Thursday, 21 June 2007
Australian Labor Party
I can depart from this parliament after nine years proud of the way in which I have represented the people of the Charlton electorate but disgusted by the vile way in which I have been treated by people from whom I should have been able to expect greater decency, loyalty and support. I make it perfectly clear that there is nothing voluntary about my departure from this parliament. My membership of the Labor Party completes a 116-year term which started with my great-great-great-grandfather, Henry Turner, and his role in the formative years of the Labor Party in Rockhampton where the leaders of the 1891 shearers strike were convicted and imprisoned. Henry Turner was the second Labor member for Rockhampton North after the formation of the Labor Party. The first was Jim Stewart, who became one of our first Labor senators.
The nature of my disendorsement as the member for Charlton reflects little credit on those responsible. My membership of and commitment to the Labor Party is based on its traditional and historic role as a defender of decency, fair play, proper process, the rights of the underdog and the promoter of social equity, national development and a proud and independent Australia. Had I contested a rank and file ballot according to the rules of the ALP, I would have received an overwhelming endorsement. It was the knowledge that Kelly Hoare would withstand a challenge which caused party processes to be corrupted so that I could not possibly win. My disendorsement was not sufficient for some people in the Labor Party who unleashed a vile media attack on me, which was intended to trash my reputation, to provide some legitimacy to the shameful way I was disendorsed and to serve notice on me and other members of the Labor Party that, if you do not hold your tongue and accept without question the authority of the party chiefs, then they can unleash a violent reprisal.
The savagery and venom of the attacks on me are unprecedented in the history of this parliament. The barbarity of those attacks reflect more adversely on those who initiated them. They were met with disbelief and disgust. The reaction of people to the nature of that attempt at character assassination has been almost unanimously in my favour. My constituents know me and they know of my commitment to them, their interests and their community. The nature of the response to my circumstances may have been sufficiently threatening for any political party to think twice before attempting the same treatment of others; however, I doubt it. I warn all who have been involved in this whole sorry episode, or those who have only condoned it, that they need to watch their backs. The perpetrators may have been emboldened. They may have gotten away with it. They could try it again. I say to my colleagues, ‘Beware!’
The presentation of some media reports indicate that elements of the press allowed themselves to be used to the point of contributing to, or even conspiring in, the distortion of events and in the malicious vilification of me. What was the quid pro quo? These ‘vicious distortions’ involved leaks to the media. Although I do not believe the Leader of the Opposition was personally involved in those leaks, I strongly suspect the identity of some of those involved in the vicious campaign against me. I wonder whether they can conceive of the grotesque precedent that they have created.
I thank the Sydney Morning Herald and the Herald in Newcastle and some of their specialist political writers for their fair reporting. There was no concern on the part of the perpetrators, or some elements of the media, for the feelings of my family and little consideration shown for the intense pressure and uncertainty to which I and my family had been subjected for months.
I remain committed to the Labor Party. Those who have traduced me, corrupted party processes and sullied the proud reputation of Labor are simply its current custodians. The Labor Party is still the property of genuine, committed, decent people who seek to use it as the principal political vehicle to pursue its historic and proud objectives.
My family and I have been strengthened by the overwhelming level of disgust expressed about my treatment and by the level of support indicated for me. There have been thousands of people as well as numerous organisations, both within the Charlton electorate and across Australia, who have conveyed their disbelief about the savagery of the campaign against me and have expressed their warm regards. I had intended to contact everyone personally, but the great number involved would make it a daunting or impossible task. However, I want them all to know that Reg and I deeply appreciate their expressions of goodwill, which have helped to fortify us through a very trying time.