Retiring Chief Stays On For Sect Case
Sydney Morning Herald/1992-05-20
By ALICIA LARRIERA
Vern Dalton remained in the director-general's chair of the Department of Community Services yesterday, five days past his scheduled retirement date, overseeing his department as it fights to place more than 60 children into State care.
It was Mr Dalton who on Monday applied to the courts to place the children in care, amid allegations of sexual and emotional abuse by former members of the Children of God sect. He had given the Minister for Community Services, Mr Hannaford, an undertaking to stay in the chair until a replacement for him could be found.
That Mr Dalton has had the option to take retirement, and was the toast of a dinner last week attended by 400 people, is a testimony to his status as one of the great survivors of the Greiner Government.
When Nick Greiner was a leader in Opposition, pushing and prodding at the Labor incumbents on the other side of the House with barbs about corruption, vying for his chance to run the State, he told Parliament that Mr Dalton, who had been chairman of the Corrective Services Commission, should be the subject of a royal commission.
Mr Greiner wanted the commission to examine Mr Dalton's role in the early prisoner release scheme, which saw a former Labor Prisons Minister, Rex Jackson, jailed.
The royal commission never eventuated, Mr Greiner went on to become Premier and Mr Dalton continued under him as the director-general of the then Department of Youth and Community Services, now the Department of Community Services.
Talking to the Herald recently about his impending retirement, following 38 years with the NSW Public Service, Mr Dalton would only say of the views held by Mr Greiner while he was in Opposition: "He probably didn't know me very well."
Asked how he felt about the criticisms he has faced over the years: the appearances before inquiries, the latest before the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 1989, the attacks in Parliament over his possible role in the early prisoner release scandal of the early 1980s, Mr Dalton said: "It's been a very personal thing."
"What I've done, and I think I've achieved, is exercise stable, steady and strong leadership to provide opportunities in the organisation, and I'd be very surprised if the Premier didn't agree I had delivered.
"It's a pity in the Public Service, public servants are never in a position to defend themselves, (they) simply have to get on with the job."
His way of coping had been to "grin and bear it", but "I can honestly say it does hurt".
"It's certainly true when you have a heart ... in some respects it makes the job harder."
Mr Dalton said there was "nothing sinister" in his opting to take retirement at the earliest opportunity, having reached 55. The grandfather of twins, awarded an Australia Medal in 1987 for his services to NSW's prisons system, Mr Dalton says he wants to take a long holiday and do nothing much for a while. Beyond that he has no plans.
Mr Dalton has not ruled out a return to the workforce.
The retirement date has now been pushed back until June 12, giving the Premier's Department a month to fill the vacancy.
Mr Dalton said his position had not been filled yet because the Government was slow to advertise the position.