public office.

The ABC’s 7:30 Report last night gave an excellent presentation on where two-year allegations about sexual abuse of schoolgirls and currently with the NSW DPP for the last seven months sits.  The report makes comment that the investigation is currently being held at the urging of  the NSW Attorney General – Mr Greg Smith.

It was also revealed in the report that the AG has strong background ties to the accused and retired Catholic Priest – Father Finian Egan.  For the victims of the alleged abuse who have come forward and given account of their abuses – these delays are unacceptable.

The 7:30 Report went further and provided transcripts of e-mail messages, and had a copy of a message from the AG claiming a Priest who had met with him to discuss the progress of the investigation – told lies and untruths when relaying to contents of the discussions to one of the abused parties.

In the AG – MR Greg Smith’s maidan speech to the NSW Parliament some 5 years ago – and included in the 7:30 Report – the AG claimed his relationship with Father Egan was an inspiration for himself.

The ABC story is produced below – a replay of the 7:30 report can be view via the “ABC’s Iview” here:

New questions over A-G’s link to embattled priest

| Updated April 05, 2012 05:32:43 |

New questions are being asked about the link between the New South Wales Attorney-General and a retired Catholic priest who allegedly abused a number of female children during his time in the church.

Father Finian Egan’s more than 50 years as a priest took him to at least half a dozen churches in and around Sydney.

But the priest’s service in the Catholic church came to an end when a number of women came forward to accuse him of abusing them when they were children.

Within weeks of 7.30 airing a series of stories on Father Egan, at least five people had gone to police and a widespread investigation was underway.

But nearly two years later, the priest has not been arrested or charged.

One of his alleged victims, Nikki Wells, says there is no reason the case should be taking so long.

“The wait has been absolutely horrendous. It’s been really traumatic. The statements with the police have been finalised in 2010,” she said.

“We’ve been told the case is on the DPP’s desk, but it’s been on the DPP’s desk for seven months. Now they keep telling us they’re just waiting for a signature, so it’s beyond me how it’s been so long.

“The case has been investigated. It’s very clear the evidence is there from all the witnesses, so I don’t understand why he hasn’t been charged.”

Father Egan has always denied the allegations, and as the case dragged on questions were raised elsewhere in the media about the alleged sex offender’s long-time association with Attorney-General Greg Smith.

Mr Smith and Father Egan go back some years, and when Mr Smith was elected to Parliament five years ago he cited Father Egan’s influence in his maiden speech to Parliament.

“At St Gerard’s, Father Finian Egan charmed us with his Irish wit and his pastoral devotion to his flock,” he said in the speech.

Damien Tudehope, now the Attorney-General’s chief of staff, also knows Father Egan well, attending the priest’s church and, as a solicitor, defending him against sexual abuse allegations.

The ABC does not suggest that either Mr Smith or Mr Tudehope have interfered with the potential prosecution involving Father Egan, but critics argue there is an appearance of a potential conflict which the A-G should address.

‘Completely horrified’

But 7:30 can reveal discussions it is alleged the Attorney-General has had regarding the Egan matter which cast doubt over his impartiality.

Last year Ms Wells spoke to another Catholic priest about her frustration at the delay.

That priest, who the ABC has agreed not to name, says he then met Mr Smith last July.

After that meeting the priest detailed his version of what was said in an email to Ms Wells which the ABC has obtained.

In the email the priest says Mr Smith told him he thought Ms Wells was trying to take money from the church.

“I was with Greg Smith the other day and I raised your case with him. He commented that ‘you were just trying to get $1m from the church’,” the priest said in the email.

Ms Wells says the conversation was completely inappropriate.

“I was completely horrified that the chief lawmaker in the state could comment on an open criminal case for a start,” she said.

“Secondly, that he’d pass judgment on someone he doesn’t even know and just disbelief that the whole matter that our Attorney-General could speak so publicly about me and my case and a criminal matter.

“Clearly he thinks I’m a liar and that other witnesses are liars too because I’m not the only victim in this matter – a clear lack of empathy and devastating unprofessionalism.”

The ABC asked Mr Smith if the priest’s email description of the meeting and what was said was correct, and in response the Attorney-General issued a statement saying he “recalls no such conversation”.

“The Attorney-General recalls no such conversation and notes that 7.30 has failed to provide any detail which would help his recall,” the statement said.

“He says he would never suggest any victim of sexual abuse was simply motivated by a desire to claim a financial payout.”

