Once again, an excerpt of the diaries of NSW Treasurer Michael Egan has leaked to Crikey. This time, he reveals his thoughts on retirement, as well as the prospects of the re-shuffled Carr cabinet.
Well, I’ve finally done it.
For months I’ve been telling Bob I’d had enough. A double resignation I tried to convince him. We’ve done all the hard work over the last decade, time for the kids to run the show. But no, Bob’s got his eyes on Neville’s record of 10 years as premier. I just couldn’t be bothered waiting that long.
Thank heavens for Latham’s brain explosion, or should that be pancreas explosion. As soon as Walt found out Latham was going, in came the call. “Do it now!” he said. No sooner said than done.
What is it about Federal Labor Leaders and their internal organs. One after another they’ve all had similar problem. Latham and his pancreas, Beazley and his guts, Keating and his spleen. Not sure which bit of Crean was the problem. Possibly his adrenal gland.
And what a load has been lifted. Resigning was like taking confession, except there is no guilt about perhaps not having been totally truthful confessing your sins. Of course, a good priest can always dig out that extra venal sin you had overlooked, in the same way if the press gallery had been doing its job last week, they could have made my farewell press conference tougher.
This just goes to show how successful our media neutering strategy has been. All the good journalists have ended up working for government. The mouse pack that asked the questions last week had all got running orders from Canberra to ask about Latham. Lord love us, one even asked whether I was going to run for Werriwa. Saints protect us!
Down at Sussex Street they’re all putting their minds to the task of who should be the candidate. Latham apparently suggested someone called Shannon Noll. Bob was straight on the phone suggesting Paul Crittenden, but he went off the idea when reminded that meant a by-election in Wyong.
But after ten years, year after year of budget surplus and the continuance of the state’s Triple A credit rating, all the challenge has gone out of this job. Even the last two year’s budgets, which David Ricardo and Henry George would have been proud of, in the end have proved unsatisfying, with interest in the state’s finances going right off the political agenda.
In Parliament, none of the questions come to me anymore. They are all chasing Costa, there seeming to be more interest in late trains than good financial management. Maybe I’m just getting my come-uppance for the way I harried poor old Nick Greiner in the 1991 election campaign. He was running a relatively tight ship, and we were harassing him about waste and mismanagement. Maybe if I tell Nick how sorry I am about that campaign, he might direct me to a good board or two. Nick’s a member of the one true faith, so he’ll understand how forgiveness works.
But I knew I had to go in the last question time of 2004. With no-one asking me any questions, I just let my eyes wander around the old Legislative Council chamber. The rows of bored school kids in the public gallery. The token AAP journalist providing fourth estate scrutiny.
Then the other side. Mick Gallagher doing his best to look like he’s on top of the issues. Patricia Forsythe and Cathryn Cusack trying to expose how harsh the government is. John Ryan, now thankfully minus the blonde tips, but having to put up with cries of ‘Ned Flanders’ from the government back bench every time he speaks. Old Duncan Gay his usual good natured self, but the Council’s last remaining National Party bloke.
Then your eyes scan further across and locate a blurred darkness that you at first wonder is really there. Then you remember, it’s Liberal MLC David Clarke, so right wing he makes the Parrot sound like Phillip Adams. He doesn’t say much, and most of his party try to keep their distance. But every so often, the shroud of swirling smoke and cloud clears temporarily, and you get a glimpse of forked tail or single red eye piercing the shrouding gloom.
Beyond him lie the troublesome priests, Rev. Fred Nile and Rev. Gordon Moyes. Fred tried to run for the Senate, but when he missed out, came scurrying back before we could change the superannuation scheme on him. We could have made life difficult in not appointing him to the vacancy, but as the Borgias found with the papacy, having a tame link to the Lord comes in useful occasionally.
Then the other cross benchers. David Oldfield counting down the days to when his collects his pension. John Tingle still bothering to turn up. Peter Breen looking chirpy since being cleared by the ICAC. Democrat Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, the last lone representative of a once proud party. Then there is whoever is this week’s representative from the Outdoor Recreation Party.
