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Ghost of NSW government past may haunt Gillard

State politics may prove a boon for Julia Gillard — look at Queensland’s troubled Coalition crew. But how much will the ghost of NSW Labor haunt Gillard, as ICAC continues?

Gillard a hit at community cabinet” was the AAP headline from last night’s forum in northern Brisbane where the Prime Minister was “warmly applauded” as she and her ministers dished it out to Campbell Newman’s government.

Quite a change from July, when the PM was heckled at a community cabinet in federal Labor MP Shayne Neumann’s seat of Blair.

One of the underappreciated factors in Paul Keating’s win in 1993 was that he had the new Kennett government to campaign against in Victoria and, to a lesser extent, John Fahey’s wounded post-Greiner government in NSW. Kennett and Keating later formed an uneasy kind of mutual appreciation society for crazy-brave reformists (and both loathed John Howard) but Kennett’s reforms, especially on industrial relations, made for a potent weapon for Labor in Canberra.

Now Newman is doing something similar for Julia Gillard, albeit with far less competence than Kennett displayed. Newman’s government appears to have gone straight to the constant scandal stage that usually only happens after a decade in power. As the NSW ALP so vividly demonstrated.

The NSW ALP was scandal-plagued while it was still in office, but only since its welcome demise has the full extent of its systemic corruption become apparent, to such an extent that it must now rival the Bjelke-Petersen era as the most corrupt of modern times. Moreover, the corruption wasn’t accidental; it wasn’t a couple of rotten apples, it was endemic and the product of the factional system within the party. And everyone knew about the malign influence of Eddie Obeid, which is why Bob Carr was desperate to drive him out of his ministry in 2003.

The party, in its last stages after Carr left, was a suppurating tumour on Australian public life. It ran the NSW economy, a third of the national economy, into the ground. It infected the rest of the ALP via two of the most ineptly cynical apparatchiks it had ever produced, Karl Bitar and Mark Arbib, who exported the NSW practice of knifing leaders, using internal party research against them and substituting releasing media statements for governing. It ripped off NSW taxpayers by blocking the privatisation of NSW electricity assets. And, we now discover, it was profoundly corrupt.

It took a massive election loss to start the process of excising this tumour, but John Robertson, a symbol of all that was wrong with the ALP in government, is, unbelievably, the parliamentary leader in opposition.

The question is, how much damage will the rotten NSW ALP inflict on federal Labor, even from beyond the grave? Between now and the election, NSW voters will be regularly reminded of just how corrupt Labor was in government. If the Commonwealth-state dynamic does, in contrast to 2010, play out in Labor’s favour at the next election, in NSW it must surely be offset by the drip-drip-drip of revelations about how profoundly, endemically corrupt a government could be.

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  • 1
    Edward James
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    When I consider party politics is a team activity. I question just how ignorant these team players can claim to be. Nathan (scurried like a rat) Rees was after all the Chief of staff to Milton (the Horrible) Orkopolous. Edward James

  • 2
    Barry Tucker
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Bernard, the headline (which you probably did not compose) has little to do with your story. Your story has little to do with the Federal Labor Parliamentary Party or the Prime Minister. Why are you drawing this long bow?

    As for the last par (not too sure what it means), perhaps the drip-drip-drip in NSW will be offset by the drip-drip-drip of revelations about the new LNP government in Qld. And who knows what else is to come in NSW and Vic?

    One thing is for sure, governments of all kinds everywhere (and their servants) seem to have their feet firmly planted in corruption.

  • 3
    Salamander
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    The fact that the NSW ALP is not in government makes a big difference to people’s attitudes in my view. In this instance Labor has already been kicked - out.

  • 4
    Edward James
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    It is certainly time for others to start asking questions about the probity of the NSW Coroners inquiry into the five wrongful deaths at Piles Creek Somersby. The findings of human error are based on the Coroners easy acceptance of information which can be demonstrated as misleading. Edward James

  • 5
    John Bennetts
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    The last couple of paras are entirely disconnected from the body of this opinion piece dressed up as reportage.

    What has Robertson done to deserve the slagging in the penultimate paragraph? He has very tenuous connections to Obeid, Arbib and Bitar, who operated very differently.

    I have every expectation that the current NSW Government, which has shown great talent when it comes to being able to achieve both little and late, will help Gillard’s cause greatly come election time.

  • 6
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    In the hope mother moderator may return from her afternoon siesta I would like to add to my previous post the following question. (I have little hope for the time before last it took 48 hours.)
    Why don’t Roosendahl and Tripodi get a mention Bernard?

