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The seedy side of the NSW Liberal Party

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How do lacklustre candidates like Jaymes Diaz so consistently get pre-selected by the NSW branch of the Liberal Party? Former Party insider Father Kevin Lee answers this question by showing us the seedy underbelly of the NSW Libs, including the parts played by Bill Heffernan, Tony Abbott, the faceless men and women and the influential Catholic cult — Opus Dei.

by Father Kevin Lee
by Father Kevin Lee

AS A PRIEST, I get asked a lot of questions from ‘What’s a good saint’s name for my Confirmation’ to ‘Should I have a burial or cremation for my father?’ or more recently ‘Do you know someone in the Philippines I could marry?’

The latest of a series of serious questions I received since leaving priesthood to embark on a career in politics was from a Twitter follower asking:

"Who should I vote for?”

You would think my answer would be a spontaneous one, but I have to be honest and admit — I don’t know.

I used to think with absolute certainty that the Liberal Party were going to walk it in on September 7. That was why I joined them. I wanted to be part of that winning team. But now I am not so sure.

Since joining the Party and being involved in party politics, I can tell you it’s not what you see in the glossy covered brochures. Let me tell you my story from the beginning.

 

TONY ABBOTT, RAY KING AND A POLITICAL BEGINNING

While anticipating my days as a Catholic priest were coming to a natural conclusion, I was encouraged by my close friend, Superintendent Ray King, to venture into politics.

I met Ray in 2007 in my role as regional police chaplain when he was Commander at Fairfield. At that time, he was going through some of his own personal difficulties which I was helping him to cope with. Although we emptied quite a few bottles of wine together, I managed to get Ray to lift his head and look up to God as a way of finding direction in his life.

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(All caricatures by John Graham / johngraham.alphalink.com.au)

After welcoming me to his office, Tony sat back in his desk chair and put his hands behind his head, confidently exposing his perspiring underarms. While we were in the seminary, we studied the same Allan Pease body language videos in which he taught prospective leaders:

“Confident people will always expose themselves and open up when they are seated, while nervous, shy or introverted people tend to hunch forward, cross their arms or hold their hands in their laps.”

I wondered if Tony was displaying this false bravado as part of what he had learnt about leadership while preparing for priesthood? Whatever the case, at that point I was in awe of him, since we had walked a similar path — albeit he with far greater personal success.

The next thing that struck me about Tony was, for a potential future Prime Minister and leader of the nation, he stammered quite a bit. There were very few sentences that he didn’t started with “Ah…” He perhaps picked up this linguistic impediment from John Howard, who also vocalised his responses with similar hesitation.

Anyway, we had a fairly casual conversation in which, for people who had only really spoken once before, I was astonished at the amount of trust he quickly bestowed on me. We discussed many personal topics, particularly relating to people we both remembered from our seminary days at Manly.

We naturally discussed celibacy and he expressed candid openness that the expectation of a life without sex was a factor in his decision not to pursue priesthood, but “it certainly wasn’t the deal breaker”.

The assertive Rhodes scholar and former boxer was not considered suitable pastoral material, despite being a student who achieved high distinctions in his assignments. Perhaps this was because he thought for himself rather than saying ‘Amen’ to the establishment, which we both agreed was full of imposters — “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

One of his Philosophy lecturers, Father Gerry Gleeson (son of the Chief Justice of the High Court, Murray Gleeson Q.C.) who was also my spiritual director, remarked to me once:

“Tony Abbott is one of a very few people I awarded high distinctions to then had to write the comment: ‘Next time read the prescribed texts!’”

Tony marvelled at the longevity of my virginity, that I had managed to protect for forty six years. “I don’t know how you do it! I couldn’t do it,” he said with a laugh.

Our originally timetabled thirty minute meeting was extended as he personally called his other appointments on his mobile to cancel. I was flattered that he wanted to prolong our conversation and talk further about my political possibilities and he expressed an eager desire of utilising me in the upcoming election.

He told me:

“If you had come forward earlier, we might have been sitting in Canberra right now. You could have beaten Bradbury yourself. We really needed that seat.”

