Anger over Tas bribery payout
By Teresa Dowding
HOBART — Angry Tasmanians are preparing to present a petition to state parliament against a $360,000 payout to politicians and others involved in the Edmund Rouse bribery scandal and subsequent royal commission. The Groom Liberal government recently decided to pick up the cost of witnesses in the 1990 investigation, which followed attempts by conservative supporters to bribe Labor politician Jim Cox.
Rouse, a media owner, was jailed for 18 months over the attempt to prevent a Labor-Green alliance government. There is widespread feeling that Rouse's decision to plead guilty to the bribery charges saved other conservative figures from embarrassment and kept important evidence from emerging. There have been repeated suggestions in the media that Liberal opposition leader and former premier Robin Gray had been aware of the attempted bribe.
The royal commission came up with nothing on Gray except that he had held a $10,000 "donation to his party" in his freezer around the time of the attempted bribe. After the commission delivered its findings, Gray and prominent businessman David McQuestin mounted an unsuccessful Supreme Court challenge alleging bias.
The Groom government's recent decision to pick up the legal bills for the royal commission and the bias challenge, including those of Edmund Rouse, has caused a storm. "We're told to pull our belts in, but it's never the rich who pull their belts in", prominent West Coast trade unionist Ian Jamieson told a meeting of 250 in Burnie, one of several around the state.
"This is cronyism at its worst. There's widespread disgust among working people who have had to forgo their social wage to pay out the rich and/or criminals", Jamieson added. Two rallies in Hobart have drawn 2000 and 500 people.