The Metherell affair

April 29, 1992

By Richard Jones

The Metherell Affair will almost certainly be the final nail in the coffin of the Greiner-Murray government. Whilst it is unlikely that a vote of no confidence will be successful within the next two weeks of parliamentary sittings, there is a high probability that a no confidence motion will be introduced and passed by the end of May.

If this happens, there will either be a baton change, which would mean a vote of confidence in Bob Carr, or a new election.

It is quite clear that the Metherell affair has now crippled this government. It is unlikely that Nick Greiner will be able to recover from the damage caused by the appointment of Terry Metherell to the Senior Executive Service.

Many people appear to believe that Terry Metherell quit his seat as a result of the job offer by the government. I believe that he was planning to leave some weeks before the question of a job came up. In fact, Terry Metherell came to me at the time of the queen's visit on February 20 and asked me to look out for a property for him at Possum Creek, 800 km north of Sydney, where I live.

I thought at that time that this was a very unusual request, in that he would not be able to remain the member for Davidson whilst living at Possum Creek.

It is clear, then, that Terry Metherell had the intention of leaving parliament well before the SES advertisement was placed in the press on March 14.

Interestingly, when a potential SES employee phoned about the advertisement, he was told that there were no jobs available but that they were calling for expressions of interest in short-term attachments and one-off assignments.

The applicant was told that all they were doing was creating a database of information about people who might be suitable for positions that may be created in the future.

As this applicant was told there were no jobs available, how is it that Terry Metherell was given a job in apparent response to this advertisement, even though he applied after the closing date of April 3?

Why was the advertisement placed at all at a time when the budget is blowing out to a $1.5 billion deficit and when no jobs were actually available?

Was the advertisement, which was placed by the assistant director general Premier's Department, specifically inserted to regularise the appointment of Terry Metherell?

If a job were available with the Environment Protection Authority, why was the existing Senior Executive Service database suitable applicants?

In its obscene rush to pluck Terry Metherell out of parliament in an attempt to regain the seat of Davidson, the government has got itself into its biggest mess in four years.

I believe that Nick Greiner's premiership and his government have been mortally wounded by this affair. I was told by a senior Liberal member that he believed that Nick Greiner would no longer be premier by Christmas.

I say the government will be lucky to last two months.

[Richard Jones is a Democrat member of the NSW Legislative Council.]

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