FOR ALL OF US: Conroy tells it how it is on Brimbank and the Suleyman patriots

It’s easy for VEXNEWS to speak truths that are unpopular in sections of the media. From the cheap seats, boisterous patriotic cheering mostly comes without cost or risk.

When you’re a federal cabinet minister, sometimes it’s very difficult indeed to speak truth to the immense power of the press and to the seemingly unstoppable momentum of a xenophobic witch-hunt where guilt was always presumed and never seriously challenged anywhere, except occasionally on VEXNEWS.

On Wednesday night, while the eyes of the nation had turned to Canberra, the federal minister for Communications stood up and told the truth about the Brimbank saga on which we’d reported extensively last year.

We never thought we’d hear these self-evident truths about the astonishingly ugly McCarthyist witch-hunt that occurred against the Suleymans uttered by someone in such high office.

When you report on politics, it’s easy to get cynical and critical. But sometimes, and it can come from any party, at any time, one of our leaders stands up and makes us proud.

 

Victorian Ombudsman: Investigation into
Brimbank City Council
Senator CONROY (Victoria—Minister for Broadband,
Communications and the Digital Economy) (7.19
pm)—I rise tonight to raise an important matter concerning
flow-on effects of the 2009 Victorian Ombudsman
investigation into the alleged improper conduct
of councillors at Brimbank City Council. At the
outset, I wish to advise the Senate that I raise this matter
as a senator for Victoria, not in my capacity as Minister
for Broadband, Communications and the Digital
Economy. Furthermore, the principal set of circumstances
I refer to centre on Mr Hakki Suleyman, a man
who I am proud to have been able to call a friend for
many years. Mr Suleyman is a respected member of
the Australian Turkish Cypriot community. To this day
he remains the Chair of the Migrant Resource Centre
North West and the convenor of the Turkish Cypriot
program on 3ZZZ community radio—a role he has
performed for 20 years. He has been a proud member
of the ALP for many years and is a passionate advocate
for democratic processes and the importance of participating
in these processes.

The facts are that a now discredited Ombudsman’s
report, which has led to not one single charge being
laid to date against those adversely named within it,
has been used as cover for a relentless, personal hate
campaign against Mr Suleyman. The Ombudsman’s
report into Brimbank City Council is a torrent of vitriol
that found no evidence of criminal acts, found no evidence
for any charge to be laid and apparently targeted
some individuals above others based on scurrilous allegations
from unnamed parties. It undermined the basic
right of all Australians to participate in the democratic
process by recommending—and, sadly, having
this recommendation agreed to—that no electorate officer
or ministerial adviser may serve simultaneously
as a councillor. The Ombudsman’s report into the City
of Brimbank is now a laughing stock, save for the fact
that it has disrupted people’s lives and left reputations
in tatters. The calls for an Ombudsman’s inquiry were
the result of a bizarre power play by disgruntled,
mostly failed, councillors from the City of Brimbank.
As a result of this investigation, many innocent political
activists have been caught up in a long-running
saga to defend their good names and rebuild shattered
reputations.

The focus of this investigation was the so-called
Suleyman group of councillors, allegedly a group of
elected councillors tied to a very popular and electorally
successful former mayor, Natalie Suleyman.
Many false claims of misconduct were made against
Natalie Suleyman. These accusations proved to be so
baseless that no charges were laid. However, attention
was then turned to her father, Hakki. And what test did
the Ombudsman apply to this entire investigation? It
was whether a person had exerted ‘undue influence’
upon council proceedings or had ‘acted inappropriately’.
Such accusations are impossible to quantify and
highly subjective. Moreover, such bizarre findings are
one of many factors that have helped shine a light on
the legislative underpinnings of the office of the Ombudsman
in Victoria.

