A new exhibition has just opened at Sydney Crime Museum containing the full report of the ground-breaking 1974 Moffitt Royal Commission, our first public inquiry into organised crime. Media reports by Bob Bottom, Tony Reeves and others had claimed the mafia had penetrated some of NSW’s many registered clubs. A reluctant police investigation first suggested this was true, then in its final report claimed it was not. The opposition claimed the government of Robert Askin had sought to cover up the situation, and Askin set up the royal commission to investigate and debunk this claim.
It did this – the royal commission found no evidence of any misbehaviour by the Askin government, or indeed any evidence of mafia involvement in clubs. But it did find a great deal of evidence suggesting local organised criminals, such as Lennie McPherson and Murray Riley, were ripping off some clubs, and that the police investigation had sought to hide this. It also found that senior police had assured government ministers that the investigation’s results could be trusted.
This was a turning point in public attitudes to the NSW Police Force, whose reputation would be shattered by subsequent revelations and royal commissions over the next twenty years. The report of the Moffitt royal commission makes compelling and disturbing reading, not least because no one was ever charged as a result of its findings.