The following is the resignation speech of former South Australian Speaker of the House, Independent Member for Parliament, Peter Lewis, made on the 4th April 2005 in response to unprecedented moves by the government to remove him as Speaker of the House.
The SPEAKER: I have become aware of the intention of the government to move against me. I accept that it is the government's right to do so, even though it is without precedent. I will save the government that trouble. I will simply state that it is grossly improper. This is the first occasion upon which there has been any call by the head of government to remove a Speaker in the history of any parliament similar to those we have in Australia. When governments turn on the Speaker of the house, they have not lasted long. The last and only occasion in the House of Representatives was when Frances Cope, the ALP Speaker in the Whitlam government, who resigned in February 1975, did so in consequence of a difference with the government of the day. But let me go back a bit.
An unsolicited letter of 13 February 2002 came to me from the Leader of the Opposition, now Premier. Despite my protestations at that time about the gratuitous offerings in some of the elements that letter contained and other propositions put to me, nonetheless it stated the now Premier's (I believe perhaps foolishly) sincere opinion on page 2 and I quote:
Instead of offering instability, I believe that you as Speaker could work constructively with the government that I lead. I want to place in writing central commitments made to you yesterday afternoon in my office. I am committed, as are my Labor colleagues, to supporting you as Speaker in the House of Assembly for the full term of this parliament. My commitment and the commitment of my colleagues is to support you for the full term and to enter into an agreement with you to secure stability.
The Premier and the Deputy Premier have recently publicly insulted and defamed me and, through the efforts of their spin doctors and media minders, in particular Melvin Mansell of the Adelaide Advertiser, to criminally defame me in a series of editorials and articles, which were reckless in that they were not well researched, unfounded, unprofessional, malicious and, for that reason criminal, they provided through the orchestrated campaign the means by which it has become possible for the Premier and Deputy Premier to now attack and tear down the straw man they constructed.
The central issue in all this is the grossly misleading assertion that I publicly raised the problem of allegations that a member of Parliament is a paedophile. I made no such claim. That was made by Melvin Mansell's Advertiser itself. It began on 2 March, when Nigel Hunt contacted me to ask me about claims made by Craig Ratcliffe on web sites late last year and repeated by him to The Advertiser early this year that there is a paedophile in state parliament and that he (Craig Ratcliffe) was very concerned that his life had been threatened following the death in suspicious circumstances of someone else, namely Shaine Moore, whom he knew and whom he believed had been murdered.
I responded honestly to Nigel Hunt's unsolicited inquiries to my office on 1 March. That information coming into my office from a few of the very many people claiming knowledge about the activities of paedophiles in general was of concern to me because, of the few people who spoke about parliament's problem, more than half had been killed. Since then, Shaine Moore's death has been declared a murder.
The Advertiser's Nigel Hunt did not discuss with me any other part of the article he wrote. In particular, he did not discuss the activities and haunts of homosexuals around Adelaide, yet that was a substantial part of the article and may have given the mistaken impression to some readers that I raised it (I did not) and that I had done so in a homophobic manner, which is nonsense. Nigel Hunt's article appears to have led some people, who have good memories, to have made a connection between an MP who is a minister and about whom the Premier and Deputy Premier had many months earlier referred to in an answer to inquiries made to them about police investigations of another minister, apart from the Attorney-General.
I recall on one occasion a question in the house from the member for Bragg to the Deputy Premier, which resulted in Hansard's picking up and recording the Deputy Premier's remark, which I never heard at the time and which the member for Bragg appears not to have heard either (at least, she never took exception to it at the time), that he, the Deputy Premier, would have her investigated by police for renovation work undertaken in her office which he, as Treasurer, had to authorise himself anyway.
In my opinion, this is an unfortunate constitutional administrative arrangement in law wherein government ministers have control over electorate offices, their staff and services of all members of parliament, whether non-government members or government members, and may use the knowledge they have of non-government members to make such unfortunate threats and allegations for political reasons, or any other reason whatsoever. I have always strongly believed for that reason that such arrangements should be managed by a committee of the parliament, as such a committee would be answerable to each and all members, whereas ministers are not because they get their commission from the Governor as part of the executive, not parliament itself.
