Crikey is heading to Adelaide later this week for a defamation settlement conference with Senator Nick Bolkus. Whilst in town we’ll be having a further look at the Rann government and publish these recent sealed sections as a forerunner.

Sealed section April 30

The SA Labor Party campaigned hard on the issue of open, honest and accountable government and when in Opposition was highly (and rightly) critical of the Libs as being secretive and of engaging in cronyism with their business buddies.

Soon after the government was elected (after the extraordinary Peter Lewis coalition) advertisements appeared in major newspapers for Ministerial staff. The new Premier proudly announced that an open process would occur for the selection of staff on merit (no tapping on the shoulder of mates or party hacks like the previous government). I guess you can excuse the fact that virtually all (if not all) of Mike Rann’s staff were with him in Opposition – so the new system didn’t apply to him but no-one raised that issue (least of all the compliant Adelaide Advertiser).

I think you will find that barely any Ministerial staff in the new government, especially those at senior levels (Chief of staff or advisers) were selected as a result of the advertisements (which for interest sake solicited over 600 applications!). Many staffers were in fact appointed before the closing date for applications. One office you can confirm this practice is that of leftwing Minister Pat Conlon. A little research should uncover much. I have it on good authority that Messrs Conlon and Foley pulled the strings on the entire exercise and the advertisements were more about public relations than process.

Not ground breaking stuff, but if it is indicative of what it considers as open and honest, well, it doesn’t bode well for the really important issues.

Name Withheld

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN POLITICAL STAFFERS

Sealed section May 1

Crikey was interested to hear yesterday that the sister of Nick Bolkus’s defamation lawyer has quit News Ltd’s Canberra bureau and taken the gig of press secretary to new SA Labor Premier Mike Rann.

Kate Hannan is the new spindoctor and she has Labor baggage having worked on the staff of Laurie “Botany” Brereton a few years back.

Bolkus is being represented by the labour lawyers Duncan Basheer Hannon in his defamation action against Crikey Media Pty Ltd and Stephen Mayne. The partner responsible is Peter Hannon who just happens to be Kate Hannon’s older brother.

This is not particularly relevant to anything accept that we’ve had some interesting feedback to yesterday’s item about the Rann government’s staff hiring policies and clearly Kate Hannon must have seen those ads in the paper and decided to apply like every other punter out there.

This subscriber has some insights on the hiring process:

“Re your item in today’s issue your correspondent is correct in stating that the recruitment of staff for the new government was for show only.

The recruitment process was, from all accounts, handled by Speakmans – a large HR outfit in a very small pond in Adelaide – and word has it they had been lobbying Kevin Foley for close on a year on the off-chance that Labor might win. Their lobbying paid off in terms of the win and word has it the director of that outfit was very pleased he had Big Kev’s mobile phone number. With the result that an apparently transparent recruitment drive was undertaken. Not Speakmans fault I hasten to add – they are just the mechanism.

But why raise this issue now? Reality is that pretty well every notice calling for applicants for Ministerial advisory or staffing positions are fraudulent in that party hacks are invariably earmarked and given the position. It’s just that they have to be “seen” to be transparent, independent and rigorous in their recruitment. Now this is actually something that, if not the ACCC could have a look at, certainly the Office of Fair Trading, the respective State Ombudsmen and the Federal Equal Opportunity office could.

Regards, JF Smith

Another subscriber writes:

SM, I would love to know who got that stuff to you about Rann, Conlon & Foley et al. They must be very close to things to have that amount of detail. The jobs situation was a complete farce. Some smart people didn’t even bother applying and many of those would be considered employable compared to 90% of the placements. Others were hit by the train (capable and diligent party/faction members) and are hurting and have proven quite difficult for the party/factions to control. Especially when one Minister has kept on several Liberal staffers and not just Liberals by association with a previous Minister but members of the Liberal Party! Go figure!

The process was a duck diving exercise between the Right-Foley, the Left-Conlon and Rann’s Office, particularly Stephen Halliday, Rann’s COS. Blame and a realisation that 150 promises can’t be honored with 50 opportunities was the order. The factions were saying they couldn’t do anything because of Rann’s interference and Rann was saying he was being hamstrung by the factions. The Libs would do exactly the same but they definitely wouldn’t keep ex-Labor staffers on! Rann is a populist sellout and the tenuousness of the government and the oncer mantle will give many in the party some ammunition come April 2006 and the quickening process will bring some wholesale changes!

Yours in transparency, Name Withheld

BOLKUS LAWYERS FAIL TO TURN UP

Sealed section May 2

After sending threatening letters for many months warning us to get our defence and notice of appearance filed, Senator Nick Bolkus’s lawyers failed to show up at Tuesday’s status conference in the South Australian District Court where we are being sued for defamation by the fun-loving Senator.

Our lawyers have sent the Senator’s lawyer and good mate, Peter Hannon from Duncan Basheer Hannon, a letter presuming this was a simple oversight and requesting that Senator Bolkus personally attend the settlement conference in Adelaide on June 7 as ordered by Master Rice.

Crikey’s costs are mounting on this one and we’ll be booking our flight to Adelaide in the next few days. If we successfully defend the action, the good Senator will be liable for these costs.

ALP CRONYISM IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

It appears there is a ‘family tradition’ in the staffing policies of the new Rann Labor government in South Australia. As was mentioned yesterday, Kate Hannon, the sister of Nick Bolkus’s lawyer, has dusted off her Laurie Brereton staffer manual to take up the gig as Rann’s press secretary.

We wonder what spin she’ll put on the ample evidence of cronyism and nepotism in the ranks of South Australian Labor.

For instance Wendy Georganas, the wife of twice failed Hindmarsh candidate Steve Georganas, has landed a staffer’s gig. Another in the inner sanctum is Sam Crafter, the son of a former ALP member in the SA Parliament. Other familiar Labor names that pop up include Cathy King, Melissa Bailey and the wife of Jay Weatherill who is one of Rann’s new ministers.

And what about Ethne Lange in Rann’s office. Now Media Mike Rann happened to spend time in his home country of New Zealand back in the early 80’s when David Lange was PM. Surely she wouldn’t be related.

A Liberal in the SA Parliament claims to have heard from an ALP right associate that their faction has been screwed and this does appear to have some truth to it. The regular ex-Young Labor hacks George Karzis and Brer Adams appear in Minister Atkinson and Hill’s offices.

Another interesting appointment is Foley’s chief of staff, Annie Foster. She comes from the independent regulators of electricity (Lew Owen’s) office. He just happened to be the biggest and loudest critic of the Liberal government’s electrity policies – a key election issue.

There has been no more controversial part of new South Australian Premier Mike Rann’s staffing arrangements than the carry over of the entire Liberal media monitoring unit. After rolling Dean Brown, a paranoid John Olsen and his even more paranoid chiefs of staff Alex Kennedy and Vicky Thomson scrapped a contract with Media Monitors Australia to set up their own service based within the Premier’s Office which grew and grew with Olsen’s woes.

Management of the unit was taken over by a long-serving Liberal press secretary, Peter Green, in 2000, and the media monitoring crew include Liberal charity case jobs. The latest staff list issued by Rann’s office show that they’re all still happily ensconced at the centre of power while most of their former workmates are at home filling in their dole diaries.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW