Everyone makes mistakes and the coverage of my time as the local member certainly had a few errors, but by-in-large most of the media outlets were fair. The two exceptions were the Newscorp publications, the Cairns Post and the Courier Mail. They lapped up a ‘stalker beat up’, leading with front page articles accusing me of letting a stalker into Parliament House to stalk a pregnant MP. When it happened I couldn’t believe it! I should have recalled the cautionary words of Franklin D. Roosevelt that, “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”
On Tuesday the 5th of September I received a phone call from the reception at Parliament House. I was told that a Mr Khalesirad was at reception and would like to see me. Prior to this I had never met Mr Khalesirad. There was no appointment in my diary to meet with him, but I made time for him, as I would have for anyone.
Parliamentary Security had earlier admitted Mr Khalesirad into the public gallery without question. I acted in the same manner, having no second thoughts about signing him into the annex to meet with me. Like Parliamentary Security, I was not on notice to refuse admission.
Mr Khalesirad raised a number of issues with me around his concerns regarding a lack of transparency and accountability in government. In relation to our meeting I can remember that Mr. Ward was present and local government corruption was discussed. We also spoke about the prosecution of police whistle-blower Rick Flori.
For reasons that will soon become apparent, I later had cause to reflect on our meeting and noted that far as I can remember, at no stage during our meeting did Mr. Khaliserad mention the Member for Keppel, Mrs. Lauga.
None of the guests I had to Parliament house were more well behaved than Mr Khalesirad. I found his behaviour to be exemplary.
Khalesirad – Lauga backstory
Mr. Khalesirad had been a critic of the government, in a part time role as a citizen blogger. It later emerged that in one of his articles Mr. Khalesirad raised serious concerns regarding links between Hutchinson Builders and Mr. and Mrs. Lauga.
There was a backlash from the ALP against Mr. Khalesirad. He was subsequently called many things by the ALP including:
• A ‘stalker’ by the member for Keppel and her ALP Parliamentary colleagues.
• A ‘dirty little grub’ by former ALP Minister Rob Schwarten.
The truth of the matter is that Mrs. Lauga and Mr. Khalesirad had been friends. They had fallen out over comments by Mr. Khalesirad in relation to a budget overrun on the construction of Mr and Mrs Lauga’s home by Hutchinson Builders. Mr. Khalesirad alleged it had taken a very long time for the “overrun” to be identified, describing the scenario as ‘dubious’.
The Stalker Allegation
As soon as my meeting with Mr. Khalesirad had concluded, the ALP wrote to the Speaker saying I had let Khasilerad in to Parliament specifically to “intimidate the Member for Keppel, Brittany Lauga.” The letter described the grave fear felt by Ms Lauga when she heard Mr Khalesirad was visiting me in parliament. They leaked this letter to the media before I had a clue what was going on.
At no time during my meeting on 5th September was I approached by any MP about the Member for Keppel’s concerns. At no time on 5th September was Mr Khalesirad asked to leave the Parliamentary Precinct.
Rather than contacting me with concerns regarding Mr Khalesirad’s presence (enabling a quick response from me), the ALP had written a letter to The Speaker and contacted the media. These were political actions to put me in the frame for facilitating the stalking of a pregnant MP. It was the lowest thing I had experienced in Queensland politics.
The first person to contact me in person to discuss this matter was Anthony Templeton from the Courier Mail, who (unlike myself) had been well briefed on the Khalesirad/Lauga allegations.
The following day both the Cairns Post and the Courier mail led with front pages condemning me. The Cairns Post led with a picture of my face under the heading “Despicable Me”.
The politics of this was played out (very publicly) with myself the clear loser. The next days front page was a condemnation of me for allowing a “Stalker” into Parliament house. I was used to bullying in Queensland politics, but this was something far worse.
My response was to accuse the Palaszczuk Government of a ‘set up’ to avoid exposing Ms Lauga to further scrutiny. I also pointed out that Mr. Khalesirad was let into Parliament’s public gallery by security over two hours before I even knew he was visiting.
No politicians like scrutiny and we often would prefer our critics go away. However politicians sign up to the job knowing the criticism that we are exposing ourselves too. There was a clear strategy to turn the focus away from Ms Lauga and place it on Mr Khalesirad. They wanted to make Mr Khalesirad the issue. My innocent involvement allowed the ALP to get two for the price of one, in making their opponents ‘the news’ in the worst possible way.
The ALP did not want to discuss the Lauga’s dealings with Hutchinsons builders or her failure to provide proper disclosure pursuant to section 15(4) Integrity Services Act (correspondence from the Qld Integrity Commissioner attached). Lauga claimed her affairs regarding the overrun of her matrimonial home were all cleared and disclosed to the Parliament.
This was nothing more than a political stunt by the ALP. They focused on petty political game playing, in a bid to remove the spotlight from their own face.
The question I asked myself was, “If you were in fear of your life from a stalker and discovered that he was in the building would you ring the police or security OR write a letter to the speaker and contact the media?”
The pen may be mightier than the sword but I’d prefer the police if the situation was so dire. The only conclusion one can make is that this was not about Ms. Lauga’s safety at all. It was a political set up.
The Premier called an election just prior to Mr Khalesirad’s legal team cross examining Ms. Lauga’s evidence in the District Court. That is something the ALP was keen to avoid! After all, it would emerge that Mr Khalesirad was a former Young Queenslander of the Year and not a modern day Charles Manson.
The Truth Too Late
In December 2017 the court threw out the unlawful stalking charges against political blogger Petros Khalesirad. Rockhampton Magistrate Cameron Press said the weight of evidence was not strong enough to prove a stalking charge and said Mr Khalesirad had no case to answer. “I cannot conclude that a reasonable jury even taking the evidence at its highest could find that the charge was proved beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.
In court, Mr Khalesirad’s lawyers argued the charges were concocted to pressure him into dropping an investigation of fraud allegations against Ms Lauga’s husband. “Democracy’s an important thing in Australia under a representative government,”
Mr Khalesirad said outside court. “I think we have a right to ask questions about government decisions, indeed policy decisions, about members of parliament. I think it’s everyone’s obligation to do that.” Much of the court hearings centred around an incident involving Ms Lauga’s husband, which Mr Khalesirad was investigating.
The saddest thing for me was to learn that truth does not matter in politics. The Labor Party had set me up with a letter to the speaker designed to embarrass me. NewsCorp was a willing accomplice in destroying my reputation in the community. I never received a retraction or an apology. There was no justice in this game and that is exactly what politics was to these people – a game.
Other Reference Material and Pictures