  • 7
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    You have been around the lazy press gallery for far too long.

    Just because something is being brought to ICAC does not mean corruption actually happened.

    If it was criminal he would have been charged.

  • 8
    The Pav
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I suspect the events will aid Gillard.

    It will weaken the hold of the NSW Right so she won’t have to have that lead in in her saddlebag & can focus on doing what is the proper thing. I suspect her willingness for the new Royal Commission was aided by the fact that the NSW Right was in turmoil.

    Gillard will be able to dissociate her self ( after all she’s Victorian) from the events and will benefir from the fallout as BOF continues to slash & burn.

    Abbott hasd a greater probelm with Newman. Not only is Newman causing pain but the basis on which is doing it has been proven to be false and overlaid to that is the scandals. Two ministers in a few weeks good ‘eavens!

  • 9
    floorer
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Newman’s a gift. He might be lucky to hold his own seat even if the LNP win a second term.

  • 10
    michael crook
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    WE just hope that Campbell Nukeman doesn’t do a Barry o’Feral and have a royal commission into some of the dodgy contracts let by the Queensland Labor Government, I think that the levels of corruption in Queensland were a lot higher than generally supposed and the cozy relationship between then current and ex cabinet ministers with big business and mining was very questionable to say the least. Gordon Nuttall was the tip of the iceberg.

  • 11
    CML
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I think you are getting a little carried away, Bernard. I can’t agree with you lumping the NSW Labor government with that of the QLD NP under Bjelke-Petersen. In the current ICAC investigation, only a few ministers/MPs are being investigated. In Qld, the whole state was corrupt - the government, the judiciary, the police force and some sections of business. Totally different scenario.
    However, if you believe what you have written about NSW, how come Bob Carr gets such a good press? Surely, having presided over “gross corruption”, he should be the last person to be handed a senate position and the Foreign Affairs ministry on a plate!
    And to all those who think importing half the middle east into this country is a good idea, perhaps you could carefully study the names of those accused of gross corruption. There are a couple of European sounding names, I suppose……

  • 12
    Barry Tucker
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Michael Crook must be writing ironically. Corruption by any party or government must be investigated. It’s part of the reason why voters have become disinterested.

  • 13
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    The Corruption Commission in NSW will have wider implications, cause Bob Carr was Premier when their things took place, so when the electorate connects with that, its all over red rover for ALP in NSW. Hopefully ICAC and findings drag onto 2013, so that the full force will wack Gillard in marginal seats

  • 14
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    shepherdmarilyn you are a hoot. You are the type not to leave the beach unless the wave swamps you?

  • 15
    Tim Harper-Jones
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    This is what I took away from Bernard’s hastily cobbled together opinion piece.

    Joe Tripodi + Eddie Obeid = bad/corrupt therefore Robertson = bad/corrupt.

    Based on….what exactly?

  • 16
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Look anyone with half a brain knows that the Right Wing of NSW Labor are dominated, like the Right Wing of the NSW Liberals, by the same people who brought us the pervert priest scandal.
    Voters cannot have a clearer distinction than having an atheist PM.
    They all have the same modus operandi of a criminal organisation and share the same contempt for democracy.
    They learned at their special schools.
    And we think Muslim terrorists are a threat?
    Who is constantly feeding that smokescreen?

  • 17
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    … ah, why bother..?

  • 18
    MarkWW
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Unlike the so-called carbon tax, electricity privatisation was a 100% broken election promise that had very little support from the community, and was the beginning of the end for the ALP - in no small part because of the internal divisions that arose thereafter. It’s pretty rich to use ‘blocking privatization’ (Barry O’Farrell anyone?) as an example of how the ALP ‘ripped off’ the people of NSW.

    Talk of ‘running the state into the ground’ and constant assertions of endemic corruption is of a similar hue to the partisan journalism the NewsLtd propaganda rags engage in, that would have us believe that the Gillard Govt is waging class warfare and the price on CO2/MRRT is causing widespread damage to the economy - Despite evidence to the contrary.

    This type of aggro-journalism by assertion and/or innuendo is the less celebrated symptom of the so-called NSW disease, and it has spread nationwide throughout old and new media.

    If Mr Keane could actually provide one example of how Premier O’Farrell’s govt has actually ‘saved NSW from ruin’ or even ‘put NSW back on track’ rather than just piled spin on top of spin (Eg. Scrapping Part 3A and replacing with effectively the same), and made policy backflips and bad decisions an art form I’d be genuinely interested to hear his opinion. As it is, all I can get out of this article is that Mr Keane thinks that electricity privatisation is the only game in town, and the bees knees (Jeff/PJK crazy-brave reform anyone?) - Despite evidence to the contrary.

