The Ultimate Betrayal and the Chocolate Soufflé

 

 

Foreword

 

To my family, friends, loyal customers, staff and supporters whose multiple kindnesses and unstinting support made my journey a true story of survival of the ultimate betrayal. This has been a truly challenging journey for me – physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. It shows what we are capable of with a true purpose in life to do our very best and survive no matter what the odds.

 

Ann Garms

 

_______________________________________

 

Chapter 1

 

My Story

 

 

My journey is a true story of establishing well renowned Restaurants in some of Brisbane’s most historic buildings which at the time were at risk of demolition. In July 1977 we purchased the Old Courthouse Restaurant at Cleveland. The Courthouse standing on the seashores of Moreton Bay was built by Francis Biggs in 1853. The original 1853 building was in urgent need of sensitive restoration, a challenge which we relished. In 1979 we were fortunate to be offered the opportunity to purchase the historic row of Terraces known as Petrie Mansions at 242 Petrie Terrace Brisbane. Prior to our purchase the Brisbane City Council had issued a demolition order for the immediate demolition of the Terraces; they were in such a state of disrepair. The restoration proved to be a real challenge as you will see in Chapter 2.

 

In 1979 we also purchased and in essence saved the historic homestead, Roseville at 56 Chester Street Newstead. Roseville was built in 1887 by James Cowlishaw for the Myers family. A sprawling early homestead of gracious proportions, Roseville was nestled on one acre of prime land, land which had been designated for the development 40 Town Houses.

 

The layout of the home was just perfect for the restaurant concept we had in mind. The 1887 homestead was constructed of sandstone and handmade bricks, with wide verandas and generous rooms; it was much loved by the public, not just by Brisbaneites but interstate and international visitors. Roseville offered our customers the pleasure and privacy of private dining rooms as well as a splendid Ballroom, which proved very popular for weddings.

 

In 1989 we purchased the wonderful 1917 Art Deco Adams Bakery building in Costin Street Fortitude Valley. The building was ideal in every aspect to establish a multipurpose Restaurant and Theatre complex. So it was that the Tivoli Restaurant & Theatre, circa 1917, in Costin Street Fortitude Valley was conceived. Once again the project demanded a lot of inspiration and hard work to develop the concept and splendid Theatre facilities. The hard work paid off and we witnessed an amazing venue spring to life. The Tivoli is one of Brisbane’s most popular Entertainment Venues.

 

In Chapter 2, I explore the extraordinary challenge of establishing my first business venture in Mount Isa in 1970. Born and Bred in Brisbane, my personal journey began on 30 August 1946 when I was born in the Royal Brisbane Hospital to proud parents Margery and Don Buchanan, the first born of four children. I often reflect on my early childhood in Brisbane and marvel at the fact of how lucky I was to be a baby boomer; after all we were essentially what you would consider poor in those early days, poor in material possessions but not lacking in aspiration or inspiration.

 

My Grandfather used to say, Ann the world is your oyster, you are only limited by your imagination, and how right he was. The eldest of four children, two brothers, John and Paul and my sister Robyn. We had an uncomplicated happy childhood and I was indeed fortunate to attend Ascot State School.

 

We were brought up and educated at a time when the Bank Manager, the Clergy, the Policeman on the beat and indeed our political representatives were considered the pillars of society. We were brought up to show respect and do the very best we can under any circumstances. I started work on my fourteenth Birthday and for most of the time I had two jobs. From the time I met and married London born Harry Garms at the age of 19 we embodied a sound work ethic and were very thrifty with a view to creating a future for ourselves and a personal superannuation fund at a time when this was not a consideration by ordinary working families. A week after we were married in St Andrews Church, Ann Street Brisbane on 6 November 1965 we left for London. Within a few weeks of our arrival I was fortunate to obtain a position with a very interesting company, Barter & Sons. Barter & Sons produced CO2 Burners for the Hot Houses in the Channel Isles. The Company was owned and operated by Sir Gilbert Inglefield, the fourth richest man in London. Lord Inglefield was a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire. He was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1997.

 

The position at Barter & Sons was challenging but moreover it was enthralling and life enriching. My personal leadership journey was greatly enriched by the experience of working for an international company who were at the cutting edge of environmental research and product development. I learnt so much in regard to international finance and corporate leadership. I was assigned several major tasks of establishing a new file system to manage their extensive customer data base, which in those days was not electronic but manual. The Inglefield’s treated me with a great deal of respect. On some occasions David Inglefield would drive me home to Harry’s parent’s house in Edmonton in their Rolls Royce. The Edmonton house was a very modest two up and two down Terrace in Edmonton which was very much a working class area. On several occasions I went to tea as their guest at the Savoy Hotel London. I was invited by the family to spend a weekend at Parwick Manor with them, I regret that I was too modest to accept this kind gesture. The 60’s in London was a life changing experience, from Brisbane to London was not a common occurrence for the average Aussie.

 

London

 

The atmosphere in London in the 60’s was intoxicating, uplifting and inspirational. It was a cultural revolution, it was hip and fashionable. From the London Businessman in his to Top-hat to the flower power set it was all happening before my very eyes. The model Jean Shrimpton was the face of the 60s and the symbol of swinging London. I returned to Brisbane with a wonderful Jean Shrimpton Mini Skirt which I brought in Carnaby Street. My Aunts were not at all amused!