I assured him “we will win it next time” and reiterated my request to represent the area in which I had actually been born.

“Ah, I don’t think that can happen, Kev. They’ve already completed the pre-selection process. You might think that the leader of the party would have the power to choose who represents us in government, but I don’t. It’s all up to branches and the pre-selectors and, in the case of Fiona Scott, I think they’ve got it wrong. But we can’t change that. Well, I’d be reluctant to intervene.”

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He didn’t say he wouldn’t intervene, or that he couldn’t, so ‒ ever the optimist ‒ I kind of hoped he still would see the logic of choosing a community leader with proven commitment to represent the constituents, rather than a woman with very little public profile.

When asked what attracted me to politics, I told Tony the main reason was because I had already decided to leave ministry (due to an inability to embrace the Church’s hypocritical attitude to contemporary morality).

I told Tony I had decided to look for a partner in marriage.

“No!” he said adamantly.

“Don’t leave the priesthood. You have to campaign as an active, currently serving priest. It would have a better impact than a former, disaffected or ousted priest. Your current credibility would be critical to a successful campaign.”

So, despite already having met my future wife, and really having her in mind when I mentioned ‘looking for a wife’, I decided to hold that part of my plan close to my chest.

We concluded our conversation with Tony saying:

“The procedure from here on is, I will need to speak with a few people and if you get a phone call from Bill Heffernan, you’re in.”

“And if I don’t?” I asked.

“You can go on with your normal life,” he said smiling.

“My life has never been normal,” I thought to myself.

*****

Being just five days before Christmas when we met, I was not surprised when there was still no phone call from Senator Heffernan by New Year. People easily forget things like “make a phone call to Father Kevin Lee,” I told myself, still optimistic rather than accepting the Party may not be interested in sanctioning a priest as a politician.

In the meantime, Ray King suggested that I start writing some letters in the Penrith Press, a local newspaper distributed freely twice a week to all homes in our electorate. Mr King wrote some ideas to me each couple of days and I reworded them and sent them to the newspaper’s editor. Every letter I wrote was pro-Liberal or critical of the Gillard government. I spoke about the need to focus on local job creation schemes such as hotels, restaurants and cafes along the banks of the picturesque Nepean River. I also promoted the achievements of local identities and congratulated them, things Liberal candidate Fiona Scott was reticent or unable to do. In fact, I had been told by some within the local Liberal branch that she had been told to stay away from the media in case she said something that Labor could use against her. Still believing that Tony Abbott might suggest replacing Fiona Scott, my letters were designed to galvanise some local support for the idea that I would be a worthy opponent for David Bradbury.

A month later, I still had not heard from the country Senator so I assumed the powers-that-be had collectively decided against using me and I moved on with my own plans.

Bill Heffernan (Image via www.billheffernan.com.au)

He told me he knew about my book exposing paedophilia in the Catholic Church. “You have no idea how deeply the problem has penetrated not just the Church, but the police and the judiciary” he said.

“During the Wood Royal Commission into Police Corruption, the topic of organised crime protected by police led into the topic of organised paedophilia rings in Australia. Suddenly Justice James Wood himself called a halt to proceedings and ordered a break for lunch. After lunch, the topic was never returned to, or raised again. The issue would touch too many important people who have secrets they don’t want to be known. You will never get to the bottom of pedophilia in the clergy because too many people in high places are involved…”

“What about if there was a Royal Commission into the Catholic Church?” I suggested, as that was what I and many others had been agitating for, for years.

“It’ll never happen” he said. “Labor don’t have the political will and when we return to power we’ll never initiate one. So what are you thinking about doing with your book?” Heffernan asked.

“Well, if I am selected as a candidate, I won’t publish it,” I assured him.

“Good idea. That’s better at the end of your political career, as part of your memoirs,” he said.

I indicated that my phone battery might die at any time in order to prompt his memory about what he was ringing me to say. I assumed his protracted questioning was something like a job interview.

“Well the reason I am ringing is because you indicated to Tony that you wanted to be a politician. Have you any idea where you would like to run?”

I explained the reasons why Lindsay would be the best place for me.

