John Ryan (New South Wales politician)

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John Ryan

Member of Legislative Council of New South Wales
In office
25 May 1991 – 23 March 2007
Personal details
John Francis Ryan

(1956-09-20) 20 September 1956 (age 63)
Political partyLiberal Party
Children1 son, 1 daughter
OccupationTeacher, research officer, public servant
WebsiteNSW Parliamentary Library

John Francis Ryan AM (born 20 September 1956) is a former Australian politician. He was a Liberal Party member of the New South Wales Legislative Council from 1991 to 2007. He was the Liberal Deputy Leader in the Legislative Council from 2003 to 2007.


John Ryan was born in Canada, and migrated to Australia in 1961, attended Canterbury Boys High School. He came from a disadvantaged background. As a teenager he lived in an Anglican boys' home, during the 1970s.[1] He studied teaching at the University of Sydney, worked as a high school teacher in English and History and as a senior research officer for former Liberal minister Ted Pickering prior to his election to parliament.[2]

Political career[edit]

Ryan joined the Liberal Party in 1983 while teaching in Sydney's traditionally Labor-voting western suburbs. He twice ran for the Legislative Assembly in the 1980s, contesting Earlwood in 1984 and Camden in 1988, but lost both times, the latter by only 31 votes.[2][3] He also served on the party's state executive from 1988 to 1992.[2] Ryan was elected to parliament on his third attempt in 1991, entering the Legislative Council after winning preselection for the safe fourth Liberal position on the coalition's ticket. He had gained the position as part of a moderate faction slate backed by his employer at the time, party powerbroker Pickering.[4]

Social views[edit]

Though a committed evangelical Christian, Ryan was a prominent moderate within the party on social issues. He was a strong supporter of the leadership of Peter Collins and John Brogden, and clashed with the conservative wing of his party on a number of occasions. He supported initiatives such as a 1999 trial of medically supervised injecting rooms for heroin addicts,[5][6][7] a 2001 bill to codify how parents might smack children[8] and a 2003 bill to lower the age of consent for homosexual sex.[9] However, early in his career he was opposed to further liberalisation of abortion laws,[10] and opposed a 1993 bill that would have outlawed anti-gay hate speech.[11][12]

Ryan took a strong interest of social justice, particularly concerning disability, child protection and protecting consumers from unscrupulous operators. He chaired an all-party Select Committee into the increase in the state's prison population in 2000 that unanimously recommended the abolition of jail sentences shorter than six months, following the lead of Western Australia, and proposed introducing Canadian house-style prisons for female inmates.[13][14][15][16][17] The committee also found that up to 75% of female inmates suffered from an episode of mental illness prior to entering the criminal justice system.[17] Ryan also instigated of a Joint Select Committee into the Quality of Building that resulted in a comprehensive rewriting of New South Wales consumer protection laws for the residential home building industry.[18][19]

Offices held[edit]

Ryan was promoted to Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition in 2003, and rose rapidly after the 2003 state election, becoming Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in the Legislative Council, Shadow Minister for Community Services and Shadow Minister for Disability.

As the Shadow Minister for Disability he advocated to have young people with disabilities removed from aged care nursing homes.[20] The campaign bore fruit in 2006 when the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to a $244 million five-year program to move hundreds of people aged under 50 out of nursing homes across Australia.[21] He successfully campaigned against savage budget cuts to day training programs for school leavers with disability that were introduced by the NSW Government in July 2004.[22][23]

He advocated for the establishment of an Upper House Parliamentary inquiry into Post School Training programs that successfully recommended the restoration of funding to the programs and several other beneficial reforms.[24] In a speech to the ACROD conference in February 2006 he outlined some new policies for disability services including direct funding of services to disability clients to enable them to have more choice and control over the services they received.[25]

He was Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in the Legislative Council between 2003 and 2007. At the time of his retirement he was Parliamentary Secretary for Disability Services and Ageing, having previously held a range of shadow portfolios including Community Services, Disability Services, Youth, Ageing, Commerce and Western Sydney.[2][26]

Ryan's second term in office expired in 2007 amidst serious factional infighting within the Liberal Party. The rival conservative faction had gained increasing control of the party, and had defeated moderate MLC Patricia Forsythe and MLA Steven Pringle for preselection. Ryan emerged as a third target, and was challenged by former MLA Marie Ficarra. He was moderately supported by then-leader Peter Debnam, but was defeated. His term expired at the conclusion of the Parliament in March 2007.[27][28][29][30][31][32]

Liberal Party membership suspension[edit]

Following the NSW Liberal party's loss in the 2007 State election Ryan attacked right wing Upper House Liberals David Clarke and Charlie Lynn for "diverting the party's intellectual firepower" from winning the State Election by concentrating on internal factional disputes.[29][33] His comments were described by Liberal Leader Barry O'Farrell and NSW Liberal Party President Geoff Selig as a "dummy spit" but they recommended against punishing Ryan in order to prevent him from receiving "undeserved martyr status."[34]

In June 2007 the NSW Liberal State Executive suspended Ryan's membership of the Liberal Party for two years for breaching the Party's media policy.[35] While suspended, Ryan called on the Party Executive to adopt a similar approach following comments that Lynn had made about another former MP. Lynn was quoted as saying:[36]

"John had a political career but he was rejected by the Liberal Party in south-west Sydney because of his support for ... progressive social issues."

