Former NSW Police Minister and Minister for the Central Coast, Michael Gallacher, is holding out for an apology from the State Government, after allegations of corruption which forced him out of Parliament in 2017 have been found to have been unwarranted.
Gallacher, who lives at Terrigal, said he had been through “five years of personal hell” since Counsel Assisting an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigation in 2014, Geoffrey Watson, implied, while questioning a witness, that Gallacher had been complicit in hatching “a corrupt scheme to make donations to the Liberal Party”.
No evidence was produced, but the accusation alone was enough to see Gallacher dumped from the Liberal Party front bench following an illustrious career and forced to serve the next three years as a cross bencher, until he resigned from Parliament in 2017.
A letter from ICAC Inspector, Bruce McClintock to Gallacher, in August, 2018, has prompted Labor MP, Ron Hoenig, to tell State Parliament’s oversight committee on October 18 this year that the matter, over which Gallacher had “suffered severely”, could also be seen as “an attack on the entire democratic fabric of the State”.
McClintock’s 2018 letter said that he had a “very, very considerable degree of sympathy” for Gallacher and felt that what happened to him was “wrong and unfair”, comments which he reinforced on October 18.
He also confirmed that no finding of corrupt conduct had been made against Gallacher.
The upshot is that allegations of corruption were made with no substantiating evidence and Gallacher’s career was left in tatters.
And now that it has been publicly stated that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing, Gallacher wants to see his good name restored with a formal public apology in Parliament.
“That initial period following the allegations was very difficult,” Gallacher said.
“We have lived on the Coast for almost 40 years and as we moved around the community, I was constantly defending myself even though I knew that I had done nothing wrong.
“Four weeks after I was forced to resign, my wife was diagnosed with cancer.
“That period had an impact on all of us.
“Some of my family and former staff needed help dealing with the trauma.
“My wife is now well after a series of significant operations and my son and daughter drew on their strength to get through that time and have now gone on to wonderful careers.
“But it was horrific to be constantly reading about yourself in the papers and being told that you were not allowed to discuss the matter.
“I felt like I was caught in a spider’s web.
“It was like a nightmare where you’re calling out for help but nobody comes.
“My wife and I got to the point where we just didn’t go out.”
The Gallachers found solace with their friends from Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club where they have been volunteers for many years.
“Our only sanctuary was to go out on patrols wearing caps and sunglasses,” Gallacher said.
“Our friends at the surf club were crucial to us.
“There were some people locally who knew what I stood for and never stepped away, but others ran away, and at the end of the day, we decided that they weren’t worth knowing.”
Gallacher said he had been given the choice to resign from Cabinet following the allegations or be sacked.
“That period of almost three years on the cross bench as an Independent was quite surreal.
“I felt humiliated and isolated,” he said.
“Many people have terrible experiences, but they are usually in private.
“I was constantly in the public gaze.
“But I still went ahead and did what I had to do.
“It was not in my DNA to just quit and I believed that eventually the truth would come out.”
The truth was a long time coming, and when it became clear to Gallacher that he would never go back into Cabinet, he looked externally and is now CEO of Ports Australia.
“Despite some of the rumours, I found the job for myself, on Seek, and I now work for a wonderful organisation which is doing great things all around the country,” he said.
“I hope to be there for many years to come.”
After almost 40 years of public service, firstly 16 and a half years as a police officer involved in investigating corruption and undercover work, and then 21 years in Parliament, Gallacher says it is “entirely appropriate” that the government issue an apology.
Although ICAC was restructured in 2015 after the High Court found that it had been exceeding its jurisdiction, concerns remain about the process.
“I used to believe in what ICAC was doing and I still believe you need to investigate, but it needs to be done within the confines of the law,” Gallacher said.
“I no longer believe in public hearings while there are no protections around people having their reputations destroyed despite there being no findings of inappropriate behaviour at the end.”
Parliament of NSW website, Oct 25
Interview, Mike Gallacher,
Reporter: Terry Collins