 

It was actually that journey and personal transition from the bright lights of London to outback Mount Isa that saw me embark on the challenge of establishing my first business in Mount Isa. Mount Isa of all places, a rough and ready Mining town. Mount Isa was certainly rough and ready, but we were to discover that it is a town which exhibits that wonderful blend of outback hospitality and friendliness. In 1972 we returned to Brisbane, two young children in tow and subsequently we developed three more similar businesses and the iconic Restaurants in Brisbane and Cleveland. This aspect of our early working life is discussed in more detail in Chapter 2. The Establishment of the Historic Brisbane Restaurants.

 

It was quite a journey from starting work in 1960 at the tender age of fourteen to London and Mount Isa and back to Brisbane which saw the purchase of my first Restaurant, the Old Courthouse in 1977 at the age of thirty-one. In preserving and establishing Roseville Restaurant in 1982 and the Tivoli Restaurant & Theatre in 1989 we invested much of our hard earned money we had saved over the previous twenty nine years of being in the workforce.

 

It was fortuitous that our love of Brisbane’s historic buildings coincided with the Brisbane public’s enhanced appreciation of our heritage at a time when the Government was unceremoniously demolishing almost everything in sight.

 

The dining public enjoyed our challenge of restoring these early iconic buildings and in establishing these amazing restaurants, almost as much as we did. To me personally my achievements and the pleasure we brought to people’s lives was in itself very rewarding.

 

The atmosphere at Roseville from opening in 1982 was always conducive to creating just the right setting whether our guests were just enjoying a romantic dinner for two, a family occasion, a business dinner or indeed their wedding reception it was a pleasure to serve them. It was the occasion of one such beautiful wedding reception in the Ballroom that the amazing Chocolate Soufflé played a role in exposing the extent of the phone problems we were experiencing at Roseville Restaurant.

 

The Restaurants were established at a time when the only form of communication to receive restaurant bookings was a fixed line telephone. Almost everyone has a horror Telstra story, although there has been considerable publicity in our case, the true facts have never been revealed publicly. In telling my story, I have adopted the terminology Telstra to mean either Telecom or Telstra.

 

By 1983 the business was well established, to our benefit we had attracted enormous free publicity not just locally but Australia wide. We enjoyed the challenge of a seven day a week operation. It is therefore not hard to understand that after all our hard work and unstinting dedication it was devastating, one year on from opening the doors of Roseville Restaurant for business to be confronted with the insolvable problems we encountered in receiving customer bookings by phone.

 

By September 1983 we became aware of the seriousness of the phone problem, which I must say was very embarrassing when customers would call in personally to inform us that our phone didn’t answer, just rang out or was continually engaged. It soon became apparent that the ongoing phone problems were seriously affecting the successful operation of the business. My good friend and colleague Trevor Reddacliff first identified the serious nature of the problem in September 1983 when he was unable to contact us to make a reservation.

 

It seems hard to believe now in 2014 that during the decade long phone problem there was no internet, and naturally no emails, no fax machines and of course no mobile phones. All communication relied on the fixed line phone system provided by Telstra (Telecom). As you travel the journey with me from that initial complaint to Telstra in September 1983 to the response from our current Prime Minister in December 2013, and the current claim before the Minister for Finance, Senator the Hon Mathais Cormann you may well observe that this matter goes back a long way, but extends to the present day. I can hear you asking, how could that be possible?

 

In 1982 the year we opened Roseville Restaurant and a year before the phone problems began we commenced salvaging historic building materials from demolition sites in Brisbane CBD. Our home was planned around these amazing materials and we purchased the riverfront home site at 79 King Arthur Terrace Brisbane. It was a wonderful location with extensive views of the Brisbane River, the mountains beyond and the Brisbane CBD buildings visible over the Indooroopilly Golf course with the lush green Golf Course stretching as far as you could see. I designed our home with the assistance of an architect and became the registered owner builder. It was a real challenge to incorporate all the fabulous heritage pieces into designing the structure of the home.

 

For example the ceiling of the Dining Room was constructed out of the air vents rescued from her Majesty’s Theatre in Queen Street. The Sandstone columns as depicted in the photo below were from the Queensland Trustees Building which stood nestled next to the Customs House in Queen Street. On the corner opposite, being the corner stood the E. S. & A. Bank building constructed of Victorian Grey Stone.

 

The exterior of our home was made up of the hand chiseled blocks of grey stone brought up from Victoria on bullock drays and as ballast in the sailing ships. The Sturdy and Morning Room feature ornate plaster cornices rescued from the Queensland Trustees building, The Regent Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre. The Four Parables Stained Glass Panels were rescued from a beautiful old church at Hampstead Heath London and the carved timber curved panels from St Euros Church London.

 

The ornate Brass Entrance Doors came from the United Dominion Building which was stood on the site of the iconic Harry Sidler Building the Riverside Centre. Chapter 22 is devoted to the construction of our home with some very interesting stories and a picture gallery of the history of these wonderful heritage building materials.

Ch 1 no 4

 

In addition we purchased materials from St Euros Church at Hampstead Heath London, the marble fireplace (Nash) from the home of Suzanna York, including the Four Parables stained glass windows and hand painted leadlight doors from the Savoy Hotel London. As you take this journey with me through the Political minefield of broken promises and the loss of our business, home and superannuation you will understand why the loss of our family home was devastating.