“Well, that’s not going to happen. Fiona Scott has been given the nod for a second crack at it. I am informing you that nominations for pre-selection for McMahon close tomorrow.” He then ordered me to put in my application for pre-selection for candidacy in that seat — the seat currently held by then Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen.

“But I have heard that Frank Oliveri is running for that seat and is the branches’ local favourite,” I said, reiterating things my friend Ray King had confided.

“Oliveri is going to withdraw. I can’t understand why he hasn’t done it already. He was ordered by the Party Executive to drop out, but he appealed and it was upheld. But he is yet to discover the amount of crap he is going to encounter if he intends to go forward. That’s why I’m ringing you and asking you to put in your application. Don’t worry about Oliveri, he is going to pull out.”

As soon as I finished my call with Heffernan, I rang Ray King ‒ who was, by this stage, commander of Liverpool police ‒ and informed him of my phone conversation. Ray had also developed political ambition and had nominated for pre-selection for the seat of Fowler.

Frank Oliveri (left) with Joe Tripodi (right). (Photo: Alice Boshell via Sydney Morning Herald.)

“Well I was speaking with Frank today and he isn’t withdrawing. I’m not saying that’s not what Bill told you. I’m just saying that Frank reckons he isn’t going to step aside just because Heffernan or someone else from the Exec tells him he has to,” Mark said angrily.

Early the following day, I rang Bill Heffernan and explained the predicament.

“I have a form but only one signature,” I said apologetically.

“Alright. Just bring your forms down here to headquarters by midday and I will get you some signatures,” he assured me, seemingly cognizant with my difficulties.

Used to following instructions, I immediately went to William Street and found Bill Heffernan sitting cross-legged in the conference room, waiting for me, pen in hand.

I explained the difficulty with getting the Liberal Party members’ signatures. He used some descriptive expletives about the attitude of those who were determined to keep Oliveri in the running.

“The man is a crook. There’s plenty of reasons for him to be charged in the future over the deals he did in Liverpool and it will become an embarrassment to the Liberal Party. His mates don’t think about that, do they? Show me your form I will sign it for you.”

When I handed him the nomination form, he exclaimed, “It’s blank. You haven’t even filled it in yet!”

“Well I got a bit disillusioned by the contradictions I was hearing here. You tell me to apply because Oliveri is pulling out and all his friends maintain that he isn’t. I don’t want to pay $1000 to nominate for a position I can’t win.”

“Listen, if Bill Heffernan rings someone and tells them to put in an application, they bloody well do what I tell them,” he said angrily.

I knew he was angry at the people who refused to cooperate with my request for signatures on my application. After recalling some meandering, irrelevant anecdotes from his Catholic youth, Bill signed my form. He then found another in the office to sign and dictated to me what I needed to put on the application form.

I could hardly wait to tell Ray about my encounter with Bill Heffernan.


Ray then dropped a bombshell, telling me he had withdrawn his application for the seat of Fowler and put in his nomination for McMahon! He had done so without discussing it with me. I felt betrayed and could not comprehend his actions. To this day, I still don’t.

I was naturally angry with what he had done but at the time accepted Ray’s innocent sounding explanation. He said that there was a certain nominee for Fowler called Andrew Nguyen, a seventy year old Vietnamese man. Apparently Nguyen had re-mortgaged his house to get $300,000 as a campaign contribution and was quite likely to be pre-selected

“...because what they are looking for is, who has the money to fund a campaign and the ability to communicate with many of the electorate. Apparently Fowler has a predominantly Vietnamese community."

Now, in retrospect I don’t believe Ray’s justification, because people in the party have told me that they were backing Ray to be pre-selected because Andrew Nguyen had such poor communication skills and was rather old.

The fact that Nguyen has been preselected speaks volumes for Liberal’s failures. They do not care about selecting the best person to represent the community but whoever can come up with enough campaign money or supporters to promote the Liberal brand.
 

THE BLIND BATTLE FOR MCMAHON

Ray was deceptive in his comments from then on. I was a bit ambivalent about the role of politician by this stage, with more focus on developing a life for myself and my new wife as well as trying to get a job. I was unemployed and dependent on welfare payments for a number of months and definitely sure that running a political campaign would be costly beyond my means.