Throughout this time, since learning of these allegations about an MP being a paedophile, I was apprehensive in the first instance and was inclined to think that it ought to be simply dismissed, unless there was some other indication that the allegation had wider substantiation if perchance it was to come from more than one source and, more importantly, if the other source was not acting in collusion but independently. To my dismay, I was to shortly hear from others that such was the case.
One part of the dilemma for me was knowing how tentative and insecure the victims of paedophilia are about speaking out. They are very tentative and often feel guilty of offences they have never committed. The other part of my dilemma then became one of trying to avoid compromising the position of responsibility to uphold the parliament's dignity and reputation and yet, on the other hand, determine at the same time the way forward which would be safe for all parties, including those who were the subject of the allegations. I knew my duty. I particularly remembered the way in which the Labor Party had joined the attack on former archbishop (and, at that time, governor-general) Peter Hollingworth that he knew about the problems in his patch and on his watch. He was vilified for failing to do what was considered in retrospect to be appropriate things and, instead, do what was considered to be inappropriate things.
More recently, I have vivid memories of the way in which the government, especially the Deputy Premier and Premier, vilified South Australia's former archbishop Ian George for committing what were regarded as sins of a similar nature—that is, it was alleged that he did not do appropriate things and otherwise did inappropriate things for which he was publicly ridiculed and ostracised by members of the ALP, particularly those ministers. I never had any intention of allowing the same to occur on my watch here in parliament and was quietly, and as quickly as possible, bringing some of the people who had made the allegations to the point where they might pluck up enough courage and confidence and swear the truth of those allegations, enabling them to be more carefully investigated.
But they were being `bumped off'—that is, murdered and viciously assaulted—quicker than I or the people who were helping me could get them to write down their allegations and then swear that what they were saying was true. Of course, I told Nigel Hunt that they should be protected from murderous acts. At no time have I ever said that they were being murdered or violently bashed into serious long-term mental dysfunction at the hands or the instigation of any MP. That was an improper speculation made by government ministers and their specialist spin doctors to the press across the length and breadth of the state to try to show me in a bad light. In retrospect, I believe it was another deliberate red herring contrived by them, just like the one about homosexuals and their haunts, to discredit me.
Let me return to Craig Ratcliffe. The timing of his disclosures, and the substance of those disclosures, was nothing about which I had any prior knowledge whatsoever, and I would have done all in my power to prevent it at the time, knowing how dangerous and damaging to a proper outcome it would be. I believe he did it out of frustration that in his opinion nothing, or too little, was happening to deal with the matter, and that he, too, might be murdered before justice would be properly done. Remember, Ratcliffe is a victim of paedophilia and even though as a young man he had an affair with a young lad many years ago, which he broke off, he never lied about it. He admitted his guilt and accepted the sentence which was handed out to him. More particularly, if we want to understand the nature of such crimes, to whom else would we go than somebody who had been involved?
Within a couple more months or so I believe the matter could have been sensibly and properly resolved, according to law, if the insatiable appetite which the media has for such salacious material, which they used to beat up the prurient interest which they get from a significant but a minority of the population in their audience, had been averted. That I could not undo what Craig Ratcliffe and The Advertiser's Nigel Hunt had done by starting the scrum and the frenzy, as well as the way in which the executive government staff has abused it, with the assistance of long time friend and supporter of Mike Rann, the Premier, that is, Editor Mansell of The Advertiser, to criminally defame me, has been appalling to me. Yet I have been deliberately and unfairly made the substance of the story in a way designed to justify the specious arguments and slanderous remarks aimed at removing me from public office. In law, that has been criminal defamation.
Part of the ridiculous process has been to impose an artificial time line of today, whereupon incontrovertible hard evidence will have to be provided to fit in with the government's desire and determination to see me off today. One presumes that their argument will now be that no crime has been committed simply because the ridiculous time line in procuring the evidence has not been met, in their opinion. Yet considering the interference to the process by those who will happily oblige the government by delaying and deferring collection of further evidence and examination and proper treatment of the information which I have been able to provide, I am not surprised.
