Tables Turned As Govt Moves To Defend Lauer=
Sydney Morning Herald/1993-11-12
By PAOLA TOTARO
The State Government firmly closed ranks yesterday around the Police Commissioner, Mr Tony Lauer, and for the first time directly attacked Mr Ted Pickering, the former Minister for Police, for his recent bitter criticism of Mr Lauer in Parliament.
During a torrid day in the House, the Minister for Police, Mr Griffiths, delivered a 22-page ministerial statement rejecting all allegations of corruption and maladministration against the police force raised by Mr Pickering last month.
While the Premier, Mr Fahey, said he did not believe confidence in the NSW police force was at risk, Mr Griffiths was less guarded and firmly tied his political fate to his commissioner.
In an impassioned speech, he accused Mr Pickering of acting irresponsibly and running a "personal grievance campaign" against Mr Lauer.
He tabled a sheaf of documents, including a formal denial by the National Crime Authority that a former member had any evidence that Mr Pickering had been "set up" by Mr Lauer, as Mr Pickering had claimed.
Mr Griffiths said some of Mr Pickering's claims contained shades of "James Bond" but he would not be surprised if a "new cloud of allegations" was raised in the near future.
(A series of motions including a no-confidence call introduced by Mr Pickering - based on claims of lax drug security in police stations and an incident when an officer at Frenchs Forest was shot - are due to be debated in the Upper House next Wednesday.)
Mr Griffiths said a serious allegation that Mr Lauer had been informed of the Frenchs Forest shooting but did not provide details to the Parliamentary Inquiry on Police Administration was clearly refuted in a letter from the Commander Professional Responsibility, Mr Col Cole.
"Time and emotion appear to have confused Mr Pickering's memory of a number of matters he raised in the House, particularly those related to drug security," Mr Griffiths said. "Claims that the Police Service deliberately frustrated Mr Pickering's efforts in this area are completely incorrect."
During Question Time, Mr Griffiths also strongly denied allegations that the police had raided the Children of God sect and seized 72 children on a whim and without evidence, and said Mr Lauer had provided documentation to show he did not attempt to mislead Mr Pickering and the Parliament.
"I should also say that I am very disappointed that this case, which has already caused so much concern and distress for all involved, should be dredged up and used quite irresponsibly to advance a campaign of personal grievance against the Commissioner of Police," he said.
NSW police did have the power to raid the homes of the Children of God sect on May 14 last year, he said, needing only to establish "reasonable suspicion that crimes had been committed" to gain entry warrants.
He said that while there was a technical flaw in the way some warrants were executed, they had been authorised by a magistrate, were valid, appropriate and supported by 165 pages of documents.
Mr Griffiths said speech notes provided to Mr Pickering for his use in Parliament in the wake of the controversial police raid were accurate, although "carefully and deliberately worded", and two versions were provided to give Mr Pickering a choice depending on what questions might be asked.
He said Mr Pickering's claim that Mr Lauer attempted to deliberately misinform Mr Pickering defied "rational analysis".
"We have a seen a campaign of allegations, innuendo and sinister inferences about the integrity of the NSW police force and its senior management," he said.
"... This has had the effect of obscuring the few issues of substance that have emerged in the past few weeks. It also threatens public confidence in our police force."
Mr Griffiths said he had no reason to doubt Mr Lauer's total commitment to eliminating corrupt elements among NSW police and now looked forward to resumption of the parliamentary debate when the force could focus on its real job, free of suspicion and innuendo.
According to the Opposition's spokesman on police, Mr Anderson, it took the State Government 16 days to answer the claims made by Mr Pickering, during which the police force had been destabilised.
"We have been witnessing something unique: a situation where we have seen a former Minister for Police, an influential Liberal Party figure for 10 years, attack the man he appointed and the Police Service of which he was minister for four years, day in day out," he said.
Mr Anderson said he had not been able to sort through the pile of documents tabled by Mr Griffiths yet and would provide a further statement later in the week.