The only thing I had in my favour was the fact that one former parishioner, who is loyal to the Liberal agenda, generously offered to give me $100,000 to run my campaign if I was pre-selected. I never mentioned this to anyone, except Ray King, who admitted that he had no one offering to fund his campaign.

Without revealing his real ambition, Ray continued to feed me encouragement, telling me I was a better candidate than him. He continued to say he was only in the race “to knock off the competition” for me.

He said:

“With me in the race, I will take the votes away from Jamal Elishe (who represented Liberal at the previous election, and was the only other contender) and you will win the prize. I can’t afford to lose $1000 so I will be pulling out in the week before the pre-selection so you can do a Steven Bradbury and win!”

But Ray was leading me on all the way. His actions have proven to me how politics and ambition can destroy a man’s sense of perspective and allow him to throw away everything he has. In my mind, Ray was a close confidant and friend. He has done so many things for me in the past that assisted me move forward at times when I could quite easily have given up.

While I was unemployed for nearly six months, Ray King organised for one of his friends, a Liberal loyalist, Brian Zammit to allow me to live rent free in his granny flat in West Hoxton, close to the area I was hoping to campaign for. Brian also gave me a job in his family construction business as his customer liaison officer.

One day, while in Brian’s office, he was discussing the nominations for pre-selection with his accountant Joe Malluso, who was also one of the pre-selectors. I had seen Joe sitting in the office earlier in the day doing the accounts and I made him a cup of coffee.

When I walked in, Brian asked Joe: “What do you think are the chances of Kevin Lee getting nominated?”

“The priest? He’s got no hope. He hasn’t got any support,” Joe said dismissively.

“Tell him that now,” Brian said, to a perplexed looking Joe. “He’s right in front of you” Brian said smiling in my direction.

Joe was shocked. I was wearing my blue collared shirt and looked nothing like the priest that Joe had visualised.

“You’re kidding,” Joe said.

“I kid you not. Joe meet Father Kevin Lee,” Brian said smiling at the irony.

Joe’s Italian Catholic background brought out the indoctrinated respect and he stood up to shake my hand. “Well, I’m sorry Father Kevin. I didn’t know you are the priest everyone has been talking about. I expected this Father Lee was an Asian,” he said.

“Yes that’s a common racial generalisation I get with an Asian sounding surname, but my father’s actually Irish” I informed him.

We sat down and discussed the election and I switched into campaigner mode and began to impress on both Brian and Joe why I would be a better candidate to support than Ray King.

Ray later interpreted the conversation which followed as an attempt to white-ant him, but I maintain that they deserved to know the history of the candidate they were intent on supporting. It seems now that no one in the Liberal camp really wanted to know about the skeletons of their representatives. They are content to wait and see if the media or Labor discover them.

As our conversation continued, I was led to believe, or maybe I wanted to believe, they were swinging their support from Ray to me. One of the reasons I stated which I thought was already known to both of them was Ray’s appearance at the Wood Royal Commission. Ray claimed later that I told them he was arrested and forced to stand trial at the Commission but I maintain I merely indicated my concerns that if his involvement in a defending role at an Inquiry into Police Corruption was brought up, he may have some explaining to do. They agreed to turn their support over to me as well as promising to convince the branch members to support my nomination.

Brian then rang Ray to tell him of their decision.

I don’t know what Ray King said to them but I could hear Brian Zammit saying, “Ray you have my complete support and also that of Joe. We are 100% behind you Ray” he repeated a number of times.

I then knew I had only one option, I rang Bill Heffernan and asked him to request Ray to withdraw. Heffernan sounded angry when I called and he said, “Kevin forget about Ray King. It’s the pre-selectors you have to focus on now. Call all of them. Don’t bother with emails. That’s horseshit. You just f***ing call them all and convince them why you are the best candidate for the Liberal Party.”

For some unknown reason each of the pre-selection candidates is sent an Excel spreadsheet with the names, home addresses, home, business and mobile phone numbers as well as personal email addresses of all the pre-selectors. I was wondering whether this was, in fact, so we could offer them all a bribe for their vote, but since the election was going to be by secret ballot no one would ever know if anyone did vote for you.