 

My story is a biographical story told in documentary form about my struggle to overcome the damage sustained as a result of the cover-up of the Politicians four broken promises and negligent unreasonable conduct in our case.

 

This is in fact a true story about the owner of Telstra, the Australian Government. It is a story of unbridled political power of those in high authority who were tested by the circumstances, found wanting and who ultimately were responsible for a string of broken promises.

 

The circumstances surrounding the first promise of settlement by the Politicians initially arose out of the formal findings by AUSTEL and Coopers & Lybrand. It eventuated that ten years after the phone problems commenced at Roseville Restaurant, the Regulator AUSTEL advised me that they had concluded their formal investigations into the quality of the phone service provided by Telstra to Roseville Restaurant 1983 – 1989 and the Tivoli Theatre 1989 to 1993.

 

On 9 June 1993 AUSTEL informed me that they had established that the phone service provided by Telstra was inadequate and Telstra’s responses to our complaints were misleading. Four months later, Telstra CEO Mr W Frank Blount personally enraged by the AUSTEL investigation conclusions, engaged Coopers & Lybrand’s London Office Senior Investigator, Mr Bernard Bland to conduct an investigation on behalf of Telstra.

 

And so it was that Mr Bland met with me at the Tivoli in October 1993 to discuss the problems and the evidence I had assembled. Subsequently Coopers & Lybrand delivered their investigation findings on 1 November 1993. The investigation concluded

“Coopers & Lybrand Overall Findings: Based on our reviews of case studies provided by Telecom, Telecom’s approach to difficult network faults over the last 5 years has not met the minimum requirements of adequacy, reasonableness and fairness. External Communication: Communication featured inappropriate conclusions, inaccurate statements and evasive responses causing customers and external parties to be mislead.”

 

Mr Blount was not at all happy with the result. Coopers & Lybrand Executives informed me that the investigation had involved thirty Coopers & Lybrand personnel and had cost Telstra $2.5 million. The adverse investigation findings exposed that the network problems were not confined to our case but were experienced by over a hundred other businesses in the Fortitude Valley area. This revelation led to the Senator’s advice that they were going to set up a Senate Inquiry into Telstra. It was on this basis that the Politicians intervened and offered the first promise of a quick settlement of our Claims against Telstra on the condition that I was to immediately notify the Senators that I was withdrawing my support for the Senate Inquiry. This promise was made on 18 November 1993 with the date for settlement promised to occur by April 1994 or sooner. At the time it was acknowledged by the Politicians that they owed us a duty of care because as a result of the decade long dispute we had not only lost our business, home and superannuation investments but our health.

 

We were delighted with the agreement as we would be able at long last to restore of business, home and superannuation in April 1994. We immediately developed a business plan and made enquiries as to the possibility of repurchasing our home and superannuation investment properties. As it eventuated one month after the Political promise was signed and sealed, the Regulator AUSTEL uncovered the existence of secret Telstra Reports. The Government went into panic mode and covertly back-flipped on the settlement agreement because the secret reports contained evidence Telstra had collected by eavesdropping on the content of the matters we discussed in our private and business conversations. This covert bugging operation was carried out at the Fortitude Valley Exchange and in an empty building around the corner from the Tivoli in Gregory Terrace.

 

The secret Reports had not been hidden in Bank Vaults but were seized by the Australian Federal Police during a raid on the offices of Telstra’s Lawyers, Freehills and their Accountants Deloitte in April 1994. The Australian Federal Police in March 1999 informed the Victoria Police Fraud Group, Barrister Mr Neil Jepson that the AFP Brief which they had provided to the Politicians in July 1994 also contained evidence that Telstra had admitted during questioning that they had found evidence of sabotage of our Restaurant phone lines but they could not identify the culprits.

 

As indicated this evidence was not disclosed to us despite four formal Government Inquiries leading up to 1999. What is important is the fact that eight months after making the admission to the AFP, Telstra in Statutory Declarations prepared by Freehills swore under oath that there was no evidence to support my allegation that our phone lines were sabotaged. From July 1994 the Politicians permanently concealed the evidence during our Arbitration process, the Supreme Court Appeal and the Senate Working Party Document discovery process. It was finally discovered by us for the first time when I lodged an FOI request with the Australian Federal Police in Canberra in the year 2000. The Commonwealth Ombudsman also uncovered evidence during the Senate Working Party process that indicated that Telstra had destroyed the “Sabotage Files” whilst my Appeal was before the Supreme Court.

 

Sounds like the Plot for the movie “The Bank Job” doesn’t it, but the similarity does not end there, just like the movie this is a true story based on real events and real people, many of the Members of Parliament and Senators referred to are still in office and/or hold prominent positions. The similarities between the script developed by the Politicians in our case and the movie are uncanny.

 

The movie sets are not much different, from the stage of the Tivoli Theatre to the Senate Chamber; the high level Political connections; the Political payoffs; the gagging of journalists; the concealment of the diaries; the publication of false information; the dramas at Police Headquarters in Melbourne; the acceptance of fabricated evidence in the old Supreme Court of Victoria; the destruction of incriminating evidence; the Australian Federal Police raid on the headquarters of Telstra’s Accountants Deloitte and their Lawyers Freehills brandishing Search Warrants to obtain secret diaries and Telstra Reports; the political influence to effect a “Sting” by the deliberate undervaluation of the Tivoli Theatre for financial and political gain; the intimidation of Bank Officials; the intimidation of witnesses; the fudged inquiries by Government Agencies; the violent take-over of the Tivoli premises in the dead of night.

