Battler a thorn in side of authority

By Julie Jacobson.

Graham McCready is a name that until five weeks ago would hardly have registered in the public consciousness.

A name Trevor Mallard must be wishing he had never heard.

It was McCready who took a private prosecution against Mallard over the October parliamentary punch-up with Tau Henare.

To prove a point.

Not that McCready hasn't previously proved points. His middle name is Edward but could just as well be "litigation".

Rewind to 1962. A young McCready tops his seventh-form chemistry class. He and his teacher don't see eye to eye. The teacher, an ex-All Black selector, mutters things about McCready being gay.

He awards the class prize to someone else. McCready's end of year speech is on freedom of speech. It is banned by the principal and he is told to write another one. He does, but tears it up in front of assembly and reads the banned one.

He has never forgotten his treatment at the school. Today, he says, he would have sued his teacher and the school board "down to their socks".

He continued to rebel, and in 1965 took part in his first act of civil disobedience.

An engineer with the RNZAF, he was forced, like his fellow airmen, to queue outside the mess each day at 6am to wait for it to open an hour later.

Made mess representative, he flung open the doors and there was a stampede. For the first time "people got a hot breakfast, not cold food or toast like cardboard".

He received a warning. He did it a second time and was dismissed as mess representative.

During his time in the Air Force he, like Mallard, got into a punch-up. McCready says he asked a drunk pawing a woman "respectfully to desist". He didn't, McCready broke the man's jaw and was later charged with assault. He was convicted and discharged. The drunk was convicted of assault on a female.

And that, he says, was the genesis of last month's private assault prosecution against Mallard.

"People should be equal in front of the law."

McCready has been on a benefit since 1995 when, as a clerk at Wellington City Council, he developed chronic occupational overuse syndrome.

In an irony even he acknowledges, he lives in a tiny council bedsit, paying the unprincely sum of $98 a week in rent.

There's a greasy frypan in the sink and a couple of filing cabinets taking up most of the rest of the kitchen.

A bed - unmade- a small sofa and a larger desk, covered in papers and files, furnish the lounge.

A spare mattress parked up against the one window blocks out the afternoon sun.

Next door his neighbour wakes up and shouts "you are Satan".

McCready shrugs. It's one of the few things that doesn't upset him.

Back to the Air Force. Amid more accusations - "false" - that he is gay McCready is sexually assaulted. He ends up in Sunnyside Hospital, where for more than two years, he was "treated" with opium-based sleeping pills and tranquillisers. He develops post-traumatic distress disorder, dreaming each night of being executed.

"The Air Force knew about it but did nothing ... today it would be in court."

He became a whistleblower after a mate nearly died in Australia, in 1969.

"We were working on a telecommunications project. We were on a camp and I'd warned them the electrical system wasn't safe. One night it rained, and my best mate was fried.

"I learned then that you have to speak up, you have to keep on about things. It's a case of not giving up."

He headed to Canada, where he worked as a computer technician with the national airline and met his wife.

"I was 25, I wanted a sure thing so invited six women to this rugby party in Toronto. Sylvia came along and sent the other five home in a taxi. We were married nine months later."

The couple had two daughters. Both have university degrees.

McCready is a proud dad. It comes, he says, from his working class background, one he describes as the Outrageous Fortune family of the '50s, a family fuelled by socialist dogma.

The son of an alcoholic Irish wharfie, McCready was the baby of the family and the only one of four children to stay at school long enough to gain any qualifications.

Both sisters left school in the fifth form. Ditto his brother John, who became head of programming at TVNZ.

In Canada, trouble was brewing. McCready found failures in one of Air Canada's technical systems. He wrote a quality assurance report which he says management tried to block. He was sacked. The systems were upgraded and the failures reduced. The managers lost their jobs.

Two years later, while employed to sell standby power systems to Ontario Hydro, he discovered batteries being used at a nuclear power station were defective.

He kicked up a fuss, went to the Federal Minister of Energy, and was proved right.

McCready returned to New Zealand, working as a technical consultant with the State Services Commission. A colleague talked of "doing sideline deals in Government time". He refused, spoke up and was shown the door.

He got a job in Archives but was bundled out after a pay dispute, blacklisted from the public service and returned to Canada.

His next stoush involved a dodgy politician and his shares in a mining company.

The politician was forced to resign after failing to acknowledge his interests, but was voted back in at a byelection. The two big political parties had refused to run candidates and McCready stood against him, coming fourth.

"I tried to have him charged with perjury. He said he made mistakes because he was just a simple man, a country bumpkin."

He laughs - that was what Mallard called him.

Prime Minister Helen Clark has referred to McCready as "a small-
minded malicious person" but he describes himself as an activist.

