EXCLUSIVE: Unfairly sacked, then badmouthed and left out to dry, a former Labor staffer has decided to unload with one truth bomb after the other about the internal workings of the federal ALP and its toxic culture of abuse and misogyny. Pierce Field with this warts-and-all exposé from the inside.
My name is Pierce Field. I was born in Sydney in June 1989 but spent most of my childhood in Forbes, a small shire of about 8500 people in Central West NSW.
I write the below to share my experiences growing up, my early career and working for the Australian Labor Party (ALP)
I come from a family with a loving mother, but an incredibly abusive father. From the day I was born, I was a target for my old man. For some reason, I still don’t know why, as he adored my three younger sisters.
It’s a tale that is sadly as old as time. I’m still not comfortable in putting a lot of it in writing as the perpetrator is still alive.
I don’t remember a lot of my childhood prior to turning 12 and starting high school. A lot of therapy and meditation is required for that one. But what I can write about is the experiences that I can remember, known by the community we lived in, or a matter of police or public record.
What I do remember is relocating from Oatley in the southern suburbs of Sydney to a small village called Bedgerabong (in Wiradjuri language it means’ big tree by the river’), 32km west of Forbes.
Little did I know at the time, that was my father’s attempt to control his wife and his children. Money was always tight and I had no idea why. I was banned from playing sport because I should be ‘mowing the lawns’ or some bullshit reason that didn’t make any sense. As a sports mad lad, that was hard to take. It was left to my mum to kick the footy with me in the backyard.
My old man was politically interested, as a staunch Labor voter. Naturally, the same interest fell to me from ten years old.
My parents split in 2001 and my mother moved us into Forbes so we were not so isolated.
That’s when the hell started for me. To say my father was butthurt that his victim dared to break off their marriage is an understatement.
It came to a head in September 2002 when after the multiple attempts at harassment and intimidation from my father towards my mother, I asked him to stop one Sunday afternoon on our weekly chat. It resulted in a tirade of abuse and threats on my own life.
The next thing I knew the police were at my house taking a statement from me. I had to take an apprehended violence order against my own father. I had stuck up from my mother and had my head blown off. I really struggled to deal with the trauma. It affected me at school. Suicide was a very real option for this lad and it only started to evaporate when I started Year 12 in 2006.
We didn’t talk about mental health the way we talk about it today. Especially in the bush. I thought I was weak. Luckily I had footy to look forward to on the weekends. Summers were hell. I didn’t want to socialise and I just sat at home or worked my backside off so I had some form of independence. Money has always been a toxic source of control in my family. I moved out of home as soon as I could and started working by myself in Sydney at the age of 17.
From a childhood perspective, as Forrest Gump would say, that’s all I have to say about that.
I have a lot of regrets in my life, but the one the stands out is downplaying my childhood trauma and not treating it. It came back to bite me on a few occasions in my twenties. Then blew up spectacularly at 32.
Almost 20 years later, in October 2021, I did the same thing for my friend Natalie Baini when I called former Workplace Relations Minister, and in my personal opinion, billionaire cockroach Craig Laundy. The same thing occurred This time, I lost everything. And I mean, everything.
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Friends I had for years, my income, my reputation and frankly, my mind. I couldn’t believe I had trusted certain journalists to accurately and fairly report on the matter. Instead, I woke to reports that I was under investigation to the Australian Federal Police and I was completely insane. Followed by a media blackout until True Crime News Weekly came knocking in November.
It was a shock, to say the least. And compounded thirty years of trauma. I nearly didn’t make it. In fact, had I not fled Australia, I doubt I would still be here.
I felt obligated not to conflate the issues that I had working for Senator Keneally and the Australian Labor Party – a party I had been a member of for over a decade and had volunteered and worked for, . An institution I truly believed in, and desperately thought Australia needed.
But as I write this from Quintana Roo in Mexico, I no longer care. In my view, the ALP are now the Government and it is on them to sort these issues out.
So, here it goes.
My introduction to politics was via the Australian Democrats. I was attracted to their ideals of truth and accountability, justice and freedom, the public good and a sustainable future.
I was preselected to run against future Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the 2007 election in the seat of Wentworth as an 18 year old. It was a lot of fun and a real eye-opener as the seat became marginal for the first time after a redistribution.
After the defeat of the Democrats I looked for a new political home. I was actively recruited into the NSW Young Liberals moderate wing. Matt Kean, the current NSW Treasurer was our friendly and charismatic leader.
Why the Libs? I thought the moderates were the closest thing to the Dems. After all, its where the party split from in 1977. What I did know, is I wanted nothing to do with NSW Labor.
Thirty year old me should have heeded the advice of 18 year old me. Maybe I wasn’t so dumb in my youth.