 

In Chapter 7 – The Mini Series “The Unforgettable Chocolate Soufflé and the Government’s Broken Promises” the details of the political intrigue developed through the secret scheming and plotting by the Politicians in the events surrounding the four broken promises from 1993 to 2014 are described. From the date the settlement was promised to occur, being April 1994 it became apparent to all including the Police that each broken promise of settlement was not so much a careless abandonment of our right to a fair process, it became a personal political vendetta to destroy us. The vendetta extended to what the Police called a bribe, I would rather refer to it as a political inducement offered to a Senator to pull him off the case, and importantly his instance that the Politicians promises be honoured. You will be intrigued by the events surrounding the sabotage of our businesses by not only the deliberate sabotage of our phone lines but the Government’s unforgivable actions in covering up the evidence collected by the Australian Federal Police.

 

If the damage to the viability of our business caused by the deliberate sabotage of our phone lines and eavesdropping on our conversations was not bad enough, in 1989 when we opened the Tivoli Theatre we were shocked to be confronted with the same telephone problems through the Fortitude Valley Exchange. I was later to discover that over one hundred other business operators in Fortitude Valley were experiencing the same problem. Free enterprise businesses and essential services such as the RACQ, KM Smith Funeral Directors, Royal Brisbane Hospital, NEC, Harvey Norman, IKEA, Jennings Corsetry, the RNA Showgrounds, Black & White Cabs, Ascot Taxi Service, the Transport Workers Union, Novis Windscreens, the Endeavour Foundation, the Valley Business Association reported 32 Café and Restaurants experiencing the problem, to name a few.

 

We were also to discover that in response to our complaints Telstra had informed the Minister that we were the only business complaining. This heralded the extraordinary and at times bizarre cover-up which was ably assisted by some of the most highly paid Lawyers in Australia, major Accountancy firms and the Australian Government Solicitor. It was to be revealed that in all over $32million was spent on professional fees and the faceless Government Bureaucrats who’s only concern was to cover-up for the Government at the expense of our lives, businesses and wellbeing.

 

It is not only extraordinary but unjust and unfair that the sum of thirty two million dollars could be spent just to destroy a few hard working small business customers whose business success was totally reliant on a workable telephone service, an essential service owned by the Australian Government.

 

My story is not a story about Telstra as such as there is a sequel to this book that embodies the history of Telstra’s conduct, improper conduct which is not limited to our case. The sequel “The 800 pound Gorilla” makes for interesting reading.

 

The former Minister for Communications, Senator Richard Alston often referred to Telstra as “The 800 pound gorilla” and that certainly is an accurate depiction, but the truth is the Commonwealth Government owned the Gorilla lock stock and barrel. By 1996 when the Howard Government came to power they had but one agenda, to dispose of the troublesome Gorilla to the highest bidder. The Urban Dictionary aptly describes the 800 pound gorilla as “An overbearing entity in a specific industry or sphere of activity. A seemingly unbeatable presence always to be reckoned with; whose experience, influence, and skill threatens to defeat competitors with little effort.” It was further said that “the 800-pound gorilla is the force you can’t stop or fight. It’s too big. It’s too powerful. It’s too aggressive. As a result, the gorilla can do anything it wants.”

 

The only force capable of controlling the Gorilla was the Government, but as my story reveals they failed miserably in this regard. The Prime Minister, John Howard in recognising the potential risks associated with the 800 pound gorilla’s mode of operation, decided to offload it to Institutional Investors and the Mums and Dads of Australia, at the highest price imaginable.

 

This takes us to the point in time where my story of Political Betrayal makes the movie “The Bank Job” look like a Teddy Bears picnic.

 

 Malcolm in the Middle 9

 

You may well ask, how could this possibly happen? Well it did! In November 1993, after a decade of denials that there was any problem with our phone service, the then Minister for Communications Senator Bob Collins was confronted with the damming investigation findings into our case by the Regulator AUSTEL and Coopers & Lybrand. This initiated his call to me to offer a settlement deal, as he put it. During our conversation Minister Collins expressed his concern at the prospect of the proposed Senate Inquiry into Telstra. I informed Minister Collins that I had been contacted by Senators after the damming investigation findings were made public. The Senators were very keen to set up a Senate Inquiry into the Telstra Network reliability encompassing the problems with the major upgrade from Analogue to Digital, the deliberate sabotage of our Restaurant phone lines and the bugging of our phone conversations at the Fortitude Valley Exchange. Senator Collins expressed his desire to avoid a Senate Inquiry at all costs; this led to his offer of settlement of all our claims against Telstra within six months or sooner in exchange for my agreement to notify the Senators that I was withdrawing my support for the Senate Inquiry. I accepted the agreement and withdrew my support for the Senate Inquiry. The Opposition Spokesperson on Communications, Senator Richard Alston and Senator Ron Boswell confirmed the agreement and at the same time informed me that we would be settled within three months. This was the first promise of settlement.

 

During this period in late 1993, the Political vendetta escalated when I publicly exposed the actual extent of the phone problems being experienced by over one hundred other business operators whose phone services were connected through the Fortitude Valley Exchange. One month after the fast settlement promise was made AUSTEL uncovered evidence in a secret Telstra Report. The secret Report which Telstra had prepared for their Lawyers Freehills was based on information Telstra had covertly obtained by listening to the content of the matters we discussed in our business and personal phone conversations. The first promise of settlement was not honoured with the result that in April 1994 we were unable to reinstate our business, home and superannuation. We were forced kicking and screaming into a prolonged arbitration which was no more than a sham process.

