The successful passage of age of consent legislation through the NSW upper house has been overshadowed by allegations regarding an under-age sex offence committed by a senior member of the Carr cabinet.
The accusation, aired by Liberal MLC Charlie Lynn on Tuesday night, has been denounced by Premier Bob Carr and gay and lesbian rights activists.
Lynn read from documents he claimed were from Strike Force Cori, a police investigation team charged with investigating pedophile allegations during the Wood Royal Commission.
These documents are significant in that they refer to a senior member of the Carr cabinet and they link that member in illegal under-age sex, Lynn said. He then read out a statement from an unnamed source, who claimed the minister in question fucked me and robbed me, when the source was 15.
Lynn threatened to reveal the identity of the senior cabinet minister but has not yet done so.
The premier referred the matter to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) but called the allegations simply incredible.
Opposition leader John Brogden revealed that Lynn broached the allegations with him shortly before entering the Legislative Council.
I advised Mr Lynn to think very carefully about his actions, Brogden said. Like all members, Mr Lynn has an obligation to consider very carefully any serious allegations put before him.
I advised Mr Lynn to forward any documents and relevant information to the appropriate authorities -¦ I have also told Mr Lynn that these matters must now be left in the hands of the PIC and there should be no further action by him in the House, Brogden said.
Solicitor John Marsden, who was the victim of a similar smear made under parliamentary privilege in 1993, said Charlie Lynn has become the Bill Heffernan of the NSW parliament, dressed up as Franca Arena.
Marsden said the material on which Lynn based his allegations came from the same source as the material used to discredit him and Justice Michael Kirby -“ all of which, he said, was totally discredited.
It’s all wrong, outdated and offensive, he said.
The co-convenors of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby joined the chorus of condemnation heaped upon Lynn.
This had no place in the [age of consent] debate in the upper house, so he needs to explain what happened and what the motive was behind it, Somali Cerise said.
Rob McGrory said the accusation was intended to distract attention from the age of consent bill.
It’s typical of the opponents to equality in this state, he said. Here we have an allegation against the Carr government about someone who had non-consensual sex with a 15-year-old. The age of consent bill has nothing to do with non-consensual sex, and nothing to do with sex with 15-year-olds. That is and will continue to be against the law, but this is the sort of grandstanding that is used to distract attention away from the real issues.
Being unable to raise any logical arguments as to why [the age of consent] shouldn’t be equalised, they create confusion by raising these emotive issues, McGrory said.
The Lynn allegations came at the end of parliamentary debate on the age of consent bill, which passed the Legislative Assembly last week by 54 votes to 32.
The upper house accepted the bill in a vote of 23 to 16, albeit with a number of tougher child protection amendments. Because of these amendments, the bill will have to return to the lower house. However, it is anticipated that there will be no problem in this.
As with the vote in the Legislative Assembly, the Legislative Council vote made bedfellows of some traditional political opponents. Six members of the coalition voted in favour of the bill and seven against, while there were only four Labor MLCs who voted against the bill.
The Lobby praised the bill’s passage.
The result we saw last night was the effect that our community has had, said Cerise. Every letter that was written and every email sent had an effect.
McGrory said the result showed that the lesbian and gay community could influence MPs.
It is always important for our community to be mobilised, because we know the homophobes in the broader community are well organised and vocal, and will respond also, he said.
Cerise said the fact that we have kept fighting this for 20 years in the face of [Christian Democratic Party MLCs] Fred Nile and Gordon Moyes is reflective of the fact that we’re a strong and resilient community.