Monday, December 17, 2018

First MP accused of sexual harrassment

Sad tale of Terry  "Inspector Gadget" Griffiths 
ON Sunday, July 3 1994, I approached a home in a Sutherland Shire suburb, dodged the throng Sydney media photographers, reporters and other paparazzi and quietly entered the home through a side-garden gate and a back door. My journo colleagues were in siege mode to the NSW Minister of Police and Emergency, Terry Griffiths … a rising star in NSW Liberal ranks and a man whose name was often mentioned as a future Premier of NSW. He was also called “Inspector Gadget” because both his car and home were full of listening and scanning devices. He rarely slept for more than a couple hours each night. He tried to be the super cop.

A few days earlier, the southern suburbs of Sydney and the rest of Australia had been stunned to learn that the rising star was accused of “unacceptable behaviour” and later of “sexual harassment”. He would become the first Australian politician to resign … although he vehemently denied the allegations. However, the mud had stuck and there were 12 or 14 women or more, most of whom who worked for him who made it stick through a pretty controversial inquiry. One of his secretaries who said that she had to give the Minister a hug each day also revealed that she had been given a large pay rise. There were 32 other women who went to the inquiry in support of the Minister, but I never heard or saw their evidence.

For almost a week, if I remember correctly, the Sydney media had been desperate for an interview with the Minister but he had remained bunkered into his Sutherland Shire home … until I walked in that Sunday. I found him sprawled on the floor, unshaven, swollen eyes and a face that had seen better days. His wife, Diane, was sleeping on the sofa. Somewhere in the home were their two young children.

It was not a pretty sight but both of them seemed happy to see me.

So I sat down to a cup of coffee with them and talked about the next step instead wallowing in their misfortune. They decided on a telling their whole story in the media. Naturally, they chose me and the newspaper I worked for. In the first exclusive we published four or five pages which were "picked" by the national media. From that day until his resignation he spoke only to the media or journos’ I helped arrange including the outstanding Quentin Dempster of ABC Television. I was briefly the flavour of the month on radio and television and, of course, there were jealousies.

I asked him just the once:
Are you guilty?
“I swear under oath: ‘No never’.
But there were doubts, and some of them remain to this day, on both sides of the fence.
 Born June 22 1944, he passed away on 18 June 2009. He never recovered falling from the lofty heights of political achievement.

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