The four part Mini Series
The ultimate betrayal and the Government’s four Broken Promises
We didn’t realise that one broken promise of a fast settlement could turn into a theatrical plot for a Mini Series and subsequently a Stage Play with each episode featuring a similar plot, familiar locations and a cast of characters who are well known on the Political Stage and instantly recognisable.
There is no doubt that our story will resonate with many other Australians, just as there is no doubt that Australians as a whole are getting increasingly frustrated by the breach of trust so openly displayed today by our Politicians. This is especially so with the obligation to honour promises that directly affect our family, our health and education. But few could possibly comprehend the extraordinary damage sustained by my family due to the Politicians back-flip on not one but four specific promises.
The conclusion to Chapter 5 brings the matter of “The Plot” into perspective with the ongoing deflection of the true facts of our case. This occurred in December 2013 when our current Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbott MP somehow relied on a Decision letter in 2012, by the Joker, the former Minister for Communications Senator Stephen Conroy.
It all started out with one broken promise, a promise that was personally made by Politicians to enable my family to restore our business, home and superannuation, all of which we had lost during the decade long dispute with the Government owned essential service, Telstra.
The first Promise was a promise that our claims against Telstra would be settled within six months or sooner. The agreement was offered by the then Minister(s) for Communication, Senator Bob Collins, David Beddall MP and the Opposition Spokesperson on Communications, Senator Richard Alston and Senator Ron Boswell. The promise was most welcome breakthrough after ten years. Senator Alston met with us in Canberra to discuss the promise of a fast settlement in return for my agreement to withdraw my support for a Senate Inquiry into Telstra. The proposed Senate Inquiry was indicated to investigate the faults and problems experienced by not only our business but many other businesses through the Fortitude Valley Exchange. The Senate Inquiry was indicated to also investigate the serious matter of the deliberate sabotage of our restaurant phone lines and the bugging of our business and personal phone conversations by Telstra during the period 1983 to 1993.
At the meeting in Canberra with Senator Alston he advised me that he had received high level briefings on our situation, including the damming findings published by AUSTEL and Coopers & Lybrand. He personally indicated that he was aware of the damage we would sustain if the promise of settlement within six months was not honoured. He had also received a Briefing by the Australian Federal Police and was aware that our business phone lines had been sabotaged by Telstra during the previous ten years. In fact it is significant that the first promise of a fast settlement of our claims, a promise to restore our home, business and superannuation was offered in exchange for my agreement to withdraw my support for the proposed Senate Inquiry into Telstra.
In accepting the deal I kept my side of the bargain. It eventuated that Senator Alston, Senator Boswell and the Government did not. In March/April 1994 the promise of settlement was cancelled without explanation. This led directly to the instigation of another process for settlement and in March 1994 we were forced to sign onto a new process, the Fast Track Arbitration Procedure and once more we were promised a settlement within six months.
Again the promise of settlement within six months was not honoured, and in spite of our complaints to the Politicians the alleged fast track Arbitration process was drawn out for two and a half years, that is from April 1994, the date settlement was to occur. By 1995 our bank St George Bank was losing patience because of the Politicians broken promises in regard to settlement. Inevitably there was not much more I could possibly do to assure the Bank that the Government would somehow stop lying and honour their promises. In October 1995 I again met with St George Bank to discuss the delay in settlement. I provided St George with a copy of the Senate Hansard dated 20 September 1995:
“Senator Boswell: in exchange for a Senate Inquiry, an arbitration process which was represented as fair, fast, it would be all over by April 1994, and non-legalistic had become a process far beyond the one represented when they agreed to enter into it.. making a farce of the promise given and the inducement to go into arbitration. The process has failed these people and can never give them justice.”
In Chapter 11 you will see further on that it was no more than a sham process which we were forced to Appeal in the Supreme Court of Victoria. This led directly to an investigation by Senators from all parties, an investigation which resulted in the Senate requesting my attendance in Canberra to appear before the Senate as a witness on 24 June 1997.
As a result I was recalled by the Senate Legislation Committee on Communications and the Arts to provide further evidence on 26 September 1997. This resulted in the Senate Committee’s decision to set up a Senate Working Party process to fully investigate the matters. I was appointed as an official member of the Senate Working Party Committee. My role was to also represent five similar cases. The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Director of Investigations, Mr John Wynack was appointed the Chair. Again this process was extended from the scheduled three months to eighteen months.
It was what happened next that will astound you! Five long years after settlement was initially promised by Senator Alston, the Senate Working Party was wound up on 6 March 1999. Our Chair Mr Wynack met with the Senate Committee to report on his findings. Mr Wynack recommended that our claims should be settled through an independent claim assessment process. He indicated to the Senators that he believed that there was very little chance of locating the missing evidence in support of our case. Mr Wynack’s recommendation of an independent assessment was accepted. This was included in the Senate Report prepared by the Chair of the Senate Legislation Committee, Senator Alan Eggleston.
That same day I informed Senator Alston that the Barrister from the Victoria Police Major Fraud Group, Mr Neil Jepson had informed me that his investigation had uncovered that the location of the missing evidence was in fact Parliament House Canberra. In a submission to Senator Alston I explained that the AFP had informed Mr Jepson that the AFP had provided the evidence to the Politicians, including Senator Alston in July 1994, some five years earlier. I asked Senator Alston if he would locate the AFP Brief of Evidence urgently so that I could provide it to the Committee Senators.