  • 19
    griffin27
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    It ripped off NSW taxpayers by blocking the privatisation of NSW electricity assets.” — Bernard, now who’s infected, in this case with privatisation zeal.

    Here is what Terry Cook says (Aug 2012), “In reality, the establishment of a national electricity market over the past two decades, initiated by the Labor government of Prime Minister Paul Keating in the 1990s, has been the main driving force of soaring prices.”

    Or Bruce Dinham on the SA privatisation, “… spawned a virtual parasitic army of regulators, lawyers, advertising agents, salespeople, advisors, consultants, financial traders and brokers …” (The Adelaide Review, 2003).

    A lot of what you write is very good, Bernard, but where is your evidence that the state would be so vastly better off by selling the electricity asset?

  • 20
    floorer
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    + a zillion griffin. No one used to talk about their power bills now it’s a common topic.

  • 21
    Damien
    Posted Friday, 16 November 2012 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    While the allegations before ICAC are disturbing, I don’t see any evidence of “systemic corruption” you describe to date, especially of a type that permeated the workingig of the Government routinely over time. Those people did some good things. Morris Iemma’s health and welfare reforms, especially radically increased funding for disability services were necessary and brave. Planning issues, on the other hand, were always, and remain, the bane of state government administration. By the same token, all parties have powerful factions that may work against having the best people in Cabinet. Just ask BOF about the malign influence of the religious right in the NSW Libs - not to mention the often unjustified regional handouts demanded by the Nats.

  • 22
    klewso
    Posted Friday, 16 November 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    What sort of party (considering what politics is sold as :-“altruistic people wanting to make a difference”; and how dependent on public image they are to even get elected) plumbs for this sort of moral cretinism to represent it?

    And don’t think for one moment this franchise is held by one side of our politics. For starters, take a look at what Santo “Claws” Santoro did in Canberra while he was on “holiday” there, and the power he wields now, behind the scenes in Queensland.

  • 23
    Hugh (Charlie) McColl
    Posted Friday, 16 November 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    CML, talk about getting “carried away”. You make it sound as though the whole of Queensland, every aspect of its government, judiciary, police and some business, was corrupt - under the Bjelke-Petersen government. That is, in comparison with the former NSW ALP government about which we are about to learn a whole lot more. Just wait. You may be surprised by how lily-white Joh begins to look in hindsight. Remember, he couldn’t even organise his own superannuation.

  • 24
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 19 November 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Barry Tucker comment 2. We the people know Labor from the top to the bottom federal State and Local is just no dam good! At this point in time the Liberal National Party is best positioned to replace Labor. Voters need to grasp the idea that to exercise the vote they need to get into the habit of numbering boxes below the line. In doing so they make their own will known. Gone are the days where blind party support disenfranchise honest constituents. Edward James

  • 25
    Harry Rogers
    Posted Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Just like people abandoned the National Party in Queensland under Petersen and the Labor Party in WA under Burke, its impossible to understand how anybody with a sense of morality (yes I know I’m probaly dreaming) can stand down wind of the NSW Labor party and register any kind of support to the Sussex St. mob beggars belief.

    Has this country sunk so low as to defend this abomination of NSW politics. If so the whole nation need to bow its head in shame.

  • 26
    Edward James
    Posted Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    We may read how hard Federal Labor party members are working at distancing themselves from the stench of systemic corruption emanating from their fellow Labor Party members lined up outside ICAC in NSW. Senator Bob Carr has claimed there was no corruption during his time as Labor Premier of NSW. It is on public record even a full page in the Bullitin your old employer. I spent years outside NSW Parliament Senator Carr. Identifying corruption in Gosford City Council. The sort of corruption which eventually resulted in the wrongful deaths of five people in a ditch a Piles Creek Somersby NSW. Identified as human error by the State Coroner who was misled. But thats another story Bob! Edward James

  • 27
    Edward James
    Posted Thursday, 29 November 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Bernard NSW Labor are perceived as the same political party. In fact you can be expected to some of them as married. Fine Edward James is telling you politicians have ignored my rights. What now do you grubs fall between loosing. Do you start undress nope but then i am a perve

  • 28
    Edward James
    Posted Thursday, 29 November 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Woops!!! Ghost of past corruption may well expose allegations of systemic corruption. I have identified corrupt conduct and given those those who should I write untouchables… Yeach right.

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