None of the pre-selectors I spoke to said they wouldn’t vote for me, but some did say they would, while the majority were noncommittal. I was aware that one of the candidates had invited all fifty two of the pre-selectors to his home for a dinner. Did he win any support by that gesture? I will never know, but to me it reeked of impropriety to even give all that contact information prior to delivering what could be a life-changing speech to them.

“But Bill” I protested to Mr Heffernan, “if you just call Ray and tell him to withdraw, he will do it.”

“No, I’m not going to do that Kevin. That would be very wrong if I were to interfere in the process. You just go and do what you have to do to get selected. Call Marise Payne and make sure you meet with her. There’s also a few other people you should call …” and he gave me a few names of people whose support I needed.

When I did meet with Senator Marise Payne she bought me a coffee at the café opposite her campaign office in Penrith. She convinced me that she hadn’t made up her mind yet and was waiting to hear the speeches. She said:

“Don’t believe what people tell you if they say that they support you. The only people you know are telling you the truth are the ones who say that they are not going to vote for you!”

I visited, rang or emailed everyone on the list, with few replies. One who did sound positive, but then disappeared and never replied to my emails, was a Doctor Clive O’Connor. He was a conservative Catholic, whom I assumed had Opus Dei connections, because his main question to me was: “What’s your position on abortion?” I told him I had written something on the topic and included it in my parish newsletter and he asked me to send him a copy. I did, but he never responded.

There was another couple Frank Zappia and his wife, who seemed very interested in supporting me particularly because they didn’t want fellow Italian and outside dark horse, Joe Romeo as their local member. They assured me that they could swing all their branch members into voting for me after losing their preferred representative, Frank Oliveri.

When it came closer to the day of pre-selection and Ray had not yet withdrawn, I was still working for his friend Brian Zammit. I was asked by our general manager to go to Liverpool police station and measure up the area that Brian’s company had been asked to make desks for Ray’s police station conference room.

When I turned up, Ray King was sitting at his desk reading the paper and eating his lunch. He had an accusatory look on his face as he said: “What are you doing here?”

“I’m working,” I said with a smile.

He didn’t believe me when I informed him that I had been told to do the measurements.

He said, “Have you come to apologise? I know what you told Joe and Brian was an attempt to undermine me”.

“Ray, you promised to withdraw from pre-selection. You said, on your honour, you would withdraw. I need you to do that now,” I almost pleaded with him.

“Well I have to now, don’t I? I got a call last night from the Liberal Party asking about what happened in the Royal Commission. They told me I now have to withdraw my nomination." He glared at me in a way I had seen him look at junior officers he had berated for some infraction of police protocols.

“I have done you a favour Ray. If you had have gone into the election, Labor would have brought it up and whether you are innocent or not of the allegations, you are always going to come out of it looking corrupt. And what about people from your past? Anyone of them can come forward and embarrass you?”

“Mate, I wanted to knock your head off when you walked through the door. I can’t believe you would try to undermine me like that after all we have been through together,” he said.

“Ray, you are the one who undermined me. You swore you were only there to help me. You never said you wanted the position for yourself. After all, it was me who was rung by head office and told to apply. Not you!” I retorted assertively.

“Righto” Ray said a bit more calmly.

He glared at me for a moment, while all I could do was smile.

“Anyway, just go. See ya later. You and I are finished as mates."

A few days later, another of the contenders, Joe Romeo, realising he didn’t have the support he needed, withdrew.

On the day of pre-selection I was contacted by pre-selector and Liberal candidate for Fowler, Andrew Nguyen. He said he was impressed with the fact that I was dedicated to my faith and done some volunteer work in Vietnamese refugee camps. He assured me that I could get sixteen of the votes who were Vietnamese if I included some of their language in my speech and told them about my voluntary work with St Vincent de Paul, which I did.

In the end, Ray didn’t keep his word. He went into the pre-selection, which ended up being between him and I and Jamal Elishe, an Iraqi refugee who had only been in the country for seven years. Although he apparently had a lot of Arab backers (with money) he had very little English, so in my mind it did really boil down to just Ray and I.