I remained relatively dormant in the NSW Young Libs – after all, I was too far left for them given I thought unions were in principal, a good thing. The election of Abbott as Opposition Leader was to much, and I resigned an hour after that party room meeting.
In the real world – after working a series of sales and administrative jobs in Sydney from ages 17-21, I landed my first career focused role with AFL Cairns in 2011 working as their Umpiring Development Manager. AFL Queensland recognised I had some potential and recruited me to Brisbane in 2012. I subsequently joined Queensland Labor in 2012 after meeting some legends in Cairns and in the South-East.
I could write another 5000 words on my experiences at the AFL, but that’s a story for another day. But at this point I had a great boss who saw some potential in me – and by December 2015 had just landed a job as the competition manager for the Sunshine Coast Juniors competition.
It was at this point now Treasurer and Member for Rankin, Jim Chalmers asked me to apply for a job in his office. We had met at factional events and during my first full state election campaign for a seat that overlapped his in 2015.
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It was the opportunity of a lifetime I knew I couldn’t forgo – the rising star of the QLD Right, whom had been touted even back then as someone with prime ministerial potential. That, and the $25 000 pay rise. The AFL then, and to this day, commit wage theft on a royal scale by exploiting your passion for the game.
Some days, I wish I had stayed with the AFL and just moved to Maroochydore and spent a few years by the beach. But life has a funny way of taking us in different directions.
So, I quit my job and started working for Chalmers in his predominately working-class seat. Centred around Woodridge and Logan Central, it was an eye-opener. Never had I seen poverty on such a wide scale. Nor did I see women coming into our office on a regular basis trying to find a place to live after escaping their abusive partners. It really hit me – due to my own personal experiences as a child.
“Sex pest”: Treasurer Jim Chalmers threatened to sue True Crime News Weekly with defamation if we published a story about him being at the centre of sexual harassment claims (Image: Supplied)
Left out of Labor but toxic culture continues: Sam Dastyari (Image: Supplied)
I also met the best grassroots Party members you could ever meet and I learned so much from our then office manager. She gave me a real schooling in the local community but ultimately she too was struggling with the way Chalmers would treat his staff.
But my job was to try and make Jim look good. We had ups and downs. The first half of the year was focused on the 2016 election where despite having Bill Shorten as leader, our team delivered Jim the safest Labor seat in Queensland with a margin of 10.6%. Even outdoing the great campaigner, Member for Oxley and now Speaker of the House of Representatives, Milton Dick. But from the moment I started working for the now-Treasurer my health started to decline. I gained weight and had to go back on anti-depressants. I felt so stupid on so many occasions.
I also felt on top of the world when Jim would complement my work or our team. And when we were out in the community you could see the love and admiration our constituents had for him.
After the election it got worse. Jim had been promoted to the Shadow Cabinet as the Shadow Finance Minister and the office began to deteriorate despite the extra staffing. The amazing way my colleagues were able to serve and help our constituents is really a credit to their own resilience.
The issue was no leadership from the boss. He simply didn’t know how to manage a team. And in reality, the way our employment agreements are set up, the buck stopped with him. But instead of accepting responsibility, he would simply blame others.
Or, for example, I remember a trip to Ikea in Springwood for their 10th anniversary or something like that. I was on edge as I usually was when I went to events, because if I didn’t get the right photos on a particular angle that didn’t make his nose look big (and that was hard work), I knew my afternoon would be hell.
We were walking away from the event and I had tried to talk to him about a work matter and he just interrupted me and said ‘yeah but the bigger problem here is why you didn’t get numbers from those three hotties we met?.’
I was baffled. That was his priority? He surely knew his staff were struggling to keep up with his demands. It only started to make sense five years later when I discovered he was one of the worst offenders in Canberra when it comes to sexually harassing women.
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I left the office just before Christmas in 2016 because the suicidal thoughts were back. I had started seeing a psychologist but it wasn’t working. Instead of trying to find someone I clicked with better I gave up and tried to manage myself.
It was at that point I knew I needed to return to Sydney and it just so happened a job was available with the AFL back in umpire development. It was my ticket out and I was stoked and excited to return to my former passion and coach the group I umpired in myself.
I left Jim’s office on good terms. He understood why I needed to do what I needed to do and even interrupted me when I apologised for what I thought was a poor tenure: ‘Mate, when you are at 100%, you are brilliant. Don’t ever think otherwise’.
So back down south I went. I worked hard at the AFL and was promoted twice within two years – becoming the country’s youngest ever State Umpiring Manager at the age of 29 at the beginning of 2019. I had a torrid year that year where I was asked to complete three different full time roles with little to no support from the NSW/ACT leadership team.
