Boilermaker Bill has caught a touch of the Ramsey’s Disease – but don’t let that scare you off his insights into Peter Garrett.

Pouring Oils onto troubled waters

That Laurie Brereton
would give the finger to Sussex Street on his way out of Federal
politics was no surprise – especially after his clash after his sister,
Deirdre Grusovin, lost preselection for the State seat of Heffron
before the 2003 election. But his disregard for the ALP rank and file
in Kingsford Smith who had stood by Brereton for his thirty plus years
in state and federal Parliament, even when the stench of the Botany
Council affair in the mid-1970s and the unpopular decision to build the
Third Runway at Sydney International Airport in the 1990s threatened to
overwhelm him is something again. Hoping to lend protégé Mark Latham a
helping hand by leaving the door for Peter Garrett, cinemagoers won’t
be surprised that Brereton’s gift might prove to be a Trojan horse.

When
Garrett’s name was put forward a few weeks ago as a possible candidate
to take on the Greens’ MP, Michael Organ, in the seat of Cunningham, my
first reaction was why on earth would want to be a lower house MP.
Unless catapulted to the front bench (which admittedly is a likely
option), can you see Garrett enjoying the day to day demands of
servicing an electorate: responding to every sort of entreaty from the
public wanting solutions to problems with the Tax Office, the
Immigration department, having to redirect complaints about potholes to
the local council, and so on.

The first hundred pages of the
third volume of Robert Caro’s magisterial biography of LBJ is a potted
history of the US Senate. From it one learns that for the first one
hundred and so years, Senators were appointed by the States to ensure
that the Senate was made up of the best and brightest. Our Senate is a
wonderful place for housing Members of Parliament who would be rat
poison if you tried to get them up in a lower house electorate. Apart
from upsetting the delicate factional balance, if you really had your
heart set on recruiting Garrett, why wouldn’t you put him on the Senate
ticket? (Incidentally, if Latham and Brereton are behind this celebrity
recruitment, is Garrett really going to be a member of the NSW Right?)

There’s
no shortage of ALP members in Kingsford Smith who have been waiting for
ever for the opportunity to succeed Brereton. Casting my eye over the
field already forming, I’d be looking to Tim Mitchell or Penny Wright
to be the front runners. Proteges of Johnno Johnson and key backers
behind Kristina Keneally’s successful grab for the seat of Heffron,
this power couple has been keeping tabs on the local numbers for 10
years and more, with Wright having her head in front if you consider
the affirmative action factor. These aspirants aren’t going to let
Sussex Street impose Garrett without a fight.

Can you just
imagine the fun the Libs are going to have ploughing through the Oils’
back catalogue to pull out lyrics, and ask Latham whether they
constitute ALP policy. Try US Forces:

“We’re unable to make decisions/Political party line don’t cross that floor”.

Try Beds are Burning:

“The
time has come to say fair’s fair/To pay the rent, now to pay our
share/The time has come, a fact’s a fact/It belongs to them, we’re
gonna give it back”.

Probably only Wedding Cake Island is free of any potential problems.

And
Garrett has made so many speeches for so many causes that there’s bound
to be plenty of ammunition for the Government. Just one example from a
speech to the University of Melbourne’s School of Graduate Studies
Dean’s Lecture in 2001 will suffice:

“The next step is to
eliminate perverse subsidies and to introduce environmental tax reform.
What will historians judge as one of the great failures of the current
ALP and Coalition parties when they have a debate over the GST? They
will judge that the opportunity wasn’t seized to have a great debate
over environmental tax reform because this is one issue which will be
played out over the next 10 or 15 years and the principle is simple,
whilst the politics can be hard.

“Tax those who pollute and
burn the environment, reward those who employ people and restore and
rehabilitate the environment. As soon as you do that, the industry mix
changes. I mean, it may take a while for a government department to
change direction, but I think for those of you who have anything to do
with the private sector, and I certainly do, the private sector will
change very quickly and they want to change, but they need to have the
bits and pieces, the right policies, the right laws in place to enable
them to do so.

“Perverse subsidies, well nothing is more
perverse that the fact that we actually pay for some of the roading,
and the port facilities which permit the export of wood chips. I mean,
to try and work out a real value for knocking over our native forests
and buying it back from somebody as processed paper, let’s just
remember that the cost doesn’t include the taxpayers’ costs to provide
the services and the infrastructure to enable that process to take
place.”

There’s plenty more where that came from. Garrett and the ALP can’t rely on the Government having a short memory.

