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Feb 6, 2013

Eddie has Labor in his grip and will carry it to its doom

While innocuous, Tony Burke and Stephen Conroy's contacts with Eddie Obeid symbolise how NSW Labor is likely to drag the Federal party to its doom this year.

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Yesterday might have been the first time federal Labor figures were dragged directly into the Eddie Obeid-Ian Macdonald saga currently playing before the corruption commission in Sydney, but for many months Obeid and the NSW Labor culture he represents has had federal Labor’s fate in his clutches. Together with Macdonald he’ll almost certainly carry it to its doom in September.

Labor’s current polling is, in anyone’s language, dire; its momentum in the second-half of 2012 has faded and while it’s no longer at the absolute nadir it reached in 2011 and early 2012, it’s still well short of being competitive on its primary vote.

But even if Labor could lift its national share of the primary vote — to say 38% or a little higher, the sort of territory where it starts to become competitive with Greens preferences — NSW will kill it. It is facing the loss of a number of seats in that state. The toxicity of the NSW Labor brand is the key reason — although the Liberal Party’s under-performance in 2010, which cost Tony Abbott the prime ministership, also means there’ll be a rebound there against Labor.

The core of Labor’s problem is that, without a Liberal Party meltdown, there just aren’t enough seats elsewhere in Australia to make good the losses Labor will suffer in NSW. It may pick up seats in Queensland, where the LNP overperformed in 2010 and where Campbell Newman is alienating voters in droves. It might pick up a seat or two in net terms in Victoria. It may come out even or lose one in Tasmania and will probably stay on level terms in South Australia and Western Australia. But even if Julia Gillard manages to pull Labor back to level pegging, NSW looks like it will kill her government.

That can be sheeted home directly to the NSW branch and its antics in government, from the rotating premiership to the power privatisation debacle to the long series of scandals and now, the biggest one of all, allegations of truly staggering malfeasance. And the Obeid family’s performance under the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s scrutiny will only make voter impressions worse.

Tony Burke and Stephen Conroy’s enjoyment of Obeid hospitality was undoubtedly innocuous from their point of view and may indeed have been below the threshold of what’s reportable under the respective disclosure requirements of the House of Representatives and Senate. Indeed, Burke may not have even been in federal Parliament when he took advantage of one of the Obeid family’s apparently limitless collection of properties.

Instead, it’s a potent symbol of how hard federal Labor will find it to escape the toxic legacy of its years in government in NSW. Having handed Barry O’Farrell victory in 2011, NSW Labor appears set to ensure, no matter how well federal Labor performs, that Tony Abbott secures victory later this year. The only risk for the Liberals is if someone on their side has had dealings with the Obeids and becomes an Ian Campbell-style casualty in the rush to judgment.

If only Labor had an alternative leader who was fixed in the public mind as someone profoundly at odds with Labor powerbrokers …

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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34 thoughts on “Eddie has Labor in his grip and will carry it to its doom

  1. Liz45

    I find it very interesting the contrast the ICAC Inquiry and the allegedly crooked Obeid etc, but have to recall the lack of the same media’s reporting of the AWB Scandal? Not only did all Fed Govt people (Howard, Downer, Vaile and people who worked in Foreign Affairs) repeat ad nauseum that they ‘couldn’t recall’? Not one of them have been charged with anything, and the amount of money was over $300 MILLION of OUR money paid to Saddam Hussein? An awful scandal one would think? Nup! Not really was MSM’s response!

    I wonder who people in the NSW Govt and the No-Alition met with 8 years ago? Wow! Who did I meet with 8 yrs ago, and were they squeaky clean?

    Imagine if the tables were turned, and Thomson was a No-Alition person? I’m quite content to wait for the EVIDENCE to come out in the trial or pre hearing or ????I’m not convinced of his guilt, particularly when I hear his Lawyer state that one of the charges is for a $12 ice cream? AND the comment on the National News for the rest of the day that he was charged was just plain WRONG! Thomson did NOT refuse to avail himself for interview etc? The Police person corrected that statement yesterday, or was it the day before? Too late! Damage done as was the intention! The Police in bed with the Coalition it would seem? Now fancy that?

    I have no time for the Obeids of this world – but at least I DON’T discriminate along party lines!

    It’s interesting, that with so many apparent legal people on the No-alition front bench, they don’t even know the protocols of a person charged with crimes let alone the most important presumption of innocence doctrine!