I have no responsibility for Wendy Utting's letter. I do not dispute what she has sworn to be the truth, nor could I or should I. But, for me, the very important work I have been doing has resulted in getting the government, over the last three years since May 2002, to commission the Layton report, to change the law and remove the statutorial limitations on time lines for those committing the offence of paedophilia and increase the sentencing penalties for that crime and, more recently, to get the Mullighan inquiry on foot. But they have been dragged kicking and screaming against it all the way, in spite of now prating about what they have done, without acknowledging their initial reluctance to do it, after it had been put in place, almost as though it was their own initiative. I strongly commend them on what they have done, in principle, to date, but very much regret that they have spitefully decided to pay me back for doing precisely what the Speaker is required to do, yet preventing me, and indeed meddling and messing about in my attempt to get it done, in order, I believe, to do me a mischief by effectively frustrating that process.
The most outrageous thing of all, which disturbs me most about the information which has come in to my office is not the matter of paedophiles in South Australia's parliament but what appears to be the related and organised activities of those paedophiles in high public office—that is, the judiciary, the senior ranks of human services portfolios, some police, and MPs, across the nation, especially within the ranks of the Labor Party. Yet you only have to recall in recent years the investigations, charges and successful convictions against such people as Darcy, Liddy, Wright, Wells, a former senator, and other current and past MPs in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria to understand my concern. They have not acted alone or in isolation, it seems to me. Equally, it seems to me, they cleverly recruit their victims not from amongst the churches' young groups and surf life saving clubs and boy scouts these days. There is a new group of youngsters they prey on—those involved in other action-type sports requiring body contact in coaching and skills development, if not in the action of the sport itself.
Notwithstanding problems with victim confidence and fears about the processes in South Australia, this is my reason for now referring the information to the Australian Crime Commission. It is grossly improper. It is not about homosexuals, heterosexuals or bisexuals in consenting acts between adults in private. Paedophilia is as serious, uncivilised and criminal as slavery and child labour. It is a stinking blot on the progress of developing our civilisation in an open and free social framework which is meant to encourage ethical behaviour and moral conduct in dealing with others. We dealt with slavery and forced child labour in the 19th century: it is time we dealt with this one in the 21st century.
This is a big problem which nobody can get any pleasure from attacking. Paedophiles of the kind to which I am referring here are the most gracious and beguiling of people in the community and are able to manipulate the opinions of others and attract their favourable attentions more effectively than most. It is not surprising that we find them in the jobs and roles of leadership. Their guile and cunning enable them to conceive of ways to organise their activities so that they are almost impossible to prevent, detect and prosecute. By virtue of the very nature of the offence there will never be a bloody knife, a smoking gun, a paper trail of bank accounts or telephone calls, or a bruised torso or injured limb as hard evidence. The victims are the least powerful of all victims of crime in our society. The perpetrators always profess, pronounce and proclaim their innocence more loudly and cunningly than other criminals. They obscure their nefarious activities behind other smokescreens more effectively than almost all other criminals.
Removing me will not remove the stain or the shame, yet it seems the ALP requires a sacrifice in the quid pro quo for what it has yet to deal with within its own ranks and what it has been compelled to do in addressing the wider problem. Equally, there are elements within the Liberal Party who are willing to put political expedition above principle and ethics who cannot believe their luck in the unfortunate way events have unfolded in my attempts to protect parliament; because, in seeing my removal from office, they believe I would be so shamed that I would deliver the seat of Hammond to them without their having to do anything about it. Yet my reading of the mood of the public is one of strong support to root it out, notwithstanding that every one of us, like me, does not want to believe that we personally have to address this issue because it is so `blah', `aah' and so `yuck', yet we must. And they tell me when they see me, `Good on you. Keep it up. Don't give up until we have dealt the final blow to these criminals.'
They have made it plain to me that the practice of paedophilia is not a form of love but the most foul form of social, emotional and psychological butchery which can be perpetrated on any other human being. Parliament's problems remain, regardless of how I go, but go I know I will, and I will not stop the work that is to be done. It is not love. It is a crime, and it is the most stinking crime of all because it crashes lives before the flower of life is even open. Distorted values of this attack on me are not on my conscience and, accordingly, and with those remarks and a plea to everyone in this chamber to address the issue which now confronts it, I advise the chamber I will go to the Governor now and resign. I invite the member for Fisher, as Deputy Speaker, to take the chair.
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