NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay defends herself after letter in support of convicted sex offender

NSW ministers took aim at the state’s Opposition Leader in parliament after it was revealed she wrote a “letter of support” for a visa applicant who was convicted of indecently assaulting a young girl.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance was among those having a go at Jodi McKay, calling into question her judgment and position as leader of the NSW Labor Party.

“If the Labor Party wants to call us a joke and leave the member for Strathfield as their leader, I know who’s the joke: it’s the (Labor) caucus,” Mr Constance said during question time in parliament.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ms McKay disputed her letter was in support of the man, saying it was “incorrectly” filed as a letter of support by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

She said she didn’t intend to throw her support behind the man, who was convicted of two counts of indecent assault against a 13-year-old girl ten months before Ms McKay wrote her letter.

“I did not do anything wrong,” Ms McKay said.

“I was passing on documents, that’s my job as an MP … I would never, ever write a letter of support.”

She told the 2GB radio station that she didn’t address the letter to anyone in particular.

“I wrote a generic cover letter, it wasn’t addressed to anyone – in fact it was addressed ‘to whom it may concern’ – it was a standard template,” she said.

Mr Constance took issue with that excuse in his remarks in parliament.

“If you go and write a letter, and you don’t know who you’re writing it to, and you don’t know who the person is you’re writing about, and it ends up in the proceedings of the AAT – I actually think there are some questions in relation to a matter of judgment, a matter of leadership, a matter of conscience,” Mr Constance said.

Environment Minister Matt Kean and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet were also among the ministers who criticised McKay over the letter during question time.

Asked on 2GB radio if she reviewed any documentation around the case or asked why the man was in the detention centre, Ms McKay said: “I was passing on documents. That’s my job as an MP.”

The August 27, 2018 letter was written on Ms McKay’s parliamentary letterhead.

Addressed “To whom it may concern”, the letter read:

“I write on behalf of my constituent [redacted] … a 22 year old detainee at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.”

Stating the man “regularly conducts Hindu religious services” at the migrant jail, Ms McKay went on to write that she’d been advised the man had applied for a bridging visa.

“I have attached [redacted]’s correspondence to me by way of background information. I ask that you consider the attached documentation and [redacted]’s circumstances when considering his application for a bridging visa.”

After Nine newspapers revealed the existence of the letter on Monday evening, Ms McKay wrote a follow-up to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

“You characterise a letter signed by me on 27 August 2018 and tabled during the hearing as a ‘letter of support’. This is incorrect,” she wrote on Monday evening.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott and federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton have both called on the Labor leader to resign.

“Why would a member of parliament defend anyone who was convicted of pedophilia?” Mr Elliott told 2GB on Monday morning.

According to the tribunal decision on the man’s immigration case, he arrived by boat as an “irregular maritime arrival” in March 2012.

Five years later, he was sentenced to a year-and-a-half in prison for the indecent assaults.

According to details included in the tribunal’s decision, the man first approached his victim in September 2015, and would wait for her at western Sydney railway stations “and speak to her on the way to school”.

“The victim told the offender her age,” the tribunal wrote.

After communicating via text messages, the man persuaded the girl to let him enter her room, where he indecently assaulted her while her younger sister slept nearby.

The man again violated the girl in the living room of the family home before he ran away. The victim then told her parents what happened.

They spoke to the man and made him admit what happened.

“During the conversation, the offender made admissions to both parents that he was aware the victim was only 13, and he was 20 years of age, and that his conduct was wrong,” the tribunal wrote.

The tribunal affirmed the decision to deny the man’s visa application in September 2019.

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