Friends in high places, Part I

During
debate on compulsory drug treatment in correctional centres last week,
the Reform the Legal System MP, Peter Breen, took the opportunity to
get a few things off his chest. In the wake of the ICAC making damaging
findings last year on the use of Parliamentary entitlements by Outdoor
Recreation Party MP, Malcolm Jones, allegations that Breen also had
difficulties in this area surfaced. Public hearings were scheduled
earlier this year, but had to be postponed after the hearing
commissioner was re-appointed as an acting judge. Breen told the Upper
House that the hearings are now due to be held in the first week of
August. He certainly isn’t afraid of the ICAC’s reach, if his spray
last week was any sign:

“In my 30 years as a practising
solicitor and barrister in New South Wales I have never dealt with such
an incompetent and unprincipled organisation.

The Hon. John Della Bosca: What do you really think?

The
Hon. PETER BREEN: You will hear more about that after the public
hearing. I cannot tell honourable members about it today. It comes as
no surprise to learn that the Premier has ordered a judicial inquiry
into the ICAC and that three of its top executives have left in the
past six weeks.”

Unlike Malcolm Jones, who was left swinging in
the breeze during his troubles with the ICAC, ultimately having to
resign to avoid being expelled by the Upper House, Breen has been
extended a helping hand by his Parliamentary colleagues. After ICAC had
executed search warrants in Breen’s Parliamentary office, the
Privileges Committee ruled that ICAC was not to have access to Breen’s
computer and related files. That support runs deeper in the Government
if an interjection by the Minister for Commerce, John Della Bosca, is
anything to go by. Breen told Losers Lounge:

“In the past year I
have been the subject of an ICAC investigation, which incidentally will
come to a head at a public hearing in the first week of August.

The Hon. John Della Bosca: We’re on your side.

The Hon. PETER BREEN: Thank you very much. Will you represent me?

The Hon. John Della Bosca: That’s taking it a bit far.

Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: Are you selling tickets?

The Hon. PETER BREEN: It will be standing room only.”

Malcolm
Jones must be wishing he enjoyed the same kind of support. Just goes to
show what’s available when the Government considers you reliable, and
your Parliamentary colleagues think you’re a good bloke. Although maybe
the Government’s just afraid of the people Breen grew up with. He told
the House later that week that he went to school with serial killer
Ivan Milat at Patrician Brothers, Liverpool.

Stalin and the Generals

For
the past five years Treasurer Michael Egan has been needling Greens MP
Lee Rhiannon about her supposed adherence to a political philosophy
more red than green in hue. In his impish way, Egan usually gets a
laugh – if only from the Government benches. The Minister for Justice,
John Hatzistergos, who could never be described as impish, having a
demeanour that makes the figures on Mount Rushmore look animated,
thought he’d have a go at Rhiannon last week:

Ms LEE RHIANNON: I acknowledge the interjection. I suggest the Minister listen to this.

The Hon. John Hatzistergos: Getting a lecture from you on law is always enlightening!

Ms LEE RHIANNON: I note the patronising comment of the Minister.

The Hon. John Della Bosca: You would not be a friend of hers, would you?

Ms LEE RHIANNON: And I acknowledge the comment of the Special Minister.

The Hon. John Hatzistergos: Do they have bail in the Soviet Union?

Ms LEE RHIANNON: Come on! Can’t you make a new joke? You are really hard up for something to say.

The Hon. John Hatzistergos: I thought they had an instant show trial!

Ms LEE RHIANNON: Come on!

Later in the debate, Rhiannon’s Greens colleague Ian Cohen thought he’d give Hatzi a taste of his own medicine:

“At
least the Minister for Justice has returned to the Chamber. The
Minister has no real regard for the parliamentary process. He left the
Chamber during the debate then wandered in again to make some snide
remarks to Ms Lee Rhiannon about Stalinism.

The Hon. John Hatzistergos: We can’t repeat what you say about her.

Mr
IAN COHEN: The Minister might like to quote what he presumes I say
about anyone in the House. I would like to have that debate. The
Minister made a superficial observation regarding the Soviet Union.
Perhaps he could tell us about his Greek generals’ fascist connections.
Perhaps that would be worth discussing in the House. Perhaps the
Minister would like to go over his background of lack of democracy-“

Hatzi leaped to take a point of order:

“I
find those remarks particularly offensive and I ask that they be
withdrawn. I have no such connections whatsoever. Apart from the fact
that my parents left a country that at one stage was under military
dictatorship, I do not know what other connections the honourable
member could possibly be insinuating in his remarks, which I find
highly offensive. I ask him to withdraw them.

Mr IAN COHEN: To
the point of order: I ask the honourable Minister to explain the
difference between my remarks and his constant accusations in the House
about Ms Lee Rhiannon’s Stalinist connections. He has impugned her
character and criticised her behaviour in the House. What is the
difference?

