OPINION: Now the truth of the NSW Police bugging scandal has finally emerged there must be repercussions.
Will jobs be lost? Will charges be laid? Will convictions be recorded? Will victims be compensated?
We’ve now heard Commissioner Andrew Scipione admit that until now the secrecy provisions of the NSW Crimes Act have prevented the sordid facts from emerging for the past 15 years.
It was left to the victims of covert surveillance to finally expose those police who insidiously exploited the secrecy laws to go about their work.
It suits Labor now, in state election campaign mode, to support the Upper House inquiry into the scandal.
But it can’t be forgotten that previous ALP administrations resisted all attempts to reveal what we are now learning thanks to the surgical inquisition of Greens MLC David Shoebridge and Labor’s talented Adam Searle, a relative newcomer to the parliament.
With the precision of seasoned Royal Commissioners Shoebridge and Searle have led the charge in extracting the disturbing truth of how deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas and more than 100 other innocent officers and civilians were unwittingly subjected to a poisonous and vexatious campaign of covert vilification.
Nick Kaldas was the antithesis of a “player”, a genuinely talented hard worker simply too busy to participate in self-promotion.
He was never one to engage in sycophantic ingratiation for elevation through the executive ranks. He is well known and respected as a gifted cop who led the prestigious and successful NSW homicide squad.
After Ken Moroney became commissioner following the resignation of Peter Ryan in April 2002 two senior officers “came from nowhere” to become deputy commissioners.
Andrew Scipione and Dave Madden were promoted by the Carr Government as the “future” of the NSW police leadership – “fresh faces” who would oversee a new era of “honesty and integrity” in the wake of the Wood Royal Commission into police corruption.
Madden would end up losing his job for telling Bulldogs CEO Malcolm Noad that his players were under electronic surveillance, and was recommended for prosecution under the Commonwealth Crimes Act.
He was never convicted, and returned to government service as a highly paid consultant on the taxi industry.
By then Andrew Scipione’s path to the Commissioner’s job was clear.
In the meantime the government had become aware of the shocking injustice to which Nick Kaldas had been exposed – and against all the odds he was promoted to the role of deputy commissioner.
Ostensibly this promotion for Kaldas appeared to be a “make good” for the scores of warrants that had been sought to bug his home and phone without any evidence to vindicate even the most trivial of allegations.
Kaldas’ promotion allowed Commissioner Andrew Scipione to scoff – as he did yesterday – at any suggestion his deputy’s career was damaged by the warrants, and subsequent smear campaigns.
With Kaldas “in the executive tent” those responsible for attempts to trash his reputation and run his career off the rails thought they could rest easy. But they would be underestimating the man himself, a proven champion of justice.
They would also be selling short the determination of veteran Sydney crime reporter Steve Barrett, who was targeted with on no less than 52 listening device warrants between 1999 and 2001.
As Barrett testified to the Upper House inquiry, he has done nothing wrong.
He just had the skill, dedication and as it turns out – the temerity - to be one of the best connected journalists in Sydney – a powerful media figure who reported for National Nine News and produced for 60 Minutes before joining the Seven Network as a senior investigative journalist.
Steve Barrett led the current affairs team that tracked-down the notorious pedophile Robert “Dolly” Dunn, who was Australia’s most wanted man in 1997.
Barrett and 60 Minutes reporter Liz Hayes found Dunn in Honduras, and he was arrested by local authorities after the television crew stormed into his hotel room with cameras rolling.
This caused the tremendous embarrassment for both state and federal authorities who had been trying to find Dunn, with more than 90 warrants active for his arrest.
In promoting Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn to be in line for his job upon retirement Scipione may have gambled on the secrecy provisions of the Crimes Act and lost.
Despite her consistent efforts at the upper house inquiry to blame others for the warrants, she led the Special Crimes and Internal Affairs Team that instructed an undercover officer known as M5 to target Kaldas time and time again – without success.
The warrants were active when Scipione was the commander of the internal affairs unit.
A strike force, codenamed Emblems, was set-up to investigate the alleged dodgy listening device warrants but again this investigation was also hampered by a lack of access to documents protected by secrecy provisions.
Scipione told the upper house inquiry he never read the Emblems report. Why would he want to?
It’s not good enough for Premier Mike Baird to defer to the Ombudsman’s investigation of this whole mess.
The Ombudsman has been accused by multiple witnesses of conducting a witch hunt into the leaks of whistleblowers.
Bruce Barbour has now revealed the enormity of the bugging (Kaldas on 80 warrants, Barrett 52 and former Chief Superintendent Brian Harding on 40) and he is now duty bound to reveal the full extent of the surveillance of the hundreds of targets, and the reasons why.
Mr Barbour says his Operation Prospect will be complete, despite depleted staffing levels, by June after two years of investigations and hearings.
That gives him just five months to focus on the substantive complaints of the aggrieved warrant targets and examine why Supreme Court judges believed senior cops, alleged in the upper house inquiry, to have an agenda that had more to do with their own ambitions and vendettas than any pure pursuit of justice.