Thursday, April 20, 2017

Vale Eddie Azzopardi

Mr HATTON (South Coast) [10.16]:  Anyone who makes platitudinous comments in this House, as the honourable member for Wakehurst did, and says that Mr Azzopardi has done better than most and reasonably well, has no understanding of the Azzopardi case.  He has no understanding of what the bill is all about.  He has no understanding of the role of Parliament or the justice system and the role of public servants and police in this State.  This is an historic bill because it is what Parliament is all about.  It is about protecting the rights of a citizen against the State when the State has used its wealth and powers - in particular its powers of suppression - to try to silence, harass and beat a citizen into the deck because that citizen stood up for what was right.  That is what Mr Azzopardi has done, and it has taken 20 years of his life.  It caused his wife to have a heart attack and caused severe damage to his family and his own health.  Yet the honourable member said that they got $50,000 or $70,000 between them.  That is a shocking thing for anyone to say, particularly a lawyer.
         Mr HATTON:  That is right, it was $70,000 between them.  Is it not a basic principle that justice delayed is justice denied?  Is it not a basic principle that the truth must out?  If the truth does not come out in the court system and the court system fails, the Parliament is the last bastion.  That is why I support the bill and why every backbench member should support it.  The bill says to the Parliament that it has an opportunity to do something because the system failed.  That is what the bill is really about.  The honourable member for Cronulla spoke about money - it might cost $10,000 a day.  It might cost $20,000 a day.  Big deal!  I have no doubt in my mind that Eddie Azzopardi has perhaps saved this State tens of millions of dollars - certainly many millions.  I shall give an example.  On 8th April 1992 I wrote a letter regarding the Charitable Collections Act and better procedures for the collection of revenue.  Mr Azzopardi has on file a letter dated 1st May, 1986, from the Department of Finance, signed by Mr A. D. Clyne, addressed to Mr Gerry Gleeson, Secretary of the Premier's Department. It quoted the Department of Motor Transport advice...
cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.  Why did that coronial system fail twice?  Why did this man have to sacrifice his health and that of his family, not to mention money and opportunity of enjoyment of life, to fight the system three times in a row?  That is what this inquiry will determine.  The purpose of this bill is not to have another coronial inquiry, as has been improperly represented here.  The bill refers to the failure of any police officers to properly investigate the circumstances surrounding the fire and the complaints made by Mr Azzopardi.  It refers also to the findings of each of the coronial inquiries, and any unfair treatment or unreasonable disparagement of Edgar Azzopardi.
Eddie Azzopardi

Obituary by John Slee in the SMH - Epilogue was published in hard copy on MEdia Dragon's birthday on 16 May 2017

Born in Malta in 1932, Edgar John Azzopardi grew up in the thick of conflict. In World War II he survived German bombardment of his homeland, a tiny but strategically vital colony of the British Empire. When the war ended Azzopardi sought a new life on the other side of the globe.
He reached Sydney in 1949, a restless young man searching for his place in a new world. He travelled widely. In South Australia he worked as a grocer in Whyalla. Restless travel and – if he was lucky – other jobs followed, including a stint on the the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme. Later, when he married and settled in Sydney to begin raising a family, his life became more complicated.
By the 1970s Azzopardi was often close to the centre of NSW politics, whose leading figures were burdened with a lingering sense of unfinished business. Traces persisted from colonial days, that wild and disorderly time that eventually resolved the tussle between what historians have called "powerful jailers" and "despised convicts". That conflict had its origins in the unequal position of many of the earliest colonists – that is, whether you came to Australia free or not.
By the time Azzopardi came to Australia the disorder that made his new home – especially in the states with a history built on transportation of convicts from England – was all but gone.

Unfortunately, that did not mean the lack of professionalism that had degraded policing in New South Wales was no more.
On November 24, 1969, while driving his five-year-old daughter to the doctor, Azzopardi's car was overtaken by a car driven by Constable Christopher Robin Jones, who then made a sudden U-turn, which caused his car to swerve into the path of Azzopardi's car. He was unable to stop in time to avoid a collision. Azzopardi was charged with negligent driving. He insisted he was not to blame.
When the police refused to accept that the charge against him was unjust, Azzopardi tried to force the matter. Whether in response to this, or not, there followed harassment by the police and an unexplained fire and explosion at his house.
In April 1971, Azzopardi sued Jones for assault, and Jones sued Azzopardi for defamation. Both actions were settled out of court. In the same year the first of two inquests was held. It took barely half a day and found the fire was deliberately lit by a person or persons unknown. Seven years later, in 1978, the Supreme Court found the first inquest was insufficient and new evidence had come to light. A second inquest was held, but its findings were essentially the same as before.
About this time Azzopardi began observing the activities of Parramatta Police Citizens Boys' Club where Jones, now Sergeant Jones, promoted an art union lottery to raise funds for the club.
Throughout the 1970s, Azzopardi persisted with allegations against the police, claiming he was a victim of police high-handedness, of assault and harassment and injustice through perjury. He pushed for a wider inquiry.
By 1980, his persistence began to pay off. Two politicians made strong representations in his support in the NSW Parliament. Questions by Liberal MP Dr Derek Freeman and South Coast Independent MP John Hatton, forced the government on to the back foot in relation to the boys' club's fundraising activities, including the lottery run by Jones.

LTwo other important figures helped ensure the successful prosecution of Jones. First, in 1982, the then NSW Ombudsman George Masterman, QC, found that the Department of Services had not dealt with Azzopardi's complaints adequately. While in 1983, the NSW Auditor-General Jack O'Donnell, after examining the club's financial history during Jones' time, found serious discrepancies in the club's financial records.
In 1983 Jones was arrested and charged with conspiring with another to cheat and defraud people who had bought $100 tickets in art union No.14, for a prize of a $54,000 Mercedes-Benz. After two trials, Jones was found guilty of those charges in 1984. He had already lost his police pension the previous year.
Azzopardi's exposure of corruption within the forces of law and order played an important part in shifting public opinion away from silence and apathy. His exposure of police high-handedness showed not only where police had misbehaved, but that they could no longer close ranks and defy the scrutiny of a higher authority. There is no doubt about the vital role Azzopardi played in exposing police misconduct. Nor that his persistent scrutiny contributed greatly to the reform of the NSW Police.
In John Hatton's authorised biography, by Ruth Richmond, the former NSW Independent describes Azzopardi as "a quiet, modest, peace-loving migrant who has come to Australia to find refuge and instead finds injustice, fraud and victimisation in the authorities entrusted to protect them".
Azzopardi died at home in Minchinbury on April 20, his family by his side, an honoured, beloved patriarch. His death closes a chapter on the rugged history of law and order in the first colony, the present state of NSW.
Azzopardi's legacy will live long after his passing. It struck a chord with the wider community, especially among those who recognised in Azzopardi an honesty and dignity that was missing in so much of the political life in his time.
Eddie Azzopardi is survived by his wife, Pamela, and children, Bernadette, Mark and Chris.
– John Slee
    Eddie Azzopardi played vital role in exposing police misconduct