This article raises serious questions about the judgement of the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese in his patronage of the business known as “True Thai Massage” at 467 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill. The article may provide some background for the events that led to the Labor leadership-spill debacle last Thursday and for Anthony Albanese’s absence from the field as a potential deputy to Kevin Rudd.
I am not suggesting that Minister Albanese has acted unlawfully. It's also clear that the services available from True Thai Massage include non-sexual massage services, notwithstanding the very openly available sexual services on offer at the premises (as confirmed at 10.20AM today by a private investigator who visited the business and was offered a sexual service for money without soliciting the offer). This story is about the Minister’s judgement in visibly patronising an establishment of dubious repute without making the cursory enquiries that should have revealed the nature of the business conducted at the premises. The poor judgement is compounded by the fact that Mr Albanese has in the past and will again from today have portfolio responsibility for local government, the enforcement authority for brothels and other sex service premises in NSW. The article is also about the reaction of some senior Labor Party figures to the news of Mr Albanese’s misjudgement.
From 3 December, 2007 to 14 September, 2010, Anthony Albanese was the Federal Government’s Minister for Local Government. Minister Albanese ought to know well the local government regulations that apply to brothels and sex service premises in New South Wales. The Brothels Act was proclaimed just before his appointment as the Federal Minister for Local Government and the provisions for local government to regulate brothels and other sex service premises were significant public issues in the early days of his Ministry.
This article concerns itself with activities at just one “massage parlour” in Minister Albanese’s electorate, True Thai Massage, 467 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill.
In correspondence with the Marrickville Council, the business describes itself as having “premises which are used as a therape (sic) massage and therapy centre”. Clearly that description is incomplete.
In the bulk of the 173 client “reviews” at XXX Reviews (dating back to 2010), the services described as being procured at the premises constitute sexual services (explicit content warning, the client “reviews” at these links are graphic and obscene).
Sauce Warning: the site below are triggering antivirus programs, screenshots are above, links cannot be clicked below (copy and paste only)
Similarly at http://www.parlourpages.com.au/blog/?p=2025
The NSW Brothel Act puts the enforcement of most brothel related regulations into the hands of local government. The Act defines brothels and other premises which are used for “related sex uses”. The definition of “related sex uses” includes:
The events of Monday, 18 March, 2013
On Monday morning, 18 March, 2013 I had a conversation with a friend who is a reliable and well-connected media figure. My colleague asked if I knew about the “Albanese photographs”, I said I did not. I was told that a constituent in Anthony Albanese’s electorate had seen Mr Albanese enter a “house of ill repute” on New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill on the previous Friday afternoon, 15 March. My colleague told me the constituent described the premises as a Thai “knock-shop”, that is a place at which sexual services are provided.
I was told the constituent had phoned a media outlet at the time and that a photographer was despatched and was present when the Minister emerged from the Thai massage premises one hour later. I was told that photographs were taken of the Minister leaving, but that after discussions over the weekend no major publisher would run the story. (This conversation between me and my media colleague took place during the week that the Minister Conroy’s media legislation was being fast-tracked through the parliament.)
I was told that a photographer who was involved in the matter was very upset that in the context of media legislation coming before the parliament, this story about a prominent Minister was “spiked”. I did not have an opinion about the rights or wrongs of the matter but I agreed to speak with the photographer.
A little later that morning I had a conversation with a “paparazzi” photographer who makes his living by taking photographs of celebrities and selling those photographs to media organisations. He told me that he thought it was newsworthy that a story and photograph that would (in his judgement) have ordinarily run in the “gossip” columns of one of the major newspapers was “spiked” during the week that the media legislation came before the parliament. He asked me to investigate and to find out why.
I said I'd like a detailed statement from him, the photographer if he was serious about me following the matter up. At about midday on Monday, 18 March, I received the following statement by email:
At 3.45pm on Friday afternoon 15th March 2013, the married Federal Member for Grayndler, Anthony Albanese, was at Traditonal Thai Massage, 467 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill, NSW which is within his local electorate.
A passer-by called the news outlets one of which managed to get images of him leaving around 4.45pm. In parlourpages.com.au this is described as follows, Escorts, Rub 'n tugs, body slides & happy endings. It is not a legitimate traditional Thai massage, but even so what is the married Federal Cabinet minister doing at this place in light of other issues involving Federal Labour MP's I.e. Craig Thompson. It shows a complete lack of judgment on his part.
Having regard to the pictures of him exiting the premises, [PUBLISHER’S NAME REDACTED] decided to bury the story, [PUBLISHER NO 2’S NAME REDACTED] then spoke to Albanese on Saturday, they didn't have the images, but he did in fact confirm he was there. He told [PUBLISHER’S NAME REDACTED] he had just received a traditional massage.