Questions

Beyond the alleged comment that Ms Wells was just after money, the email raises other questions.

In fact Ms Wells said she had discussed a $1 million figure with the church, not for herself, but as a loan for a charity she was running to care for survivors of childhood abuse.

She was shocked the Attorney-General would know anything about the $1 million figure, something she had raised only with senior churchmen, and she said so in her email reply to the priest.

“I am horrified that Greg Smith knows about us seeking assistance for the Sunrise Centre – I am also further disgusted that he said that I just wanted to get $1 million out of the church,” she wrote in the email to the priest.

The priest replied, saying he had similar concerns about the fact Mr Smith knew about the $1 million figure.

“This is what he had heard and that concerns me where this had come from,” he said.

“He is well connected within the church – he seems to know all the hierarchy – much more in the know than I am.”

Those connections troubled Greens MP David Shoebridge, who put a series of questions about the matter to Mr Smith on notice in Parliament.

“In my dealings with him, it’s an attorney that’s more likely to defend the church than to get out and defend the victims,” he said.

Among the questions, he asked Mr Smith whether he had had any communication with anyone beyond the DPP regarding the Egan case.

But Mr Shoebridge says in his answers Mr Smith did not address that issue, only stating that his office had not been in contact with the DPP about it.

“That’s a remarkable lack of candour… it was a very specific question capable of a very precise answer and we simply didn’t get that,” Mr Shoebridge said.

“If the half of the answer you don’t give is the core of the information, you’ve got to ask whether or not that is misleading.”

The story and future treatment of Father Eagan is a matter of due process – the real story behind this crime is the bungling of the response by the DPP under the influence of the Attorney General – Mr Greg Smith.

This leads to the bigger picture in how Members of Parliament are vetted before they run for pre-selection to be elected to higher office.

There have been too many past instances where candidates and elected members are found wanting over past indiscretions and skeletons that are in existence.

The Craig Thompson affair comes to mind, as does the recent Gold Coast LNP candidate who hid the fact that he and his wife engaged in ‘wife-swap’ parties revealed during the campaign period. His immediate dis-endorsement by Campbell Newman had no bearing on the election outcome.  But it does show the lack of due diligence carried out by the pre-selection committee and the Party they represent.

There are countless others going back decades where ministerial and member misconduct has seen members jailed or dis-endorsed and by-elections called.

The goal has to be to have any candidate vetted by a central agency where favours cannot be seen to be a part of the process. An example would be the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to conduct deep background checks into business and family connections well in advance of any election.  That would mean a time frame for nominees well in advance of any timed election. I

If something like this was to be instigated, and potential candidates knew that their skeletons would be uncovered – then they would not even nominate because they would know their past would be made public.

The voters have to believe that the candidates on the ballot paper are decent Australians with no background skeletons, or connections that will bring the Parliamentary process into disrepute. The voters have to know they can trust the candidate they wish to vote for.

This creates another layer of scrutiny that pre-selection committees can use in selecting their candidate.  If the AFP become corrupted by the process then that is another matter.

What is Premier O’Farrell to do over this Far=ther Eagan affair – sack his AG?

If the AG – Greg Smith used poor judgement in using Father Eagan as a reference to boost his poliutical credentials – then he showed poor judgement.  In what other areas will he show poor judgement? – i.e. the cover-up and delay in having Father Eagan face criminal pedophilia charges?

There is so much loss of faith in current elected Members in all Governments and a process of vetting prospective candidates as suggested hereto, will stand down candidates who know they have a past that will be exposed. The pool of decent, moral and persons with high integrity would have just shrunk by millions – and that should give us all a better form of Government at all levels.

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To have your say where it counts: – contact your Local Federal Representative and have your say – please use the links below to find your Local Member and let them know how you feel about this or any other topic that you feel strongly about – or you can just post a comment below and let off some steam. [Links updated 23rd Feb 4:00pm Sydney Time due to Federal Government page move.]

Link to Previous EYE-BALL Posts.

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The EYE-BALL Opinion …

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  1. Gerry Hatrick
    April 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    An Adelaide cleric today in his good Friday message has prayed for ethics in government. He noted how the current obseesion to self serving and obsession with maintaining power actually leads us to throw them out at the polls, As always the catch 22 is we replace one set of crooks with another. Is there a real solution?

  2. HissyFit
    April 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Yes – off with their heads until we get a goodin’ …

  1. April 5, 2012 at 6:11 pm
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