 

In Telstra’s defence submissions Telstra Officers swore false evidence in Statutory Declarations. This directly resulted in the blatant denial of the existence of the network problems in Fortitude Valley and the cover-up of the fact that Telstra had performed a major upgrade of the Fortitude Valley Exchange network in late 1993. The Arbitrator’s Award was nothing more than sham document which we were forced to Appeal in the Supreme Court of Victoria. Incredulously in the Arbitration the cover-up of the Fortitude Valley Exchange major upgrade issue even extended to the Arbitrator’s actual alteration of the wording of our Technical Consultants Report prepared by Mr George Close, when he quoted from it in his Award on 8 August 1996.

 

In fact the alteration of the wording of our Consultants Report by the Arbitrator, Dr Gordon Hughes went so far as to effect the deletion of sentences and the addition of other words to remove all reference to the Major Upgrade. As you will see it did not end there, in bizarre circumstances the Arbitrator’s fabricated wording was inexplicably repeated by Justice David Harper in his Judgment on 21 August 1998 with the closing remark at paragraph 87. The above seems to me to be a reasonably accurate precise of pp.3-5 of the George Close Report. This was seven months prior to the second broken promise with the Minister Senator Alston’s cancellation of the independent claim assessment and the survival money only direction.

 

We have prepared a Table setting out the fabrication and alteration of the wording of the George Close Technical Report, it is displayed in Chapter 7 under the heading the Second Broken Promise.

 

Ch 1 no 5One of the most disturbing experiences I have ever encountered in my life was the manner in which the Supreme Court Appeal against the Arbitrator’s Award was conducted in the mysteriously dark and gloomy atmosphere of the old Supreme Court of Victoria. During the Hearing Telstra literally dragged out their defence for 19 days, as long as any murder trial. Every day that I left the Court I felt like I had been the victim of a brutal physical attack.

 

The Legal strategy developed by Freehills was of course to exhaust me physically and financially, my Legal costs alone escalated to $1.057 million not including other expenses such as Air Fares, accommodation, my personal time and general expenses.

 

Notwithstanding, what I found beyond comprehension was the power and influence of the law in being able to repeatedly utter false statements before the Court. It was simply breathtaking in its audacity and quite frankly sinister presentation; rather it was a theatrical performance which was reminiscent of a scene out of the movie The Godfather. Telstra in defending the credibility of the Arbitration Award and Arbitrator’s conduct was represented by Freehills with instructing QC Mr Greg Garde.

 

The day the Appeal commenced in the Victorian Supreme Court, Telstra’s Lawyers Freehills offered my instructing Solicitor a plum job, a million dollar job he informed me, this resulted in his absence from the Court for the entire period? I was represented by a junior Solicitor who was not familiar with the case.

 

I have painted a graphic picture of these extraordinary events. The references to the blatant misrepresentations before the Court can be found in Chapter 14 The Supreme Court Judgement – Justice Harper August 1998 and at our Web Page Tab 18, you will find copies of supporting evidence in the form of the Harper Judgment, the Supreme Court Transcript and the Affidavits sworn by Telstra Officers.

 

The ultimate betrayal lifts the veil of secrecy on the events surrounding the four broken promises. As we progress through the years of broken promises in Chapter 7 you will observe that each time a promise of settlement was broken by the Politicians it is directly connected to the T1, the T2 and the T3 share offer processes set up by the Government. Promises made and quickly broken once the political heat evaporated.

 

The one page Yes Minister responses and Ministerial Decisions will provide a picture of abhorrent Political influence and behavior. Details of the Decisions, Rebuttals and corresponding paperwork are described from Chapters 15. We have compiled a Document Index reference and corresponding document imaging on our Web site to authenticate the material reference.

 

To think that this matter initially started out simply as a complaint to Telstra over our customer’s inability to make restaurant bookings by phone, a complaint that developed into high level Political intervention to protect the Government’s investment in Telstra and the expected windfall of billions of dollars from the Political Policy for sale of the T1, T2 and T3 share offers.

 

The Senate Enviorment, Recreation, Communication and the Arts Leglislation Committee in June 1997 informed me that they were investigating the complaints I had lodged with the Minister for Communications, Senator Richard Alston and consequently I was required to appear as a witness before the Committee in Canberra on 24 June 1997. It was a lengthy hearing during which the Senators expressed their concern and indeed surprise as to the extent of our phone problems and the improper manner in which I had been treated. The hearing led to another request that I was to appear as a witness on 24 September 1997. Again it was a lengthy hearing which resulted in the Senators setting up a Senate Working Party to investigate our matters. I was appointed to the Senate Working Party committee to represent five other small to medium business owners who had also experienced problems with the quality of their phone services. Mr John Wynack the Director of Investigations of the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office was appointed as the Chair.