Given a week of issues involving Senator Conroy's planned media legislation, [PUBLISHER’S NAME REDACTED] decided to pull the story, and without the pictures [PUBLISHER’S NAME REDACTED] could not go anywhere with it. I am aware they considered the possible political repercussion's if it appeared they were going after him, public interest issues having been considered etc.
This is clearly a matter in the public interest, when a cabinet minister who is next week, opening a special ceremony for babies at Marrackville West Public school and is married to MP Carmel Tebbutt. Federal Labour has the media outlets running scared and they decided to bury to story, particularly so at [PUBLISHER’S NAME REDACTED]. Albanese should not be going to a place such at this, should exercise more discretion and be held to account for a higher standard than the average bloke. This lack of judgment is being talked about in newsrooms across the country. There is no doubt the PM knows about this. What's the problem with reporting this as fact, he's admitted it and it should be reported.
The paparazzi photographer who sent me that statement also sent me an email with this photograph of a mobile phone screen showing what I was told were web-based enquiries about the business situated at 467 New Canterbury Road:
I made certain enquiries to ascertain whether or not photographs had been taken, whether a constituent in the electorate had expressed concerns about the Minister’s visit to the premises and whether Mr Albanese had spoken to a journalist about the matter and it seemed to me that all 3 assertions were true. I could find no mention of the story being published anywhere.
I did not know why other media outlets had declined to publish the story but I formed the opinion that I would not publish it, it did not interest me then as a news story. I was told that the photographs were for sale and I said that I would not be interested in purchasing the photographs.
On the evening of Monday, 18 March I spoke with a senior Federal Labor Party figure and asked if the Party was aware that the photographs and story of Minister Albanese were being “shopped” around, that is to say being offered for publication.
Tuesday, 19 March, 2013
On Tuesday, 19 March I made some further low-level enquiries and had a couple of conversations with people about the matter but did not take it any further than that.
Wednesday, 20 March, 2013
On the afternoon of Wednesday, 20 March I was sent some information that led me to cause some enquiries to be made of the Marrickville Council. As a result of those enquiries I received a copy of an "Application to Modify a Development Consent" which described proposed extensions to the premises at 467 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill.
This is a copy of the Application. It is a public document, available for perusal at the Marrickville Council’s website http://www.marrickville.nsw.gov.au/Edrawer/DAInformation.asp?DANUM=DA200900093
Thursday, 21 March, 2013
On Thursday, 21 March, 2013 I watched with the rest of the nation as Simon Crean put his name forward as Deputy Prime Minister and as he asked Mr Rudd to challenge the PM.
Friday, 22 March, 2013
On Friday evening, 22 March, 2013 I received a message from a senior Federal Parliamentary Labor Party figure that said words to the effect,
“FYI - [NAME REDACTED – a widely respected Federal Labor Parliamentary figure] interviewed Albanese about the Thai establishment – And Albo then quickly relinquished his Deputy PM aspirations”.
I had a conversation with my confidential source, a senior Federal Labor Party figure that night, Friday, 22 March. The source confirmed the content of the earlier message. I was told:
[NAME REDACTED - a widely respected Federal Labor Parliamentary figure] interviewed Anthony Albanese on Wednesday, 20 March and put a number of matters associated with the Thai massage establishment to Mr Albanese. Mr Albanese confirmed that he was present at the Thai massage business on Friday, 15 March. He said that he was there for the purpose of receiving a therapeutic massage and not for the purpose of receiving sexual services. Mr Albanese said he did not receive any sexual services.
I was told that other enquiries were made of Mr Albanese about the nature of his relationship if any with the owners of the business and any knowledge he may have about any Development Application submitted to the Marrickville Council by the business. Mr Albanese said that he acted properly at all times and had done nothing wrong.
I reiterate that I make no allegations of unlawful behaviour on Minister Albanese’s part – rather it is the Minister's poor judgement at issue, with his patronage of a dubious business widely known to provide sexual services for payment. The most cursory enquiries on the internet reveal the nature of the sexual services offered at True Thai Massage. A private investigator who attended the business this morning was offered sexual services quite openly without soliciting an offer of sexual service.
I say that the business at that location is widely known to carry on sexual services at its business premises, services which it is not legally able to provide and which would render the use of the premises unlawful. As a former Local Government Minister and a current Federal Cabinet Minister I think it reflects poorly on Mr Albanese’s judgement that he would patronise a business that is so clearly the subject of controversy so far as its adherence to Local Government regulations is concerned, particularly given he has been and is now the Federal Minister for Local Government. Mr Albanese’s patronage could only give rise to unsavoury commentary and to questions about his judgement. Further, I consider it newsworthy that my source about the interview between Minister Albanese and the senior Labor figure; and the source pointing to the Development Application are Federal Labor Party sources.