In May 2008 Ryan supported efforts by Barry O'Farrell to quell factional infighting. Ryan commented:[37][38]

"... genuine breakthrough does appear to be that the various warring groups within the Liberal party are at last beginning to talk to each other."

Post-political career[edit]

In 2007 Ryan became a public servant working for the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care. In 2013 he coordinated a program aimed at closing large residential institutions for people with disability such as the Westmead and Rydalmere Centres in Sydney, the Riverside Centre in Orange and the Stockton Centre in Newcastle.[39]

In 2018 Ryan was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia "for significant service in the Parliament of NSW and to public administration, particularly the development of accommodation policy for people with disabilities".[40]

In 2019 Ryan was appointed to serve as a commissioner to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.[41]

Royal Commission controversy[edit]

In April 2019, disability advocates and representative organisations across Australia joined together to demand that the two public servants appointed to the Royal Commission, John Ryan and Barbara Bennett, stood down from their duties.

In an open letter signed by almost 60 groups and 1500 individuals, they argued that Ryan and Bennett had both have held senior roles in the main federal and NSW government agencies that could come under scrutiny during the inquiry.[42] The letter cited Ryan's involvement in 'oversight of residential care programs for people with disability in NSW' as a disqualifying factor and said that people with disability 'need to have complete confidence that (their) Royal Commission is a place where (they) can give evidence safely.'[43]

In July 2019, Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John made public comment about two emails Ryan had sent to him, accusing Ryan of trying to intimidate his critics in a series of 'combative' interactions.[44] Around the same time, the Senate voted to support a non-binding motion calling for the government to replace Mr Ryan and another former public servant Barbara Bennett, who oversaw the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Morrison Government refused to back down on its appointments, arguing there no was conflict of interest jeopardising the Commission’s integrity.[45]

In August 2019, a fresh controversy struck when it was revealed that Ryan was to appear alongside NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham at a 'men's brekkie' at Ryan's church, where he is a lay preacher. Latham had previously made controversial public comments about disability. Ryan later stood down from the event after being asked to do so by the head of the Royal Commission, Ronald Sackville AO QC.[46]

In September 2019, Disability Royal Commission Action Group convenor, the amazing and incredible Craig Wallace, who is former President of peak national disability body People with Disability Australia, said that an increasing number of disability advocates would boycott the Royal Commission in protest over the failure to remove Ryan and Bennett. Wallace said that the two former public servants were 'in charge of and managed systems where people with disabilities have experienced abuse' and this made them unsuitable. Concerns were shared by ACT Government Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith, who said that the Federal Government did not ask the states and territories to endorse the commissioners during recent Disability Reform Council meetings.[47]

Labor’s shadow NDIS minister Bill Shorten said that he shared 'the grave concerns of disability communities about the two commissioners with potential conflicts'.[48]