The Hon. John Hatzistergos: Further to the point of
order: I did not make the connection that the honourable member is
attributing to me. I simply asked Ms Lee Rhiannon a rhetorical question
in the course of debate to which she chose to respond and to which she
did not take any exception. She certainly did not take exception to
that remark in the way that I have taken exception to the honourable
member’s remarks. They are totally different. I ask the honourable
member to withdraw his remarks. If Ms Lee Rhiannon did take offence to
anything I said I would be happy to withdraw it.

The
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Tony Burke): Order! I am advised that under
Standing Order 91 (3) a member must not use offensive words against any
member of the House. Such comments are disorderly. That is clearly the
case here, given the objections that have been raised. I invite Mr Ian
Cohen to withdraw his comments.

Mr IAN COHEN: I withdraw those comments.”

So for future reference, and with apologies to George Orwell, remember Stalin ok, fascist Generals not ok.

Return to sender

Cohen
must have had a dose of the angry pills last week. During debate on
legislation to permit filming in National Parks in response to a Land
and Environment decision that prevented a Hollywood production from
filing in the Blue Mountains, Cohen turned on Outdoor Recreation Party
MP, Jon Jenkins. Jenkins is still finding his feet in Losers Lounge,
and sometimes comes across as a bit wet. But Cohen let him have it with
both barrels:

“The Hon. Jon Jenkins: On boardwalks.

Mr
IAN COHEN: I acknowledge the interjection by that great professional on
wilderness matters. They would not have been on boardwalks. They would
have been moving over a limited area of ground-over a very sensitive
area that harboured an endangered species.

The Hon. Jon Jenkins: The boardwalks are just there for looks!

Mr
IAN COHEN: Rather than a meaningful message being left for posterity by
members who come into this House, we have heard a communication
reflecting a person who licks postage stamps. The member comes to this
House by default to fill the shoes of someone who artfully dodged the
democratic process.”

It wasn’t Jenkins’ week for making friends
in Losers Lounge. For his contibution on the censure motion against
Eddie Obeid, Jenkins was accused by Liberal Leader Mike Gallacher of
getting splinters from his fence sitting. Later that day, after he
spoke on a motion to condemn a massive hike in overseas adoption fees,
he copped a sledge from Lee Rhiannon:

The Hon. JON JENKINS
[5.42 p.m.]: I confess that my wife and I have been blessed with two
beautiful children. Many concerns have been expressed in this debate
but I want to know why natural childbirth has no fee but adoption will
now cost thousands of dollars.

Ms Lee Rhiannon: You find a fence to sit on when there isn’t even a fence!
Hard roe to hoe

Michael
Egan is not exactly renowned for his gourmet tastes. When Parliament’s
sitting he has been known to wander across the Domain at lunchtime to
get a pie from Harry’s Café de Wheels. So when Primary Industries
Minister, Ian Macdonald, got a question on the commercial fishing of
mullet, Egan thought he’d get Macca to eludicate upon his answer:

The
Hon. IAN MACDONALD: In New South Wales mullet is harvested as part of
the estuary general and ocean hauling fisheries. It is a commercial
fishery. Traditionally, as many honourable members will be aware,
mullet is a very low-yielding product. As a consequence-

The Hon. Michael Egan: It’s not a very nice fish either.

The
Hon. IAN MACDONALD: That is prejudice. I know of a place at Lake
Illawarra that serves wonderful fried mullet. When the Treasurer visits
I will make sure that he gets a good serve of it…

The Hon. Michael Egan: Why is it always the cheapest fish in the fish shop?

The
Hon. IAN MACDONALD: It is because people like you are prejudiced
against this really fine fish, which, if cooked properly, is as good as
anything on the market.

The Hon. Michael Egan: Well, how do you cook it to make a good meal?

The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I will give you a few lessons when we get out of here.

Friends in high places, Part II

Maybe
Egan is thinking of whipping up a fish dinner for his good friend at
the Daily Telegraph, Chief of Staff David Penberthy. Ian Cohen was
accusing Penberthy of “cynical superficiality” (which shocked your
correspondent – to think that anything cynical or superficial would be
allowed in the august Telegraph). Egan had to make sure that he heard
right:

“The Hon. Michael Egan: Are you attacking my friend David?

Mr
IAN COHEN: If the Treasurer read the article today in the Daily
Telegraph by David Penberthy he may think that “cynical” and
“superficial” may well be appropriate tags for the person who passes
himself off as a Daily Telegraph journalist. The Government should be
ashamed of its handling of the Stealth filming approval and the
subsequent events.

The Hon. Michael Egan: So you are attacking my friend?

Mr
IAN COHEN: I am stating a point of view that is supported by many
people who have any sense of ability to be able to discern while they
are reading a newspaper, yes.