 

The Senate Working Party process was to take three months, instead it was extended to allmost two years. The workload in representing the five cases was ardous and expensive to say the least. The process concluded on 6 March 1999 at which time Mr Wynack personally briefed the Senate Committee during an in camera session. We were subsequently advised that Mr Wynack’s recommendation that our claims should be settled through an independent claim assessment process was accepted by the Senators. On 9 March 1999 at a meeting in Canberra, the Senate Committee Chair, Senator Alan Eggleston personally confirmed that the agreed recommendation had been incorportated in his Report he had prepared for the Senate Debate on 11 March 1999. At a subsequent meeting he informed me that a copy of his Report had been provided to the Minister for Communications Senator Richard Alston. Without our knowledge Senator Alston contacted the relevant Senators and removed the settlement recommendation from the Senate Report. It was instead replaced with a recommendation that we should somehow reach a negotiated agreement with Telstra. On 11 March 1999 the Committee Chair, Senator Egglestion after reading the report in the Senate debate, hand deleted the word negotiated from the tabled report. As a result it eventuated that on 11 March 1999 the Minister had removed all agreed processes for settlement of our claims.

 

On my return to Canbera on 30 March 1999, Barry O’Sullivan, the Endearvour Foundation and I met in Senator Boswell’s office to discuss what we could possibly do to overcome the problems which now faced us due to Senator Alston’s cancellation of the Senate Working Party independent claim assessment process.

 

During the afternoon of 30 March 1999 we witnessed the ultimate betrayal of the second promise due to the intervention of Prime Minister Howard. This resulted in Senator Boswell conveying the message that the iundependent claim assessnment process would not be honoured and we would receive what was referred to as a survival money only payment.

 

The Statement provided by the now Senator, Barry O’Sullivan best summed up the ultimate betrayal which resulted in the survival money only payment. This is an extract:

Barry O’Sullivan “Ann was instructed by Boswell that he couldn’t help her achieve justice, but all he could do was keep her alive, and keep her away from the dark and dampened environment of bankruptcy… if I can give you an analogy, she had her back right against a brick wall. You are going to have deaths on your hands.. the next step had this not come off, they would have just went out and thrown a rope over the tree. They were fucked and finished, they didn’t have many choices…What was happening in and about the place where the fundamental principle of the settlement was that these people were all dead in the water. There was just nowhere left to go.”

 

Barry O’Sullivan’s Statement exposes the extent of the unfair and unjust position we were placed in by 30 March 1999 as a result of the Political back-flip on the first and second broken promises. The complete statement is referenced at Chapter 15 Yes Prime Minister and Tab 29, with a copy available on the Web.

 

By the end of March 1999 we had incurred unnecessary losses and costs as a result of not receiving the promised settlement in April 1994, in the amount to $6.750 million. It is important to understand that after taking into account the survival money payment, we suffered a shortfall of over $1million, not including any compensation for the Telstra claim, our business, homes and superannuation. To the average Australian, $5.8million would seem a large payment, and you would be right, but as you read my story a different picture will emerge, it will paint a visual picture for you of the extraordinary losses suffered as a result of not receiving the promised settlement in April 1994.

 

The Age Newspaper Journalist Annabel Crabb published an article on 7 November 2002. In the article Annabel said:

“Telstra complainant got secret $5.8m payment.”A Queensland businesswoman at the centre of Telstra’s latest scandal was secretly paid $5.8 million by the carrier while parliament argued over the second sale of Telstra shares in 1999”

 

How ironic, it certainly was a secret, but not for the reasons alleged by Annabel Crabb. I was not contacted nor asked for any information or a comment prior to this article being published by the AGE Newspaper. The secret did not relate to our payment, far from it, the secret nature of the whole process including the manner in which the survival money only direction occurred was to avoid firstly, a damming report which would have been produced by an independent claim assessor and secondly, the mandatory disclosure of compensation payments during the T2 sale due diligence process. This matter is discussed in Chapter 7, under the Survival Money section and is further discussed in Chapter 17, “The Channel 9 Sunday Program. The Intimidation of Journalists and technical consultants – The Political influence – The Sydney Lawyers and the unworthy Public Apology and the Payoff.”

 

Ch 1 no 1I need to set the record straight. Our case is indisputably a matter that is in the Public Interest. I have written my story to do just that. There have been causalities already, not just my family and staff, but Senator Barnaby Joyce, God love him, he is a politician with bucket loads of integrity and an unswerving dedication to the Australian people generally. Senator Joyce tried to help in 2005; he traded his vote for the full privatization of Telstra on the condition that Minister Coonan would appoint an independent loss assessor to assess our outstanding claims and legal issues. But notwithstanding his super human efforts, the Political powers that be would have none of it.

 

This directly resulted in the third broken promise. A promise made to Senator Joyce in exchange for his vote in the Senate for the full sale of Telstra, the T3 deal on 14 September 2005. Notwithstanding, his ongoing quest for truth and justice was after so many broken promises something to behold!

 

Senator Joyce did not give in, as he quite rightly said on several occasions, a promise is a promise not to be broken and although during my visits to the Senate, he appeared to us to have been bashed up on several occasions, his letters of protest and insistence that the promise be honoured are well documented. Read all about it in Chapter 7. The Mini Series Director, Cast and Crew. The analysis of the four broken promises.