    I find Brandis as repugnant as Abbott, Ruddock and Obeid! All corrupt and will prostitute our justice system when it suits them! How disgusting!

  2. Liz45

    @shepherdmarilyn – Sorry Marilyn – of course you’re right! I understand about the Iraqis, and because of us, they’re still suffering! I also know of the 500,000 children who died due to the sanctions that we agreed to! There’s more than 1-5 million of them dead now, and who knows how many Afghanis? I’d say that 500,000 wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Of course, we don’t even have the decency to keep a ‘body count’?

    @JM – Do you live in NSW? I do, and I’m really pissed off that prior to the election, O’Farrell clearly stated that there’d be NO coal seam gas mining in water catchment areas.

    What’s happened now? He’s gone back on his word big time. all along the escarpment of the Illawarra are water catchment areas that feed local dams with out drinking water. To even walk in these areas brings a fine in excess of $40,000, BUT if you look at the areas that either have a licence or can apply for one, it’s right along that same area.

    Keep in mind that the mining companies have to cut down trees to enable their trucks and other equipment in; then add the 1 square kilometer (at least) for the drilling equipment, then factor in the gross LACK of scientific investigation of the dangers, and what do you have? The very real risk that aquifers and dams via the catchment areas contaminated by the toxins used to explore for gas!

    What makes the O’Farrell Govt really clever is the fact that they haven’t introduced Legislation into the Parlt. What this means is there’s no real Law or Act to use as legal challenge. Then, in order to cover all bases, they’ve removed the funding to the Environment body that concerned citizens/groups could enable so they could (with financial assistance from this body)take the Govt to Court? How’s that for cleverness! Oh yes, there’s the cut to Education of $1.7 billion over the next 4 years?

    Those who can’t wait for Abbott to win Govt should keep in mind what the Victorian, NSW, Qld, WA and now the NT Govt are doing to peoples’ jobs and the areas in which they live! If you vote for Abbott, you’ll be responsible for job losses, a cut in funds to health and education, the further ruin of sole parents and others on Centrelink payments etc! I disagree with many of the Labor Govt’s policies etc, particularly the lack of decency in relation to asylum seekers; lust for money via mining coal, uranium etc; cuts to sole parents benefits that will mainly affect women, and selling out to the wealthy mining companies – just a few examples!

    Don’t say you weren’t warned. And if you vote for the bastard, don’t whine to me when you lose your job or house or ?????I won’t want to know! Workers voted for the bastards in State/Territory Govts now! They’ll never learn!

  3. Liz45

    @Steve Clark – I’m getting fed up with all you ‘moralistic people’? Gee you have a short memory! I can remember the Fitzgerald Inquiry; the Royal Commission into the Police force/NSW LIBERAL Govt (not that long ago); there’s still a nasty smell in Victoria re the allegations of the police union and ????Bjelke Petersen; the scandal over Nick Greiner, not to mention the huge stink of Askin and his mob of thugs! AWB and others! Honestly, ask the doc to reverse your lobotomy – you have a serious memory fault – it’s called convenient amnesia!

    Just remember – the higher up the lofty perch you sit, the longer the drop! You realize that at the first sniff of a scandal you’ll have to leave the country! There’ll be nowhere further enough away to run and hide!

    And I remind the Abbott lovers that he’ll be worse than Newman/O’Farrell/and the blokes from Vic to WA/NT. Abbott won’t elaborate on any policy etc prior to the election, and after it – wham! Straight into the venus fly trap will all the workers go; not to mention sole parents, pensioners and kids!

    NSW 1.7 BILLION cut to Education(over 4 years) will be a lot worse when Abbott also uses his axe!

    If I hear the Opposition carry on about how good they are at managing the books I’ll scream? Where would they be if Howard didn’t sell off the farm? Apart from Telstra and Sydney Airport, what else did he sell (apart from the citizens that is).

    Tonight on Q&A Brandis spoke of Labor increasing present taxes or introducing new ones is in the 20’s? Costello went back on his word of not doing this, and he brought in or increased 30+? Hypocrites every time they open their mouth.

    My local member is a Liberal, and I received her newsletter? today and she’s whining over how Labor has neglected Education???WTF did her Govt do for almost 12 years?

    Abbott & Morrison are blatantly calling asylum seekers arriving by boat “illegals” when they know damned well that it’s a lie! But where’s our ‘independent’ media????

    As I said, one more bit of bs and I’ll scream!

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