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Luna Park Ghost Train Fire

11 May 2021

Mr MATT KEAN (Hornsby—Minister for Energy and Environment) (18:18): I speak today on a matter of justice. I do not speak as a Minister of the Crown. I speak as a private member, and as a citizen who seeks the truth about why six children and a young father perished in the ghost train fire at Luna Park in 1979. I refer honourable members to the ABC's recent airing of a documentary entitledEXPOSED: The Ghost Train Fire. It is a methodical, detailed and harrowing examination of how seven people were incinerated on what was supposed to be a fun night out. The blaze was so fierce it took dental records to identify the victims. By any measure the death of seven people, six of them innocent children, should have mobilised the biggest and most detailed investigation that this State has ever seen. Instead, the ABC's investigation reveals the opposite occurred. I am concerned that there was a limited investigation by a small coterie of officers. Fact after fact, witness after witness, evidence, information and leads appear to have been discounted or ignored altogether. Multiple witnesses said they smelled burning kerosene, yet the possibility of arson was discounted early in the investigation.

Corroborated statements of witnesses who identified a group of bikies acting suspiciously shortly before the fire were never followed up. Worse, we now have statements by witnesses that they were pressured to change their stories. Just yesterday another three witnesses have come forward who smelled kerosene and saw the bikies. None of them were ever contacted by police, let alone interviewed by police. None were included in the sole coronial inquest or the National Crime Authority investigation. A number believe the fire was deliberately lit. There is now in the public domain a weight of evidence supporting the suspicion that the fire was caused by arson, that corrupt police managed the direction and scope of the investigation and, further, a strong possibility that the fire was orchestrated by organised crime. I acknowledge that 42 years have elapsed since the events of that terrible winter night. I acknowledge, too, that this will pose a challenge to any investigation. But it is never too late for justice to be served.

Our commitment to justice should not be measured in years but in the strength of our resolve, and our dedication to the integrity of our institutions must never, ever have a use-by date. I have carefully watched each episode of the documentary. I have spoken to the journalist Caro Meldrum-Hanna about the investigation. I have read the multiple witness statements now published on the ABC's website, where witnesses claimed they were "intimidated" and "hounded" by New South Wales police to change their original statements about what they heard and saw. I have read the Coroner's report and the National Crime Authority report. I have read the statement of retired detective senior constable Michael Maher, who maintains that witnesses who implicated potential arsonists were not followed up.

And I have read a letter from Jenny Godson. Jenny Godson is the wife of John Godson and the mother of Damien, six years old, and little Craig, just four years old, who were all killed in the ghost train fire. Jenny Godson's family burned to death in front of her eyes. She was a victim and a witness, yet she was never called to give evidence at the coronial inquest. It was just one of the many institutional failures she was forced to endure as she sought justice for John, Damien and Craig. Their deaths cry out for justice. The deaths of Jonathan Billings, Richard Carroll, Michael Johnson and Seamus Rahilly cry out for justice. The balance of evidence that is now in the public domain; the statements from multiple witnesses, including retired police; the families; and the interests of justice call for a special commission of inquiry. Today I add my voice and call for a special commission of inquiry to be established into the causes of the ghost train fire at Luna Park in 1979.