 

Once again we witnessed the cover-up to avoid honouring the third promise; the cover-up was breathtaking in its intensity. It was now five years since the survival money fiasco and eleven years since Senator Alston and Senator Boswell promised that settlement of our claims would take place within six months. Finally in October 2010 the truth was revealed. Through an order issued by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, we received copies of documents generated by the Department of Communications. One document in particular exposed the extent of the cover-up to avoid honouring the promise made to Senator Joyce during the T3 sale due diligence process. This particular document was a Ministerial Brief, prepared by the Department of Communications Public Servants on 16 November 2005: “Ministerial Minute – The agreement with Senator Joyce, the independent claim assessment process: Previous briefing (M2005/1466) detailed the significant risks to the Commonwealth. 3. There is a further risk that the independent assessor may make recommendations that, if accepted by Telstra, may result in substantial amounts of compensation to claimants and weaken Telstra’s financial position.”

 

There can be no doubt whatsoever as to the Government’s motive behind so many broken promises. The Documents we received through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal revealed the full extent of the Government’s betrayal of their promises in such graphic detail I was hospitalised for five days with a stress related illness. Throughout the book you will be asking how could this happen in our Australian Democratic system today? Haven’t we always been a nation of hard working Australians who pride ourselves in a fair go?

 

It has been a dangerous journey for my entire family, a journey we did not want to undertake. It resulted in the loss of over thirty staff jobs, our home(s) our superannuation including the capital increase on our home(s) and superannuation, not to mention lost rental income and investments.

 

It is extraordinary to consider the impact on our lives by the Politicians broken promises. As a direct result we were rendered homeless and penniless. When after five years from the time settlement had been promised and the conclusion of the Senate Working Party process, I was forced to pawn my engagement ring to fund my fare back to Canberra. By this time, 28 March 1999 we were reduced to sleeping on the couches in the Bar of the Tivoli Theatre.

 

During the last weeks of the editing and reviews of this book the serious matter of the Government’s broken promises and the impact on Australian families and small business has been exhausting the patience and pockets of the Australian people, just as the broken promises and betrayal of trust has destroyed our lives.

 

My hard working dedicated sons and darling grandchildren have been seriously affected by the Government’s conduct in our case. Ch 1 no 2We are not a large company or corporation to be treated in such an unfair and unreasonable manner.

 

In recognition of my commitment to the community, in 1983 I was awarded the Advance Australia Award by the Queensland Governor for my contribution to Heritage Preservation and the Community.

 

In 1985 I received the National Trust Award for excellence in Heritage Conservation for the restoration and preservation of Roseville. In 1991 I received the Order of Australia for Services to the Hospitality Industry and the Community. In 2014 I was awarded the TAFE Medal in recognition of my significant contribution to TAFE Queensland for over 20 years of Council Service. I mention these awards in passing as an indication of my dedication and hard work and importantly because of the past and current political agenda to destroy me personally at every opportunity.

 

To add insult to injury, on 30 March 1999 in response to my objection to the survival money only payment fiasco, I was informed by Senator Boswell that Prime Minister John Howard had also confided in him that the Government had to avoid risk to the T2 sale process because there was an unfunded Public Service Superannuation shortfall of over one billion dollars. In response I said what about my Superannuation, to which he replied I cannot help you achieve justice, but all I can do is keep you alive, and keep you away from the dark and dampened environment of bankruptcy. With this he said write down what you owe add on a few dollars that is all I can do for you.

 

Although Senator Boswell at a meeting in his Canberra Office on 31 March 1999 informed me that he had that day done a deal with John Howard to protect the T2 Sale offer process, we were unaware at the time that Prime Minister Howard had offered Senator Boswell the promotion to the position of Parliamentary Secretary. A financially rewarding promotion in exchange for his agreement to withdraw his insistence that the Government honour their promise of an independent assessment of our claims and deliver the bad news that we would only receive survival money. I was reminded recently by a very well respected advisor that it is a fundamental requirement of our Australian democratic system that Government Ministers, elected representatives and their public servants do not use their position, legal and financial might through the use of public money and systems for personal and political purposes, in particular when those positions and resources are used in an improper manner to cause damage to the personal lives and businesses of Australian citizens.

 

The personal and financial hardship endured from the time my husband Harry suffered a nervous breakdown in 1990 has been indescribable. As you journey with me through the cartoons in each Chapter depicting each of the broken promises from 1993 to 2014 it is incredulous to even contemplate that the promises have not been honoured up to this date.

 

In October 2010 we were advised by concerned Politicians to lodge a claim for compensation with the Government under the Department of Finance CDDA Scheme.Ch 1 no 3 The CDDA Scheme Claim was lodged on 28 October 2010. It was administered by the Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy.

 

Almost two years passed without a conclusion and in an extraordinary turn of events Senator Conroy in his response alleged that as the conduct was engaged in by Members of Parliament and Senators, and not Public Servants the claim did not meet the guidelines as set out in the CDDA Scheme.

 

In his role as the Minister for Communications, Senator Conroy on 23 August 2012 provided a Ministerial response to our CDDA Claim. In his reply to the matter of third broken promise, he said that the Department of Communication Public Servants were only performing their duty when they covertly changed the nature and intent of Senator Barnaby Joyce’s T3 vote deal. This was the T3 vote commitment Senator Joyce negotiated in exchange for his vote for the full sale of Telstra. The deal was done on 14 September 2005 when he agreed to vote for the T3 sale in exchange for an independent assessment of our outstanding claims and legal issues. The truth of the matter is the Department of Communications Public Officials, to quote Senator Joyce, lied about the deal.