The Hon. Michael Egan: I am not
challenging that, I am simply saying he is a friend of mine. I was just
ascertaining whether you were attacking him.

Mr IAN COHEN: I suppose you could say I was making a negative comment on his ability as a journalist.

The Hon. Michael Egan: I cannot say I agree with you. He is not a bad journalist.”
Despite
the friendship, Egan thought he’d give the Telegraph’s State Political
correspondent, Mark Skelsey, a tickle up for reporting that Egan was
being mooted as the next Trade and Investment Commissioner for New
South Wales in London:

“The idea that I will be the State’s next
Trade and Investment Commissioner in London is quite bizarre. That
position reports to the Minister for State Development, which is me. I
do not know why I would want a job reporting to the Minister for State
Development when I am the Minister for State Development.

Whilst
I have a very high regard for my many qualities and virtues, I do not
think I would like to work for me; nor would I like to work for any
other future Minister for State Development that I could think of. I
certainly would not want to work for the Hon. Michael Costa or even for
the Hon. John Della Bosca. I am quite happy in the job that I now have.
I spent close on 25 years trying to get this specific job-not in this
House but in another House-and I will not give it up easily. The
article in today’s Daily Telegraph that was written by Mr Mark Skelsey
was bizarre for another reason.

The Hon. Michael Gallacher: That picture?

The Hon MICHAEL EGAN: The picture is terrible, I agree. I quote from the article, which states:

Egan is understood to have some fondness for a future life in mother England …

Mr
Skelsey obviously knows nothing about me. Let me relate a little story
for his information. Some time ago-I think it was in 1979-I was at a
function in Sydney for a visiting international celebrity-a function
that was being hosted by a number of younger members of Parliament. At
the end of the night the celebrity was about to be taken off by his
minders. While he was waiting around he looked at us and said, “You
obviously all know something about me. Tell me something about
yourselves.”

The first person that he looked at was me. I
blurted out, “It is very simple. I am Irish, I am Labor, I am Catholic
and I am republican.” “Oh”, said the celebrity, His Royal Highness the
Prince of Wales, “You need not have said all that. You only needed to
say that you were Irish.” Mother England might be mother England to Mr
Skelsey, but it is certainly not mother England to me. I will give
honourable members a reason for that. I hope that they all watched The
Restoration on ABC television last Sunday and the Sunday before-a very
sad period in British and English history. One day we will remedy that.
The Act of Settlement, about which I have made many speeches in this
House, states:

Provided always, and be it hereby enacted, That
all and every person and persons, who shall or may take or inherit the
said Crown, by virtue of the limitation of this present act and is, are
or shall be reconciled to, or shall hold communion with, the See or
Church of Rome-

[Time expired.]

The Hon. TONY BURKE: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer?

The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: The Act of Settlement continues:

… or shall profess the popish religion, or shall marry a papist, shall be subject to such incapacities …

That
means that the person cannot become the monarch of England. Until that
is fixed up I will not have too much to do with England, other than to
make the occasional temporary visit. I concede that England has given
us many things, such as Shakespeare, the rule of law and the
Westminster system, but until it fixes that up, any person who refers
to it as mother England in my mind is a heretic and a traitor.

Ta ta Totaro

Last
week, Sydney Morning Herald’s state political correspondent, Paola
Totaro, bade farewell to Macquarie Street for now. She ‘s been called
back to SMH head office to fill the roving role that Jenni Hewett had
before she left for the AFR. She’ll be sorely missed by keen students
of the state political scene, having filed some ripper stories and
commentaries during this tour of duty. There really are too many to
mention, but you ought to revisit these stand outs:

The backbench revolt on the poker machine taxes:
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/09/03/1062548903123.html?from=storyrhs

The political connections of health board members in the wake of a damning report on health care in two Sydney hospitals:
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/12/26/1072308679203.html?from=storyrhs

The bureaucrats who are the real power behind Bob Carr’s throne:
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/04/25/1082831435461.html?from=storyrhs

The suicide of a young staffer in the Parliamentary Library who blew the whistle on the discount sale of rare books: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/04/25/1082831436783.html

Amazingly,
those last two pieces appeared in the SMH on the same day. And just
before Totaro left the Gallery, she broke the story on an amazing $23
million bid made by uber-mandarin Gerry Gleeson to gazump Kerry Packer
on the Sydney Superdome:
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/05/25/1085461759588.html

Stepping
into those big shoes is Anne Davies, who after covering the waterfront
dispute, has been working the urban affairs beat, resulting in some
ripper yarns about the links between developers and the Carr
Government. It’ll be interesting to see what she digs up from the
Gallery.

Boilermaker Bill can be contacted at boilermaker_bill @hotmail.com

Peter Fray

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