I did what Bill Heffernan advised and forgot about Ray King and put all my energy into attempting to sway the minds of the pre-selectors.

I prepared a speech which started with an introduction in five languages to emphasise that this election was best contested by someone who had an ability to communicate across a number of cultures in an area that boasted over 130 different nationalities. My speech also had humour: “A little girl asked her father, “Daddy, do all fairy tales begin with ‘Once upon a time’?” He answered, “No, sweetheart, some of them begin with ‘If I am elected…’”

As well as emotive phrases designed to elicit a positive response, I gave many logical reasons why I could represent the community energetically due to my interest in people and willingness to visit homes, schools and the workplaces of the constituents. I had canvassed opinions from people in the community about what issues most affected them and translated those comments into a proposal that I believed would be well received by the pre-selectors, some of whom gave me pointers on what I should say.

As we sat in the room waiting to deliver our speeches to the pre-selectors on the presentation night, Ray offered his hand, “I forgive you for trying to undermine me and when I win, I will still keep my promise and give you a job as my media officer. And if you win, I hope you would extend to me the same courtesy”.

“Sure Ray, but I never did undermine you. I only wanted to save you the embarrassment which is going to come your way, should you win.”

“Whatever happens, let’s have a beer afterwards,” he offered.

“Yeah that would be nice” I said.

I had rehearsed my speech each day for at least an hour as I did my six kilometre walk for twelve days. I had managed to memorise my speech word for word and presented it flawlessly without much reference to my notes.

I knew in my mind Ray King looked very confident he was going to be chosen, but I had no idea how assured he was until I heard the vote tally. Out of fifty two possible votes Ray King got thirty seven. I got one and Jamal, the Iraqi refugee got the rest. Some in the audience expressed their incredulity at the outcome and the moderator was questioned as to why there were no independent auditors at the counting of the votes. He was convinced not to destroy the ballots in case any questioning happened later. I would have liked to but I could not see the point.

Now, I am not naïve enough to believe I was able to sway the decision of all the voters in the room by my presentation but I am sure some must possess a conscience and have realised that my presentation was better than Ray’s or Jamal Elishe.

After Ray King won the pre-selection by a landslide, we shook hands and I have not seen or heard from him since. I waited for a call or text to have that promised drink, but it has never come.

It is quite upsetting what Ray King has done to our friendship, but I can forgive him for what happened because I believe that the pursuit of position and power also blinded me to what was happening around me.

As I went home to lick my wounds, I received a call that night from Bernard Bratusa:

“I just spoke with Marise Payne and she used one word to describe your performance tonight, ‘Awesome’. You impressed some important decision makers in that room tonight, Kevin. I wouldn’t be too disappointed by how you went. You have a long career ahead of you in politics. You’re only forty eight. Ray is sixty one or two, so your turn will come. Just play the game for a while and show some loyalty to the Party by supporting Ray during the campaign process. Ray tells me he has plans to offer you a job in his office when he gets elected.”

I was not in the mood for conversation with anyone but I didn’t want to fob Bernard off as he is such a good man. I got to know him better in recent years, since he started attending our church and, with his wife Katheryne, they had helped out in our fundraising committee.

But I was not impressed when he let slip that he and Senator Marise Payne had helped write Ray King’s speech for the pre-selection. I had introduced Ray to Bernard and at no time had he told me he had been getting public speaking lessons from my friend.

I had already made up my mind that the Liberal Party was filled with two-faced pretenders – very much like the Church I had previously ministered in – but on this day, I had promised myself never to have anything to do with party politics again.

After my unsuccessful pre-selection campaign, I received no response to my emails and texts to either Tony Abbott or Bill Heffernan.

 

THE END OF THE AFFAIR

On 16th June 2013, I found an unread message on my Facebook account (March 14 10:22pm):

'Great speach tonight at the preselection. Very engaging, you had my vote don’t give up mate.'

I replied to the person:

'Hi [NAME DELETED], I don’t know why I only found this message today. It’s amazing that so many people told me they had voted for me at the pre-selection but I only got one vote. So you must be the one who told the truth… So what did you think of Ray King’s speech? What did he say that so convinced the majority that he is the best man for the job?'

