Radio host says Jillian Jones, initially offered £500 compensation for original coverage, was not paid again after story ran
A journalist who broke the news of one of the largest cases of paedophilia in Australian history says she was later paid no further compensation by Graham Burke, the former Queensland premier at the centre of the case.
Jillian Jones, a journalist at the ABC’s ABC Brisbane, told the ABC the $500 she had previously offered Burke was “not enough”, and he subsequently “talked me into giving him a backhander on the story”.
Burke was charged with indecent treatment of a child and criminal damage to property after he admitted in January 2018 that he had sexually abused a girl aged 12 or 13 in Brisbane in the 1990s.
The charges relate to the alleged sex abuse of the young girl in June 1995 after Burke was introduced to her by his wife, Jillian, then aged 29.
Burke said the alleged abuse was the result of an “unwise friendship” and “improper and inappropriate behaviour”. He said he had no memory of the events in question.
Jillian Jones. Photograph: ABC
Jones, who has spent 15 years working in Queensland’s capital, spoke to more than 30 witnesses in her original coverage of the case.
“During the original investigation into Jonny Louise, I spoke to about 30 people about the case, my instinct was that there was more to the story than perhaps what had been reported,” she said.
“I was later told by the police that I was made aware of five suspects, possibly more. The fact that Burke was charged publicly and so publicly was nothing new, we knew that going in.
“Once that began, there was a push for further investigation and Burke was the only suspect that was charged publicly. I felt that there was more to the story than what we had reported and once that started I didn’t think that I could drop it.”
After the story ran in January Jones was approached by Burke and offered $500 for her report. Jones refused to accept because she felt the initial $500 would not cover her costs.
Burke eventually agreed on a reduced fee for the story, Jones said, which was in line with “the general rate” for Australian journalism. However, six months later Burke texted Jones with an offer of $3,000, which she refused. “It felt as though he was running a race with me to see who could offer the least amount of money,” she said.
Jones claims that in the final weeks of Burke’s time as premier there was a “groundswell of support” in the Liberal National party to get him out of parliament. After losing the party room, Burke resigned his seat and resigned his party membership. The allegations emerged on 5 January.
“For me, when Burke was found guilty, it was a quiet victory,” Jones said. “The way I know this is, and have always known this, is that it was a tactical decision by him and his wife to ride the story all the way out until he resigned because he knew he had to.
“His initial attempt to have me retract the story was galling, but then when I rejected his offer to pay me a backhander, we started to have a serious conversation about this man and how he had been treated in his lifetime.”
• This article was amended on 2 June 2019. The original sentence said Jillian Jones left the ABC. She left ABC Brisbane on 24 May 2018.