 

In his 23 August 2012 letter of response to the CDDA claim Senator Conroy said that the Public Servants conduct in responding to the T3 deal, was consistent with their duty under the Public Service Act of 1999 when they advised Senator Coonan that there was a risk to the Government if the Senator Barnaby Joyce promise was honoured. In fact the manner in which Senator Conroy’s assessment of the claim in 2012 was conducted was nothing short of a joke, a diabolical joke. The reasons proffered during the assessment could only be regarded as intellectually dishonest.

 

The truth of the matter is that two and a half years after the CDDA Claim was lodged, the best Senator Conroy could come up with was that the claim did not comply with the CDDA Scheme Guidelines because the conduct was engaged in by Members of Parliament and Senators and not Public Servants. Read all about how the Department of Communications, the claim assessors, AGS and Blake Dawson misrepresented the true facts in Chapters 7 and 19. A copy of the robust Rebuttal is at Tab 9.

 

It soon became apparent that the truth, justice and the law in Senator Conroy’s eyes were incompatible, he proved himself to be a political joker, and not a good one at that! The lack of common decency is akin to the saying attributed to Marie Antoinette, “Let them eat cake” “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”.

 

In an extraordinary development our current Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbott MP in his response of 23 December 2013 relied on the Conroy letter to allege that the matter had been investigated in August 2012? How incredulous, I could not believe what I was reading, how could Prime Minister Abbott possibly rely on Senator Conroy’s letter of 23 August 2012 to allege that this matter had been previously assessed?

 

Prime Minister Abbott’s letter of response was signed by none other than Mr Simon Ash, First Assistant Secretary, Corporate, Department of Communications. The same Department that Senator Joyce identified had lied about the T3 sale deal he had personally negotiated. Of course this fact was further exposed in the Minute dated 16 November 2005 which is quoted above. In the Minute the Department of Communications Officials advised the then Minister for Communications, Senator Helen Coonan, that there was a significant risk to the Commonwealth if the independent claim assessment process was honoured. This they advised was because the independent claim assessment process may result in substantial amounts of compensation to claimants and weaken Telstra’s financial position. The particulars of which are described in Chapter 7. How unfair and unjust. To put it into perspective this was a specific promise made by Senator Barnaby Joyce, a T3 sale promise that was to afford us a final resolution to the settlement of our outstanding claims and legal issues in 2005.

 

All of this of course is relevant to Prime Minister Abbott’s 23 December 2013 response to my request that the fourth promise should be honoured now that the Coalition was back in power. It has occurred to me that our current Prime Minister is not receiving sound advice, after all the Prime Minister and his Parliamentary Officers are aware of Conroy’s professed mantra of not wrong for long as long as I can get away with it.

 

Having regard for Senator Conroy’s outrageous conduct in an attempt to have the matter resolved my same political friends suggested that we should lodge a claim for Negligent/Unreasonable Conduct with the Minister for Finance, Senator Mathais Cormann. We took this advice and on 8 January 2014 we lodged a negligence claim and on 14 January 2014 Minister Cormann referred the claim to the Government’s Insurance Company COMCOVER. Subsequently Minister Cormann advised us that the conduct of Politicians is not covered by the COMCOVER’s guidelines. I phoned COMCOVER to discuss the matter. I was informed by the Assessor that a Claim should be submitted to the Minister for Finance for an Act of Grace payment in accordance with section 33 of the FMA Act. Read all about it in Chapter 21 “Yes Minister”

 

In accordance with the advice provided by COMCOVER, on 21 September 2014 I lodged a fresh claim with Minister Cormann for the Reimbursement of Actual Losses incurred Due to Negligent/Unreasonable Actions or Inactions of the Commonwealth Government. This was in accordance with section 33 of the FMA Act for An Act of Grace Payment or alternatively an appropriate form of compensation available to the Commonwealth. The claim was submitted on a without prejudice basis and as such is limited to the loss of capital growth on our Home(s) and Superannuation properties from April 1994 to June 2010. This being the lost capital growth from the date settlement was to occur and 2010 the date of the last sale of the properties. The quantum of the claim was assessed by Trivett’s Property Valuers and is based on actual sales and RP data. When no acknowledgment was received by 23 October 2014 I phoned Minister Cormann’s Canberra Office. The Ministerial Staffer’s response was extraordinary. I was advised that the conduct engaged in, having regard to the circumstances surrounding the survival money only payment, was in fact illegal. On consideration, I would be more inclined to think that it is Negligent and Unreasonable conduct, and a profound breach of Public Trust.

 

We are currently awaiting settlement of a Negligence/Unreasonable Conduct Claim which I lodged with the Minister for Finance, Senator the Hon Mathais Cormann on 21 September 2014. The claim is for An Act of Grace Payment under section 33 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (the FMA Act) which is administered by the Minister for Finance. As you will gauge by the following Chapters, in particular Chapter 7, it has been indicated that the necessity to submit an Act of Grace Claim stems from advice provided recently by Minister Cormann and previously Senator Conroy that our claim did not comply with the Department of Finance guidelines for claims submitted under the CDDA Scheme which is a Scheme for Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration or the Government’s insurance Company COMCOVER. Whilst it might seem a bit repetitive there is no doubt the constant theme to avoid processing our claims was due to the Ministers allegation that the conduct identified in the claims was engaged in by Members of Parliament and Senators and not Public Servants.

The Chocolate Soufflé played a significant role in the ultimate exposure of the Government plot. As indicated it is a plot that makes the movie “The Bank Job” look like a teddy bears picnic.

 

 

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