Taking advantage: Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic (Image: Supplied)
“Hitting on” and getting on: Minister for Industrial Relations Tony Burke (Image: Supplied)
When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, like thousands of other Australians I was put on standdown by the AFL. It was the first time I had no work and it forced harsh reflection of what I was doing and where I was going. I knew after the way I was treated by the AFL in 2019/20 I wanted to leave – and my psychologist at the time agreed with me.
I cold called Senator Keneally’s office offering my services as a volunteer. It was here where I spoke to Keneally’s former Chief of Staff, Chris Owens for the first time. He was an old friend of Jim’s having worked together under Julia Gillard’s government. To my shock and delight, Jim provided me with a fantastic reference and next thing I knew I had a full time job till the end of the 2020 FY – whilst I waited for the AFL to figure out what they were doing.
After a month working with Keneally’s team I felt like a brand new man. I was supported and praised for the work I did, despite having to learn a whole new portfolio. The Senator was the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Immigration and Citizenship – meaning we were dealing with the fall out of the Morrison Government’s cruel border closures leaving thousands of temporary migrants and Australians, locked out of the country.
As the only full time electorate officer I was the only resource out of nine dedicated to serving constituents. It was tough, but it felt like I was actually doing something positive and useful.
It was here that I grew tired of the AFL’s gaslighting of loyal staff and I had discovered that Senator Keneally was in the United Services Union (USU) – which had coverage of sports administrators. After a chat, the Senator made a call to union secretary Graeme Kelly and within two days I had received a call from one of the union organisers that had been champing at the bit for years to crack sport. Despite all the crap, we remain friends to this day.
I knew once I had started to unionise the AFL would have it out for me in their usual subtle yet obvious manner. It’s just the nature of dealing with average administrators that think they know all. With Owens very pleased with my performance and my willingness to take feedback and learn, he and the Senator offered me a job for as long as I wanted.
During this period in 2020 I had maintained my friendship with Natalie Baini who had become like a big sister to me. Baini had sought preselection for the seat of Reid for the Liberal Party in 2019 however was overlooked by Scott Morrison’s office for Dr Fiona Martin.
It also just so happened that the Senator’s duty electorate included that same marginal seat, and I was responsible for developing the campaign infrastructure for the 2022 election.
This included a one-hour meeting with Sam Crosby, the former Labor candidate for Reid in 2019. Hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless volunteer hours went into his campaign, yet Crosby was still sooking about the loss twelve months later.
Neither Party office or Crosby bothered to complete a review. That responsibility fell to me. Crosby blamed the Shorten factor, however I have since learned people saw through the blow-in residency status, claiming he was a ‘genuine local’. It was downright childish and branch members should be very wary of where Crosby and his wife Rose Jackson move to in Sydney.
It literally has to be one of the worst power couples in Australian politics. They lost to another blow-in that was preselected a month out prior to the election.
Midway through my second contract I was still very happy in my role despite the emotional stress that was associated with it. I did have problems with one staffer, who I thought was a gaslighting bully. His name is Tim Dunlop, formerly the producer of the Kyle and Jackie-O show for Austereo.
Anecdotally, neither Kyle Sandilands, Jackie-O or Rove McManus have nothing good to say about Dunlop.
One of my colleagues who I had struck up a close friendship with had told me about the bullying she had endured by Dunlop and other male members of our team, including Owens. It was a shocking revelation but it was something I had to manage internally.
I was made redundant by the AFL in October 2020. I was happy to be out of the organisation after I blew the whistle on the way women and staff were treated. My bosses were very proud of the work I had achieved – in fact I recall the Senator laughing at the ‘look on Gil McLachlan’s face’ when he would of read the first article in the Herald Sun about a union finally cracking the AFL.
My personality is an activist type. It’s something that I have fought for years but when I realised this is just who I am, and that the world has people like me in it for a reason, I thought I had finally found my home and the idealist in me was becoming fulfilled.
It wasn’t to last.
The first time I detected the ALP were protecting it’s creeps was when Tim Dunlop ‘resigned’ from his position in December 2020. After he was on a week’s leave, we were called into a meeting saying he had resigned as he wanted to ‘pursue other challenges’. This was odd given Dunlop’s obsession with winning government.
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Later I learned it was because he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman. A senior member of our office gave him a stellar reference so he could land a cushy job with NSW Health.
The second time was after the news broke in February 2021 about the alleged rape of Brittney Higgins by former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann, as first exclusively revealed by True Crime News Weekly. The revelations shocked every single staffer to the core. But it wasn’t just a Liberal Party issue.
The treatment of Ms Higgins sent shockwaves through every parliamentary office and their staffers. Little did I know, despite our grandstanding – the Labor Party were just as guilty of covering up and protecting the perpetrators of the same conduct.
Samantha Maiden’s article made that very clear when Labor women came forward expressing their outrage, threatening to un-shield their perpetrators.
It was the beginning of the end for me. I couldn’t fathom how the party I had loyally served for nearly a decade, that were supposedly the good guys, carried on in the same way the Liberal Party did.
