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April 04, 2005

crisis, politics & sex abuse- SA style

Sex abuse and politics is a very explosive mixture as the example of NSW Labor MP, Franca Arena, in the NSW Parliament attests. She waged a one woman war on paedophile protection in high places, even going so far as to accuse Premier Bob Carr and Royal Commissioner James Wood of a coverup.

That explosive mix has been bubbling away in Adelaide during the last month or so. The fallout from the political explosion is the likely downfall of Peter Lewis, the controversial Speaker of the South Australian Parliament. But it could go wider than that due to a political crisis.

ParliamentSA.jpg Lewis, is an Independent Liberal, whose support enabled the Rann ALP to gain power after the 2002 election. Lewis turned his back on the Liberals to help the ALP overcome a hung Parliament. Lewis used his compact with the Rann Government to push for political reform.

The political explosion over sex abuse represents a falling out between Lewis and the ALP. The original compact has disintegrated.

Last month, in the wake of the murders of two gay men in Adelaide, Peter Lewis went public with claims that a state government MP--has been involved in gay activity in the South Terrace beat in the Adelaide Parklands. The Speaker said the gay men had met his staff before their deaths, and they had alleged paedophile activity by the MP at a known homosexual haunt in Adelaide's south parklands.

That allegation created a stir.

Lewis failed to produce evidence to the police backing his claim. All his office has are statements from people claiming to be victims or witnesses to pedophilia or abuse. There are no smoking gun photos or videos. In failing to keep quiet about the allegations, Lewis undermined his political credibility.

This created a little political circus in Adelaide town. Things became surreal when Wendy Utting (a child abuse advocate) and Barry Standfield, two volunteers in Lewis' office, took the matter into their own hands last Friday and distributed material containing names of an MP and two senior police they claim had been involved in pedophilia. They released a statutory declaration naming the politician at the centre of the allegations and also named senior police and members of the judiciary as sex offenders.They were supported in this by Liberal MP for Makin, Trish Draper.

As you can imagine all hell broke lose in Adelaide's political world on Friday about that transgression of public law. Though Peter Lewis distanced himself from the volunteer's actions, things exploded. The Rann Government finally decided to pull the plug on the loose canon.

Lewis faces the prospect of a no-confidence motion supported by both sides of Parliament when Parliament sits this afternoon. His time is up as both the Rann Government and the Liberal Opposition want him gone. He has the option of resigning first before a no confidence motion in the Speaker is introduced.

Though Peter Lewis will probably announce his resignation from Speaker of the SA Parliament, there will be pressure on him to leave the political arena for good. With an election due in a years time Lewis' days as a MP are numbered. Sacrifice is required. Blood needs to be spilled. Atonement needs to be made.

Update: April 5
Peter Lewis resigned as Speaker as expected. As the Rann Government had developed an insurance of policy of bringing two other independents on board-- Rory McEwan and Karelene Maywald--it no longer depended on Lewis' vote to stay in power.

Yet the fallout continues in the form of a developing political crisis in the form of attempts to gag him as a backbencher and seek revenge.

Update:April 7
The political fallout continues. The police raided the home of Wendy Utting looking for documents relating to the MP, a former Liberal State politician, and two serving police officers. Lewis has declined to hand over any further information in his office, citing parliamentary privilege. The police are persisting in their attempts to gain access to Parliament and raid Lewis office.

'Tis strange because my understanding is that Peter Lewis' office had handed the relevant information over to the police whilst he was Speaker. It looks like political payback to me.

Meanwhile Peter Lewis has set up an child abuse office in the CBD to expose child sexual abuse and assist victims of pedophilia. Wendy Utting's Child Protection Watchdog group has a political focus, as it has moved beyond healing to lobbying to bring pedophiles to account, and extract justice for victims of child sex abuse.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at April 4, 2005 12:34 PM

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Do not the emergency measures mentioned here, which have arisen out of this situation, indicate a tendency to constitutional dictatorship? A step to constutional dictatorship arises when, in a time of crisis, it is held that a constitutional government... [Read More]

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