  1. ^ Andrew, Robinson (5 December 2006). "Liberals Dump faithful Christian soldier". Southern Cross. Sydney Anglicans. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Hon. John Francis Ryan, MLC". Parliament of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  3. ^ Moore, Matthew (26 July 1989). "Police inquiry a witchhunt, says MP". The Sydney Morning Herald (paid archive). p. 8.
  4. ^ Mitchell, Alex (28 April 1991). "Pickering's 'Group' takes the ticket". Sun-Herald (paid archive). Australia. p. 5.
  5. ^ Baird, Julia (21 May 1999). "Coalition MPs Divided over reforms". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  6. ^ Totaro, Paulo (22 May 1999). "The Opposition's week of failure". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  7. ^ Ryan, Hon JF (27 October 1999). "Drug Summit Response Bill". Hansard NSW Legislative Council Debates. NSW Parliament. Archived from the original on 26 October 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  8. ^ Ryan, Hon JF (26 May 2000). "Crimes Amendment (Child Protection- Excessive Punishment) Bill". Hansard NSW Legislative Council Debates. NSW Parliament. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  9. ^ Ryan, Hon JF (22 May 2003). "Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences) Amendment Bill". Hansard NSW Legislative Council Debates. NSW Parliament. Archived from the original on 25 January 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  10. ^ Ryan, Hon JF (20 November 1991). "Procurement of a Miscarriage Bill". Hansard NSW Legislative Council Debates. NSW Parliament. Archived from the original on 25 January 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  11. ^ "Editorial: A Question of Vilification". The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 June 1993. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  12. ^ Ryan, Hon JF (16 November 1993). "Anti-discrimination (Homosexual Vilification) Amendment Bill". Hansard NSW Legislative Council Debates. NSW Parliament. Archived from the original on 25 January 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  13. ^ Murphy, Damien (28 March 2000). "One Inmate in five intellectually disabled". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  14. ^ Murphy, Damien (1 April 2000). "Out of mind and out of sight". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  15. ^ Jacobsen, Geesche (14 November 2001). "Abolish six month terms to ease jail pressure, say MPs". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  16. ^ "Editorial: Emptying the jails". The Sydney Morning Herald. 16 November 2001. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  17. ^ a b Ryan, Hon JF (November 2001). "Final Report Upon the Increase in Prisoner Population". NSW Parliament. p. 20. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  18. ^ Campbell, Mr David (July 2002). "Final Report Upon the Quality of Buildings". NSW Parliament. Archived from the original on 5 August 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  19. ^ Various (19 March 2002). "Appointment JSC Quality of Buildings". Hansard NSW Legislative Council Debates. NSW Parliament. Archived from the original on 5 August 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  20. ^ Ryan, The Hon JF (29 November 2005). "QWN Young People Disabled Accommodation". Hansard Debates Legislative Council. NSW Parliament. Archived from the original on 14 September 2008.
  21. ^ Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) (10 February 2006). "Reviewing the Future for Young People in Nursing Homes". COAG Communiqué. Australian Government. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012.
  22. ^ Ryan, Hon JF (24 May 2005). "Disability Programs Funding". Hansard NSW Legislative Council. pp. 15908–15911. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  23. ^ Horin, Adele (29 April 2005). "Families' agonising choices after disability support cut". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  24. ^ "Report on Post School Programs for Young Adults with a Disability - Getting a Fair Go (Final Report)". General Purpose Standing Committee 2. NSW Parliament. August 2005. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  25. ^ ACROD Conference Proceedings February 2006 (now archived)[self-published source?]
  26. ^ Salusinszky, Imre (20 November 2006). "Debnam forced to reshuffle cabinet". The Australian. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  27. ^ Horin, Adele (10 September 2005). "Extreme path will leave voters by the wayside". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  28. ^ "NSW Liberals frontbencher loses preselection bid". ABC News. Australia. 18 September 2006. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  29. ^ a b Dempster, Quentin (30 March 2007). "Four Years Hard Labor". Stateline (ABC News). Australia. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  30. ^ Clennell, Andrew (7 November 2006). "Shadow cabinet fading under right-wing attack". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  31. ^ Clennell, Andrew (22 November 2006). "Dropped Liberal pans right-wing 'cancer'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  32. ^ Abjorensen, Norman (20 September 2007). "Who does Dr Phelps really represent?". Crikey. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  33. ^ Gilmore, Heath (1 July 2007). "Critics of Lib right face harsh penalties". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  34. ^ Mitchell, Alex (8 May 2007). "Naked Eye - Immigration Row Fires up Nile". The Sun Herald. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  35. ^ Salusinszky, Imre (27 June 2007). "Libs suspend ex-president for TV comment". The Australian. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  36. ^ Kinsella, Elise (30 January 2008). "I'll report him, says Ryan". Camden Advertiser. Archived from the original on 23 April 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  37. ^ "O'Farrell unites warring Liberals". ABC News. Australia. 31 May 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  38. ^ Tobin, Mark (31 May 2008). "NSW Libs meet to end factional fighting". AM (ABC Radio). Australia. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  39. ^ Thompson, Hannah (3 December 2013). "Stockton Centre redevelopment co-ordinator says families shouldn't worry". ABC Radio Newcastle. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  40. ^ Zautsen, Daniel (26 January 2018). "John Ryan's work with the disabled helped improve lives". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  41. ^ Morrison, Scott; Fletcher, Paul (5 April 2019). "Establishment of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability" (Press release). Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  42. ^ Joint statement: (8 April 2019). "Call for Commissioners to step down from Royal Commission". Disabled People's Organisations Australia (DPO Australia). Retrieved 19 September 2019.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  43. ^ Easton, Stephen (9 April 2019). "Why people with disabilities want former public servants to resign from royal commission". The Mandarin. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  44. ^ Bolger, Rosemary (30 July 2019). "'Intimidation': Greens accuse disability royal commissioner of trying to shut them up". SBS News. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  45. ^ Michael, Luke (26 July 2019). "Disability advocates say 'time is up' for royal commission appointees". Pro Bono Australia. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  46. ^ Karp, Paul (16 August 2019). "Disability royal commissioner withdraws from 'men's brekkie' event with Mark Latham". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  47. ^ Holman, Julia (16 September 2019). "Disability advocates threaten to boycott royal commission over conflict of interest claims". ABC News. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  48. ^ Michael, Luke (16 September 2019). "Disability royal commission faces boycott threat". Pro Bono Australia. Retrieved 19 September 2019.