An Adelaide man working as a staffer for a Labor MP has been charged with child exploitation crimes. Ben Waters, 38, was sacked from his job in Hurtle Vale MP Nat Cook’s office after being arrested in a joint South Australian and the federal police investigation into child abuse. Ms. Cook said she was “shocked” to learn of the charges.
“Yesterday afternoon, I was advised by the South Australia Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (SA JACET) that one of my staff members was charged with child abuse-related offenses,” the MP said. “Naturally, my office has fully co-operated with Australian Federal Police and South Australia Police investigation and will continue to do so.
“As soon as I was made aware of the charges, I took immediate action and advised the Department of Treasury and Finance and requested that his employment be immediately terminated and that all access to buildings and IT be blocked.” She also said she told the Labor Party, which convened its state executive for an emergency meeting on Wednesday morning, during which Mr. Waters was expelled.
“As the matter is now before the Court, I am unable to make any further comment,” Ms. Cook said. Mr. Waters appeared in court on Wednesday and will do so again next week. He was charged with four counts of possessing child exploitation material, two of which were aggravated charges. He was also charged with one count of using a carriage service to produce child abuse material.
Police said they arrested Mr. Waters and another 37-year-old man on Tuesday after a separate investigation into a 39-year-old. They will allege their inquiries into the 39-year-old led them to discover records of online conversations about the sexual abuse of children the man had with a man from Melbourne. The Melbourne man’s devices were analyzed, which allegedly led investigators to discover links between him, the 37-year-old, and Mr. Waters.
Mr. Waters allegedly already knew the 37-year-old, who is from Port Lincoln. When a joint federal and state police officers searched Mr. Waters’ home, they reportedly found a “large amount” of child abuse material on a USB device. On a LinkedIn page bearing Mr. Waters‘ name and picture, he described himself as a person with a “keen interest in Australian and British national politics as well as international development and refugee issues”.
“Ben has previously worked in (a) variety of project, policy and political roles for Australian politicians and not-for-profit organizations,” the profile said. Among the previous employers, Mr. Waters listed were the UK Labour Party, where he said he worked as a campaigner during the 2015 general election, and the London Borough of Redbridge, where he said he was the head of the office of Labour councilor Jas Athwal. The LinkedIn page said he began working for Ms. Cook in June 2019.