So profound has been the public’s loss of trust in
those currently occupying the office of this important
integrity watchdog and those serving as its investigators
that the Victorian government charged the Public
Sector Standards Commissioner, Mr Peter Allen, and
the former Secretary of the Department of Premier and
Cabinet, Ms Elizabeth Proust, with reviewing integrity
processes across the state. The Proust review has identified
an out-of-step legislative model that empowers
the Ombudsman. The review explicitly calls for a
modernised Ombudsman Act. A key recommendation
was that a revamped act should require the publication
of guidelines on the conduct of investigations in accordance
with codified principles of procedural fairness.
Additionally, those subject to any investigative procedures
conducted by the Ombudsman would have the
right to seek legal advice and a published reply. Further,
such persons would have the right to disclosure of
adverse material, affording individuals the right to be
advised of evidence presented against them.

Sadly, during the Ombudsman’s inquiry into the
City of Brimbank no such processes were in place. Indeed,
my good friend Hakki Suleyman has suffered
tremendously at the hands of those carrying out that
investigation. Mr Suleyman has provided this information
by way of formal complaint to the Ombudsman’s
office. Before the interview processes had even begun,
his basic rights were affronted. Mr Suleyman states
that he was threatened by investigator Lachlan
McCulloch, who asked, ‘Do you know who we are? Be
careful.’ Such an off-the-record threat from a public
official is unconscionable. Mr Suleyman states that he
was belittled and harassed, suffered the implication that
his job was in danger and was badgered with the threat
of phone taps. He states that upon the conclusion of the
interview—or inquisition as it may be better categorised—
he was further threatened by Mr McCulloch,
who closed on him and said with malice: ‘You lied
today. I didn’t finish you off yet.’ He also said, ‘Don’t
you talk to anyone about this, not even your wife, you
got it?’ Such an intimidatory statement is hardly becoming
of an office that investigates matters relating to
professional integrity. Nor, in my view, does it constitute
being formally appraised of one’s obligations during
an Ombudsman’s investigation. This is a disturbing
allegation about an official trusted to investigate others
in the case
of Brimbank.

Thankfully, the Proust review has taken important
steps toward overhauling the procedures in place at the
Ombudsman’s office and restoring transparency. To
ensure that the independence of the Ombudsman remains
accountable to the parliament, the review recommended
that the Ombudsman be subject to oversight
by parliamentary committee. However, such important
proposals from this robust review have not
spared people like Hakki, or indeed his family, from
having their reputation continually attacked and left in
tatters.

In no small part, this reputational damage has been
wrought by a sustained, biased and prejudicial media
campaign, mainly undertaken by a journalist at the Age
newspaper in Melbourne. The reporting has been led
principally by Royce Millar, whose pursuit of a grubby
story—purporting political scandal—led in one instance
in the week of 11 June last year to his harassment
of ALP members by telephone calls late at night.

I understand that Mr Millar did not even have the courtesy
to apprise branch members of the fact that he was
a journalist. Indeed, he masqueraded as someone conducting
an ALP survey on behalf of the ALP. Mr Millar,
as a longstanding employee of the Age, should be
aware of the journalist’s code of ethics; one should
identify themselves as a journalist, the organisation
they represent and not exploit a person’s vulnerability
or ignorance of media practice. In this clumsy piece of
journalism, Mr Millar identified that there are a number
of active ALP members who are, to use his words,
‘of Turkish background’. Seemingly by virtue of their
heritage, Mr Millar is willing to condemn them as
nothing more than stacks in thrall to Mr Suleyman.
Moreover, Mr Millar has taken a perverse delight in
explicitly naming and victimising Hakki Suleyman and
his daughter, Natalie. Mr Millar has acted as the selfappointed
judge, jury and executioner and has even
questioned Mr Suleyman’s democratic right to participate
in the ALP. Mr Millar sought to shame Mr Suleyman’s
election to the ALP national conference as a
miscarriage of due process, in an article on 19 June last
year. The relentless conduct of Mr Millar fuelled calls
for Mr Suleyman to be stood down from his employment.

This was highlighted in Mr Millar’s report from
7 May last year in which he verballed the Ombudsman’s
report—at that point still unreleased—by exaggerating
an alleged impropriety around ‘MPs employing
councillor comrades’. He further stated that ‘… the
findings are likely to end some political careers and
damage others’. Sadly, this has been prophetic: the
matter of Mr Suleyman’s employment is still being
disputed with the Victorian parliament. As such, I will
say very little of it here save that Mr Suleyman, in my
opinion, performed his duties in the community diligently
and with the greatest degree of respect for the
dignity of the office.