And what’s worse, we acted like nothing was wrong.
I learned from a former senior press gallery journalist that my former boss, Jim Chalmers, was a ‘sexpest’ and it was only a matter of time before someone came forward.
I was shocked. A guy that I had spent so much time serving and breaking my backside to make look good was literally in Canberra carrying on like a pig. All on taxpayer money.
So I had a chat with Owens because I was so shook. He told me I had done the right thing by bringing it forward and said he would have a chat to the Senator about the matter.
I never received a response or a reply. Later I figured out it was because they were mates. Neither Owens or Keneally cared.
The audacity of Anthony Albanese and Federal Labor in pursuing the then Government on these matters was to put mildly, horrendously hypocritical.
Keneally was on the front foot media wise delivering blow after blow to Morrison.
My female friends in the ALP were shaking their heads in disbelief. I have so much respect for these women – they put the party ahead of their own welfare in nearly every instance.
But nothing was done by Labor. There were talkfests, but no real action.
At this point I learned it wasn’t just Chalmers. The following names were the alleged creeps I learned about, who allegedly took advantage of their positions to hit on and harass impressionable young women, and I imagine this is the tip of the iceberg:
Minister for Industrial Relations and Member for Watson – Tony Burke
Minister for Industry and Science and Member for Chifley – Ed Husic
Former NSW Senator and NSW Labor Secretary – Sam Dastyari
New look but same old toxic culture? Anthony Albanese knows Labor has a problem (Image: Supplied)
There was no action against these men. Nothing. Why? Because you can’t lose half your frontbench and the NSW Right are the most powerful faction in the Federal caucus.
And the party’s primary source of income, their affiliated unions such as the AWU and TWU, have a systemic problem with the treatment of women, bullying and sexual harassment and assault.
Money always wins.
It was after this point, Baini revealed to me the issues she had faced with the NSW Liberal Party, former Principal Private Secretary to Scott Morrison, Yaron Finklestein, and Craig Laundy.
I personally believe to this day Finklestein is the chief architect of the cover-up of the alleged rape of Brittney Higgins. Just an opinion, but the evidence points in this direction.
I raised the concerns with Owens. Once again he said he would raise it with the Senator. I was actively ignored.
Now I know why. Laundy and Keneally are mates. Their kids went to Joeys together.
To put the icing on top, by May 2021, Keneally and Owens successfully bullied two women from our office into a mental breakdown. What can you do?
The same month the Upper Hunter by-election was held in New South Wales. It was the catalyst for the downfall of NSW Labor’s first democratically elected leader, Jodi McKay.
The gutless wonder that is the Member for Kogarah and current NSW Opposition Leader, Chris Minns, along with Gerard Hayes from the Health Services Union, claimed McKay had no direction and no policy.
What they didn’t mention was they were white-anting since her election as leader. Using a by-election loss for a seat that was never held by Labor just shows that it’s still white, union hacks that control NSW Labor.
Throw in rich Eastern Suburbs private school girl and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wannabe, Rose Jackson, and the deal was done.
It was bastardry in its finest format.
Over a year later and the Minns / Jackson led party still has no policy. Except free chargers at Town Hall station. I really hope that was worth selling out your loyal membership base that hand out for you each election without fail.
Keneally was also involved. I put my concerns to her as a party member and was met with the same lines Hayes and Minns were peddling out.
Elite Labor always win. It’s the term I use for those who carry on like the entitled brats found on the other side of politics – like Angus Taylor, Alan Tudge and Josh Frydenberg.
And this was the beginning of the end of my career as a Labor staffer. Was I idealistic, or just naïve? Probably both. You can judge for yourself in Part II.
WRITER’S NOTE: If this story has raised any issues for you, help is always there. Lifeline saved my skin on more than one occasion – they can be called on 13 11 44.
Medicare now subsidises 20 psychologist sessions per year – you can visit any GP to request a mental-health plan. For those who are struggling to make ends meet, bulk-billing services are also available (albeit limited).
You are never alone. Don’t delay – get help today.
mate this bloke is an A grade arsehole and taking his case is akin to give dracula a reference for a job at the blood bank, as an avid reader of true crime week I`m bitterly disappointed that it would be sucked into this blokes bullshit, he changes sides more often than Rumania in the last war.
Sorry for your early traumatic experiences Pierce. I have read it quickly once, and will have to read it again to try to make more sense of your story but wow it’s a mish mash of words and thoughts. Not very coherent or informative. You might have to work a bit harder on your writing style Pierce if you really want to be a successful freelance journalist, I don’t think this article will do it.
Brian Crooks, changing sides isn’t a bad thing if you are pursuing something that is right and just.
Loyalty to the point of turning a blind-eye is far more dangerous.