And this was his reply:

Hi Kevin. I was baffled why Ray King received the winning number of votes. Your speech was without a doubt much better than Ray’s. Furthermore the other candidates speech (Jamal) was so painful to watch I couldn’t bare (sic) it. He couldn’t even comprehend the questions that were asked of him. For example, one pre selector asked him about the proposed changes to superannuation laws, and his response to the question (after asking to have the question repeated) was quote “superannuation is for people to put money into for their retirement”. Completely did not understand the question. Following that response there was a muffled chatting among people in the room. Yet Jamal was closely behind Ray. The meeting was stacked with Assyrian pre selectors and they would of (sic) voted for Jamal no matter what he said. Earlier than day an SMS circulated to me from an unknown number that “we all must support Jamal”.

Anyway, after your speech there was a brief pause before questioning commenced, and your speech was much less scrutinized than Ray’s or Jamal’s. I thought that was an indication you were a clear winner. I was shocked when the chairperson of the meeting announced you only received one vote (my vote). Ray mainly discussed his time in the police and he emphasised integrity over and over. There was no smoking gun which made him the winner or better than your speech. He was reading a pre-prepared speech also. And almost lost his cool with the questions. Whereas you were very calm and composed throughout the speech and questions. It was very well delivered, clear and precise Kevin. Even the guy sitting next to me said “you smashed it”, referring to the high calibre of your speech. Yet he voted for Jamal because he had to. I say keep trying, maybe even at a state level?

In later correspondence, my informant told me his disappointment with the process in subsequent weeks:

I was having a discussion with one of the Smithfield branch members a few days after who was unable to establish why Jamal did not win as they were confident in the numbers prior to the pre selection that he would win. I politely said he lacked the ability to speak English for starters that's probably to a large extent why he didn't win, and the reason why I didn’t vote for him.

And this person said in disbelief, something to the effect of "What? You didn’t support Jamal? We have to support him, he is OUR candidate, he is the Smithfield branch's candidate".

I responded "No, I voted for who I believed was the best possible candidate worthy of supporting, that had the best ability to represent the seat of McMahon, I voted for Kevin the priest".

And this person said "Man, it does not work like that, you've got so much to learn, you have no idea. Anyway what’s done is done. It was a waste of a potential vote that should of gone to Jamal".

I said "What do you mean? Candidates stand up and present themselves via a speech and the preselectors choose a winner based on his or her merits" , and this person said "Nah, like I said doesn't work like that, what they say doesn’t make a difference, its already decided, we work out the numbers beforehand who will win, Jamal should of won".

And that was the end of the conversation. The accuracy of our discussion is about 90% in terms of words I used in the quotes, but that was the basis of the conversation I had with this person. The other instance on the night, a person next to me questioned me "Oh I wonder who voted for the priest", I said "me". This person said "Yeah he was good, what do you expect, he has lots of experience as a priest etc." I asked him "who did you vote for?" and he said "Ahh I had to vote for Jamal man, need to do what we can".

This person’s disclosure of ‘what goes on’ has validated my decision to distance myself from a party that has no principles. The most recent proof of the failure of the pre-selection process to select the best possible candidate was exhibited today by Jaymes Diaz, representing the Liberal Party for Greenaway.

Jaymes Diaz and his father Jess were parishioners when I was priest in Blacktown, and were pre-selectors for McMahon who had assured me of their support and yet they refused to cast their secret vote for me.

What you saw of Jaymes Diaz in front of the Channel Ten cameras is symptomatic of the state of the Liberal Party across the board. I was surprised when this junior immigration lawyer (exclusively representing fellow Filipinos) got pre-selected over some much better qualified candidates. He and his fellow Filos have stacked the branches that he was pre-selected from and there was never a doubt that, regardless of who was the better candidate for Greenaway, Jaymes was always going to be selected.

 

TONY ABBOTT AND THE OPUS DEI EFFECT

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Since the pre-selection process for McMahon concluded, I have had plenty of time to reflect on the process as well as outcome. I have reviewed some of my opinions about Tony Abbott and his supporters, as well as the individuals whom I was convinced were supportive of my political aspirations with the Liberal Party.