It was an incredulous situation, a situation which was usually reserved for sinister plots in movies. To think that the Legislation Committee Senators had been involved in the search for this important evidence for almost three years when all along it was in Parliament House. Given Senator Alston’s involvement in the first broken promise, it was simply devastating when he did not respond to my request, not even an acknowledgement was received. I visited his office in an attempt to obtain the evidence, but was treated with the utmost distain by his Chief of Staff, Mr Paul Fletcher. As a result I was unable to produce the evidence which incredulously had all along been in the possession power and control of the Politicians, including Senator Alston.
It was now the 10th March 1999 and I was in Canberra. As indicated given Senator Alston’s personal knowledge that the promise of settlement within three months was not honoured, and as a result we had suffered extreme duress and the devastating loss of our home and superannuation you couldn’t possibly anticipate what he was about to do next! Despite his admission of our grave financial and physical vulnerability, without notice or indeed our knowledge Senator Alston during the evening of 10 March 1999 contacted each Senator to arrange for the recommendation to be removed from the Senate Report. The Senators acknowledge that he achieved this with a now admitted illogical excuse concerning the absence of documents. (Remember these were in part the documents in Senator Alston’s power and control and which had been concealed from us and others).
That same evening Senator Alston arranged for the Senate Committee Report to be altered, removing the agreed recommendation for the “independent assessment of claims” replacing it with the words “a negotiated agreement with Telstra”. Incredulously, if that was not dastardly enough in the circumstances, prior to tabling the Report in the Senate the next day, being 11 March 1999, Senator Eggleston crossed out the word negotiated, added an “n” to the letter “a” which in effect removed the negotiated provision.
The betrayal did not end there. Three weeks later, still with no process to settle the claims I pawned my engagement ring and booked a flight to Canberra. On 30 March 1999 whilst I was in a meeting in Senator Boswell’s Senate Office in a desperate attempt to have the agreed independent assessment process reinstated, suddenly and inexplicably Senator Boswell withdrew his support for the Politicians to honour the promise. At the time we were unaware that Prime Minister Howard offered Senator Boswell the promotion to the position of Parliamentary Secretary if he withdrew his support. I later learnt that the political promotion was contingent on Senator Boswell’s agreement to one, withdraw his support for the promise of an independent claim assessment of our claims and two, he was to inform us we would receive a survival money only payment.
By this time our losses, not including our home, business and superannuation amounted to $6.750 million. It is no secret that I had no choice than to give in and accept the survival money. After all my professional advisors had also suffered because of the Politicians back-flips. Barry O’Sullivan’s bill alone was almost $220.000. On instructions from Senator Boswell he was to phone Telstra Director Mr Bruce Ackhurst and inform him that they could settle the five cases including the Endeavour Foundation for $10 million. Barry O’Sullivan’s outstanding fees alone were almost $220,000 which included the $80,000 he charged to make the phone call to Telstra. This was $20,000 per case for the four cases. He issued a separate bill to the Endeavour Foundation. I paid the $80,000 and was to collect $20,000 from each of the cases.
Unfortunately due to the absence of a fair and proper process and importantly an independent assessor there was no mechanism available for me to recoup the money from the other cases. I might also mention that I was left to pick up the bill of $187,000 for the fees incurred during the Senate Working Party process. In addition we were each charged $2,500 for the Lawyers engaged by Barry O’Sullivan to draw up the Deed of Release. The Lawyers provided no advice and I did not speak to them.
Our exhausted, threadbare circumstances were such by 30 March 1999 that it would not have mattered if the Deed was written on toilet paper, it was that worthless. Furthermore, if we had engaged ten Lawyers and five Barristers, we were as a direct result of the undue influence of the Politicians reduced to a hopeless indefensible position that we were forced against our will to accept survival money, under duress. It was said agree to survival money or we will walk away and you will get nothing, we were forced had no choice. What I might mention at this stage is that Telstra Director Mr Bruce Ackhurst wanted a paragraph inserted in the Deed of Release stating that he played no part in the dishonest conduct as described by the Senators in the Senate on 11 March 1999. We refused his request.
I mention these events briefly here to provide an understanding as to the unfairness of the broken promises and political actions taken against us, actions which not only denied us a fair and proper process to settle our claim but the reinstatement of our home and superannuation. It was by now fifteen years since the phone problems commenced and five years since settlement was promised to occur. As you will see later in the book this is but the tip of the Iceberg. Whilst developing this extraordinary script from real life events we were reminded of the quote by Mario Puzo from The Godfather “I don’t trust society to protect us, I have no intention of placing my fate in the hands of men whose only qualification is that they managed to con a block of people to vote for them.”
Notwithstanding for many of us, there is simply no alternative, for almost all essential services we have to rely on the word of the Politicians to deliver on their promises.
In our case each of the four broken promises is directly linked to the Government’s sale of Telstra, being T1, T2 and T3. The brilliantly executed Cartoons featured throughout are revealing in this regard. Unfortunately and indisputably as our story unfolds it is evident that many of us do not have much choice in life, in nurturing and bringing up our families we have no other option than to rely on the word of our Politicians as they have ultimate control and indeed a duty of care to deliver what they promise.
To add some light relief my editor suggested that my story should be told in a theatrical theme as it is the best script for a Political Satire Mini Series and or Stage Play that he has ever had the pleasure to read. And so here it is in Chapter 6 in a yet unedited form!