The NSW Opposition Leader says suggestions she wrote a letter of support for a convicted paedophile are “offensive”, amid calls from a senior Liberal for her to resign.
- Jodi McKay says the Administrative Appeals Tribunal wrongly categorised her letter
- She said she submitted a cover letter but it wasn’t on behalf of the convicted Tamil refugee
- The Opposition Leader says she has a strict policy against writing letters of support
Jodi McKay was last night accused of submitting a letter of support for a Tamil refugee, who was convicted in 2017 of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old Sydney girl.
The 22-year-old refugee was being detained at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre and had applied for a bridging visa so he could be released from detention pending the outcome of an appeal before the Federal Court.
In the letter, dated August 27, 2018, Ms McKay said a constituent who regularly conducted Hindu religious services at the detention centre brought the refugee’s case to her attention.
“I ask that you consider the attached documentation and [word omitted] circumstances when considering his application for a bridging visa,” Ms McKay wrote in the letter she signed.
The document was then used as a cover letter in an application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of the refugee’s bridging visa, which had already been denied by the Department of Home Affairs.
But Ms McKay said the letter had been incorrectly characterised by the tribunal as a “letter of support”.
She said she did not advocate on the man’s behalf or express support for his case and a “much respected” constituent had simply requested documentation be passed on from her electorate office.
That constituent then sent the documentation to the tribunal.
“To be honest, quite frankly, I’m outraged at the suggestion that I would write a letter of support for this person,” she said.
“It was not addressed to anyone, it had ‘to whom it may concern’.
“It was a cover letter on a number of documents from church groups, the Catholic Church, the Uniting Church and Hillsong.”
The Labor leader said she had written to the tribunal identifying the “error” and requested the public record be clarified.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she did not want to comment on the matter.(AAP: Paul Braven)
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would leave the matter for Ms McKay to explain and she “doesn’t want to get into it” but Police Minister David Elliott has called on the Opposition Leader to resign.
“Why would a member of Parliament defend anyone who has been convicted of paedophilia,” he told Nine radio.
“This is a bridge too far … suggesting well ‘I was just referring the letter on’ well they’re called official parliamentary representations, that’s what she does … she signed it.”
But Ms McKay, who represents the Sydney electorate of Strathfield, said she had a strict rule in her office against writing letters of support.
“This is just a Government muck-raking, particularly David Elliott who is a bully and this is how he operates and I think people want better than this,” she said.
“If David Elliott believes this is something MPs should know then by all means release the criminal records of every person in NSW.”
Comparison to former Labor leader’s support of gunman
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said it was a “difficult” situation to comment on as local MPs often write references to represent constituents.
“I know in my office I’m often asked to write a reference for someone who is going to court for drink driving,” he said.
“You can do as much research as you can but the reality is you sometimes don’t know what happens behind closed doors.”
However, he suggested Ms McKay could have at least run a Google search on the man.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance said he thought Ms McKay had better judgment and the revelation was “pretty embarrassing”.
“She didn’t need to involve herself and she chose to,” he told the ABC.
“There’s enough division and sharks circling around Jodi McKay as it is and she’s now given her political opponents in the Labor party every excuse to move on her and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do.”
In 2014 then NSW Opposition leader John Robertson stood down after it was revealed he gave electoral help to Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis.
Mr Robertson admitted to sending a letter asking for Monis to have a supervised visit with his children while he was the subject of Family Court proceedings.
Today Mr Constance said Ms McKay needed to look to how Mr Robertson handled his situation.
“She has to wrestle with her conscience in light of John Robertson. John took that decision himself. Jodi now needs to look to him and wrestle with her conscience over it,” he said.