Political parties discover links to charged men

By Annabel Crabb
October 3, 2004

The Age

The nationwide child pornography arrests have caused difficulties for both major political parties, which have formal links to several of the charged men.

In Victoria, child-care centre proprietor Scott Thompson - a member of the Kew branch of the Liberal Party - may have his membership withdrawn as a result of the charges against him.

In Western Australia, Labor state MP Paul Andrews has sacked his 42-year-old electorate officer Paul Venning, after Mr Venning was charged with one count of possessing child pornography.

Mr Venning had also worked for the late federal member for Canning, Jane Gerick.

The Liberal Party in WA also was shocked to learn that former staffer Warren Gillespie, 55, had been charged with two counts of possessing child pornography and one of indecent recording. Mr Gillespie worked for the former federal member for Stirling, Eoin Cameron, and WA Senator Sue Knowles for several years.

A spokesman for the WA Liberal Party said yesterday, however, that Mr Gillespie had not been a party member for some time.

A Victorian Liberal Party source confirmed to The Sunday Age yesterday that Mr Thompson, 41, was a member of the party's Kew branch, in the federal electorate of Kooyong, held by backbencher Petro Georgiou.

"But this is a guy that nobody has heard of," the source said of Mr Thompson. "Nobody has ever seen him; he's been a member for several years but he's never . . . held any positions."

The party's state administrative committee is likely to consider Mr Thompson's membership after the election.

Justice and Customs Minister Chris Ellison yesterday said further arrests would be made in the federal police's national swoop on child pornography users, and said the plans would not be affected by the suicides of four charged men in recent days.

"It's regrettable that four people, the subject of charges, have taken their own lives," Senator Ellison said.

"But this investigation is an extremely important one in dealing with criminal activity which deals with the violation of innocent children. "This will not deter, in any way, the investigation."

- with AAP