He also compares himself to Dave Henderson, the Christchurch businessman bankrupted by the IRD in the 1990s.

McCready is facing numerous fraud charges, all tax-related. They came about, so he tells it, after he told an IRD investigator to put on a tie and address him as Mr McCready rather than Graham.

He says his fights involve the three most visible means of garnering attention: legal, political and media broadsides. The modus operandi of a man with a grudge? A serial complainer? No, he says. It's injustice, unfairness and incompetence that he doesn't like. "I'm actually a very private person. But if I see something, I will put my head above the parapet."

He's been to the employment tribunal several times, and the Human Rights Commission, claiming he was turned down for a job because of his age.

In 1995 he discovered National Insurance had been overcharging some of its Housing Corporation clients and forced the company into reducing its premiums.

Four years later, he tried to bring a $199,000 defamation claim against a fellow former Scout leader and convicted paedophile who accused him of stealing funds.

Earlier this year he was instrumental in outing a former Qualifications Authority employee who was selling the agency's old surplus computers cheaply on Trade Me.

"Many people have told me they would have loved to have done what I have, but they didn't have the knowledge or the experience.

"Making a fuss publicly is the only way that anything gets done, otherwise I'm just a political peanut, I would be ignored. "

McCready is a reformed alcoholic. On Thursday, it will be 17 years since he had his last beer.

He says the $500 donation to the Salvation Army Bridge programme Mallard was ordered to pay at Tuesday's court hearing was a poignant reminder of his fight with drink.

"Alcohol removed a lot of things out of my life - my cars, my kids, my houses. I found myself in a bug-infested rooming house wondering what the hell I was doing."

Mallard, who pleaded guilty to the non-criminal charge of fighting in a public place, wouldn't comment on McCready. But on Tuesday he said he was glad the case was over.

"I think a number of us who are MPs have had people who are fairly hard to work with over a period of time and Mr McCready is in that category. He's not the worst and I think I'm pleased to have finished dealing with him."

HISTORY OF A WHISTLEBLOWER

1968-71: Jobs in Australia and Canada. Highlighted various "issues", starting his whistleblowing career.

1972-75: Canada. Became heavily involved in real estate, buying numerous houses for an initial outlay of $500. One of the houses was bought from a member of the "Montreal Mafia" and sold for an instant $10,000 profit. Was asked to go into "business". Instead, went to the media and outed the fraud. This was, he says, the start of his public campaign to right injustice, generally against the rich, powerful or famous.

1981-83: New Zealand. Attempts to bring private prosecutions against former Prime Minister Rob Muldoon over "incompetent, criminal or both" practices in the public service.

1984: Canada. Gets a bit part in The Boy in Blue, starring Nicholas Cage and Christopher Plummer.

1985: Canada: Finds Revenue Department owes him $602.35. It refuses to pay. Takes department to claims court. Receives refund.

1986: Canada. Raises issues about batteries supplied to nuclear power stations in the 70s.

1988: Canada: Wife doesn't receive tax refund. Finds Minister of Revenue advised by then Prime Minister Mulroney not to pay refunds to any salary and wage earners until after the election. Claims punitive damages. Gets refund.

1994: New Zealand: Enrolled at Victoria University law school. Took case to Ministry of Education after discovering first year law students required to take four papers compared to three for other courses.

1995: New Zealand: Finds major insurance company charging Housing Corporation mortgagees overinflated premiums. Writes to Housing Minister Murray McCully and discrepancies rectified.

1995: Initial claims to DoC over an unsafe swing bridge in the Tararuas.

1997: Complains to Human Rights Commission that a recruitment agency and computer company Unisys breached law in refusing to employ him because of his age. The case was proven, but no remedies awarded.

1999: Attempts to sue former Scout colleague for defamation after he is accused of stealing funds. Case dropped because of legal time frames. The accusations dated back to 1983.

2000: Involved in publicity over claims a big ACC surplus came from taking long-term recipients off compensation and shifting them to other benefits

2003: Following Cave Creek tragedy, complains again to Department of Conservation about unsafe swing bridge in Tararua, claiming it is unsafe in windy conditions.

2006: Receives 75 hours community service after having been found to be trading while bankrupt.

2007: June. Reveals an NZQA employee has been selling surplus computers cheaply on Trade Me.

2007: July. DoC concedes the ridge where the swing bridge is sited is windy and prone to strong wind gusts.

2007: November. Takes private assault prosecution against Mallard for parliamentary scrap. Mallard pleads guilty to fighting in a public place.

2008: To appear in court in April on 51 tax-related fraud charges involving various clubs and body corporates he has been acting for.

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