Mr Suleyman has been hounded out of his job by a
combination of relentless persecution by Ombudsman
employees and a journalistic campaign that borders on
the xenophobic. Even now, when the Ombudsman’s
report has been found to be a baseless document and to
have resulted in not one charge being laid, Mr Millar
and the Age newspaper have refused to acknowledge
this or even apologise for their campaign. Mr Millar
has misused his position to attempt to smear respected
members of the community and has conducted a witchhunt,
based upon political affiliation, that has no place
in an open democracy. Mr Suleyman’s family have
suffered and, indeed, the Turkish Cypriot community
of Melbourne’s north-west involved in the great Australian
Labor Party have suffered by implication. Many
innocent political activists have been caught up in the
investigation of the Ombudsman and its attendant media
coverage. However, none have suffered as grievously
as Mr Suleyman. I thank the Senate for the opportunity
to address this important matter.

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34 Comments

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34 responses to “FOR ALL OF US: Conroy tells it how it is on Brimbank and the Suleyman patriots

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention VEXNEWS 2010© | FOR ALL OF US: Conroy tells it how it is on Brimbank and the Suleyman patriots -- Topsy.com

  2. Long live Stephen Conroy

    Stephen Conroy is a inspiration and a true leader of Victoria. Without people like Conroy having the courage to stand up and talk about the facts were would the good state of Victoria be.

  3. Anonymous

    Andrew, you have said it perfectly in previous dispatches: good friends walk in, when others walk out.

  4. Blackmambo

    you would have been better off running this story, to criticise fairfax (from nine MSN that Fairfax is the stock people most like to short) rather than relying on more idiocy from this self-serving fool.

    “FAIRFAX Media has been outed as the most shorted stock on the ASX in the corporate watchdog’s first daily report of short positions.

    According to the report issued by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission late yesterday, about 11.5 per cent of shares in the media group had a reported short position against them as of Wednesday.

    Short selling, where borrowed stock is sold on to the market with a view to buying it back at a lower price on a later date, is typically viewed as an indicator of bearish sentiment towards a company.

    http://www.news.com.au/business/markets/fairfax-the-most-shorted-stock-on-watchdog-hit-list/story-e6frfm30-1225883033179

  5. god help us Rob Hulls is deputy premier

    good on Conroy for having the guts unlike the scum of the state labor caucus.

  6. Blackmambo

    Bravo sir

  7. Epstein's Mother

    Huzzah for Steve, please save me from the internet brave knight!!!

  8. Anonymous

    Conroy for PM. thank you

  9. Anonymous

    Stephen Conroy a man’s man. A leader’s leader.

  10. Anonymous

    Spring Street take notice you duds.

  11. Spring Street Clowns

    We should now role Brumby and Hulls enough is enough.

  12. What bullshit!!!!Conroy needs the numbers from the Branchstacks,that why all this Bullshit.The Ombudsmans report in my book as a Brimbank resident did not go far enough and what was reported was weak as piss….

  13. Georgie Porgie

    I was both constipated and nausea’s, but thanks to Conroy’s comments on this issue I’m now vomiting and sitting on the toilet with the ‘runs’. Thanks for the stand up routine Stephen.

  14. Anonymous

    Ah….Senator Conroy…

    A one-man walking alienator of the technologically-literate set.

  15. Backstabber

    Conroy – an unseen hand in the slaughter of PM Rudd.

  16. The Truth

    Interesting choice of timing… was it before or after he put the knife down?

  17. Anonymous

    No wonder Conroy is supporting the Suleymans. They have supported him with plenty of Turkish numbers.

  18. Anonymous

    Anonymous | June 25, 2010, 15:21 you forgot the greeks, the Arabs Vietnamese macedonian, oh italians, chinese, Latins numbers in Victorian ALP.

  19. LeftRightOut

    Yawn – another Vex Conroy puff peice… c’mon Andrew, you must resist writing about Conroy, your conflict of interest is too great. You’ll do your credability no good by writing about your boss.