Prior to my experience with the Liberal Party, I was a staunch defender of all that Tony Abbott stood for. I even defended his decision in 1997 to support a fellow seminary student Father John Nestor who had been accused of paedophilia whilst a priest in the Wollongong Diocese. The criticism levelled at Mr Abbott regarding his decision to support John Nestor without any personal knowledge of the allegations was an area that I needed to do some examination of my conscience.

Paul Osborne wrote a story published on 8 February 2013 questioning the motives of Liberal Leader Tony Abbott when he gave a character reference to the accused priest.

I know John Nestor from my time in the seminary and can vouch that he was a man of exceptional character. But there is one quality of his that must have motivated the future Prime Minister to put his reputation on the line to defend an alleged paedophile.

John Nestor was a priestly member of Opus Dei.

So it doesn’t surprise me that the then Parliamentary secretary to the Employment Minister described John Nestor as:

“An extremely upright and virtuous man. I guess one of the things that I like very much about John when I first met him was his maturity — intellectual, social, emotional. And he was, to that extent I guess, a beacon of humanity at the seminary.”

I knew that there were a number of complaints by people within the local school and parish of the Wollongong Diocese that were opposed to Father John Nestor’s Opus Dei associations.

Anyway, innocent or guilty, he is in Opus Dei and I believe this is the only reason that Abbott stuck his neck out to support him. Because he is an Opus Dei priest, I am sure there are people in the Liberal Party who emphasised the need for John Nestor to be cleared.

I am writing this not to be malicious, but to respond to the constant criticisms of Opus Dei interference in politics of which I am now convinced. My experiences prove that they exert significant influence over who is acceptable and who is not.

Even Ray King, who now is running for Liberal in the seat of McMahon told me during the lead up to pre-selection:

“You will lose support from the Libs because of your attacks on Cardinal George Pell. Your attacks on Pell, as much as I personally agree with them, were the reason you burnt all your support base. Opus Dei does have power in Federal politics.”

The proof is in the fact that none of my endorsers have contacted me since my pre-selection speech — even to ask how I went or to comment on what happened.

Opus Dei, which is Latin for ‘The Work of God', is a personal prelature or association of priests and lay people that was formed in 1928, by the actions of a certain Spanish priest, Father Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albás. To the devotees of Opus Dei, he is referred to simply as “The Founder”. His spiritual movement had found its way into Australia in 1963, through the efforts of a humble and holy Springwood identity and father of ten, Professor Ron Woodhead. Convinced of its merit, he welcomed the movement and all it stood for into NSW University in 1971. I became involved in Opus Dei while still a University student and was soon overcome with the zeal of its adherents. I tell of my involvement in my book.

Opus Dei’s influence spread through Warrane College, a residential college of NSW Uni that provided a home predominantly for country students and the members worked tirelessly to ensure that other young and energetic Catholic students would be introduced to their founder’s teachings. Its agenda is to indoctrinate educated people of the validity of its aims and infiltrate the legal profession, medicine and politics to influence them to enforce the extremely restrictive interpretation of Catholic social teaching that its founder inculcated. Pope John Paul II, who favoured the spirituality of the cult that emphasised personal sanctity and obedience to the Pope, canonised the Founder in record time and declared the cult a valid separate category of associations in Canon Law.

Its influence continues today through its schools and institutes, which never bear any identifiers that associate them to this secretive organisation. Its attempts to place members in positions of influence in Australia (and in fact throughout the world) are extremely successful.

The current Rector of the Sydney seminary (the one responsible for determining who becomes a priest in Sydney) Father Anthony Percy is an Opus Dei priest. Father Percy was directly appointed by Cardinal George Pell and is a personal friend of Tony Abbott.

If Opus Dei and extreme right wing conservatives are setting the agenda for the Liberal Party, then the Australian people need to know who the Liberal Party is made up of before they elect them into government.

This story was originally published, in a different form, at francesjones.wordpress.com. To read Father Kevin's book, please click here.

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