  20. Conroy - Andrew Landeryou - Please Explain?

    Can Leftrightout please tell us how Conroy is Andrew Landeryou’s boss….or is it just the factional ties?

  21. Shagnasty

    LeftRightOut is right.

    Kissing a mate’s ass in public is demeaning for both.

  22. anonymous

    some comedy relief is always welcome in the cut and thrust of politics…the tag is Senator Conroy

  23. Billy Bobb Gorton

    One year is an eternity in politics. This time last year the so called Brimbank Scandal was going to rock the very foundations of politics in this state. What actually occurred is an expose of bureaucratic excesses by an agency with its own political agenda. Lachlan McCulloch needs to be investigated and a public enquiry intotthe motivation, and conduct of the Brimbank enquiry launched. The Conroy speech demonstrates that countless individuals were harassed, bullied, and cowered into providing so called evidence, and even under these inquisitorial standards nothing of substance was produced.

    Contributors to this site can make all the smart ale remarks in the world about Conroy, the Suleymans, and the Labor Party, but there are some unassailable truths that these latte sipping turfs need to get through their thick heads. One, political activism is legal in this country. Second, people of all ethnic backgrounds are free to join political parties and contribute to the process, and to call them warlords resonates of white Australia and an intelligentsia that has only a superficial support for Multiculturalism. Third, and most disturbingly, at this very moment there exists a legislative regime in this state that, not unlike many fascist or totalitarianism regimes, can call people in unilaterally, subject them to coercive and abusing questioning, threaten them with assault, and deny them legal representation.

    So wake up people, we’re not talking about Cuba or North Korea. We’re talking Victoria 2010.

  24. Anonymous

    Spot on, Billy Bobb.

  25. I am a string supporter of the office of the Ombudsman hoever in this case I think the Ombudsman has erred in his report and his recommendations. The suggestion that person be prohibited from seeking election to public office, selectively targeting those who have secured employment as electoral officers is discriminatory, lacking justification or merit.

    The Ombudsman plays an important role in the administration of the state. His powers need to be extended. he should and must have duristridcition over the Victorian Electoral Commision and other public services built the report on Brimbank sadly has undermined the Ombudsman’s independence and role protecting democratic rights of all citizens.

    The recommendations arsing from the Brimbank report are discriminatory and should be challenged in the Australian High Court.

  26. teller of truths

    BBG i am in total agreement with you, My question is what is motivating Conroy to make this staement at this time. Its not like he didnt know about it earlier. The Federeal governement should have been involved at that time as it also limited the rights of the federal members rights to employ staf due to their activism. The senator should demand that people should be compenstaed for this faschim that they have suffered. If only we had a minister that was FOR local governement this would not have happened. Dick Wynn a man who would have been great except he wasnt any good.

  27. One club

    the over paid CEOs..all innocent…the mps…. All innocent too….councillors just scape goats … Sacked one day… Forgiven the next…. Let’s all go back to sleep……

  28. Anonymous

    well said Billy bobb Gorton

  29. Anonymous

    Posted by Billy Bobb Gorton | June 26, 2010, 10:02

    I couldnt have said it any bettr myself.

  30. andy bult

    Another snake in the grass from the stable of branch stacking champ george Seitz. Keep sucking up to the turks conroy cause thats all you have got and they will eventually turn on you for what happened to MO.

  31. Vlad The Impaled

    As far as I am concerned Senator Stephen Conroy is a tosser who has absolutely no understanding at all of his Communications portfolio and I can’t stand the smug faced man. So, it is with a heavy heart, I congratulate and agree with him.

  32. Loyalty is Royalty

    I think the problem is we so very rarely see loyalty in politics and Steve Conroy is an extremely loyal person. He will stand with friends when the worst things are happening to them – not only the Suleymans but also Theophanous’ difficulties are another example. He didn’t back away as most people did. It’s just not his style. What’s bemusing is that people are so bemused that he’s willing to take the fight up to people who’ve made his friends’ lives difficult. There should be more Steve Conroys in politics.

  33. Andrew Landeryou and the VEXNEWS Orchestra

    “Loyalty is royalty” – will remember that one. Well said.

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