Then the Greens little soviet in the corner. At the end of last year, Ian Cohen was looking forward to his surfing trip in Sri Lanka. You’d think anyone who can ride a surfboard while hanging on to the front of a warship should be able to cope with a tsunami, but he was apparently quite shaken.
As for the other two, Lee Rhiannon and Sylvia Hale, it’s as if the Berlin Wall never fell. I can’t understand Hale, a successful businesswoman mixing with those Trots. Perhaps she’s playing Engels to Rhiannon’s Marx. They’ve been looking a little glummer since the Federal election though. Not quite the great result they expected.
But I knew the end of my career was nigh when I tilted my chair round and scanned my own side. That old leftie Meredith Burgmann up in the President’s chair, Della Bosca beside me, Michael Costa, Amanda Fazio and Ian MacDonald on the benches behind me. It suddenly struck me that I was not so much a member of a government any more as a bit part player in an episode of the Addams Family.
I told Bob that evening I’d had enough, but there are so many rumours about Bob’s own future that he asked me to hold off until he came back from his holidays. Bob looked so tired after last year, I felt sure he’d be prepared to hold hands and skip-off into the sunset. But no. On his return from holiday, he seems to have got a new lease of life.
First day back from the culture-pots of Europe and he’s out with Phil Koperberg and the Bush Fire Brigades. Puffs his chest out and waltzes down the line shaking hands with a welcoming ‘good to see you’ over and over again. Where does he get this energy to do the same pic-fac year after year? Suddenly he was re-invigorated again and wants to stay on till 2007.
At least now I am retiring I won’t have to put up with the talkback radio harpies anymore. Lord love us, the Parrot is so economically illiterate, he thinks fiscal drag is a Shirley Bassey tribute show! And this week I read Mike Carlton has come back from holiday with an earring. Will this man’s mid-life crisis never end?
But I must try and avoid this place once I retire. The staff round parliament house make jokes about MPs who leave but make frequent return visits. Michael Maher is in the library regularly using its reference collection to look up long forgotten saints. The library staff also make jokes about Gary McIlwaine hanging round the place like a bad smell. Even Eddie Obeid makes the occasional appearance, which come to think of it, is probably the right thing to do seeing he is still an MLC.
Peter Collins was in here recently with his new wife. Some of the staff call him ‘Henry the Eighth’ behind his back, which I think is terribly unfair. Peter has had no difficulty producing male offspring and certainly never left the one true faith, though I do wonder whether he is still in a position to take communion.
My biggest worry about resigning is the fate of my loyal staff. Coutts-Trotter has done OK with a job in the public service. But what is Jim Maher going to do with himself? Where can he find another job so well paid that involves so little work?
Bob’s made an impressive series of cabinet changes. The Treasury staff seem happy to have Refshauge take my place. The last left-winger they had in charge of Treasury was Ken Booth, and they thought he did a perfectly good job. They told him to do something and he did it. Bureaucrats are like that, which is why secretly some of them are glad to see me go. I think I better give the doctor a bit of advice on handling Treasury before I leave.
Didn’t Costa have a long face though. What did he expect? If you look like Mussolini and are put in charge of the trains, you are expected to make them run on time. What does he expect from Bob. Gratitiude?
As for Carl Scully in Police, well, that’s an interesting move. At the state election, the Parrot was just monstering Carl, but his staff have spent a bit of time since cooing and preening Gloria. Which gives him an improved chance of being the next Premier.
Jolly John Watkins would also have a reasonable chance. The easy part for him will be getting the trains to run on time. The hard part will be getting the party to accept someone from the Left as Premier.
The swirling political rumour though is that the Parrot is prepared to support Frank Sartor for Premier. All he needs to do is build a new water supply dam for Sydney and name it after the Parrot. Not sure even Frank will swallow that one. Perhaps the Parrot should have lobbied to have Carl Scully put in charge of water resources.
All this is academic at the moment, as Bob seems convinced he is staying on. The latest head count says Scully will win any ballot, but I can’t believe members will be really prepared to vote for a Premier who is only prepared to do the good news press conferences.
I reckon Craig Knowles still has the best chance if he wants it, though the Parrot has taken a fancy to Morris Iemma. And now Scully is in charge of Police, you never know who the Parrot might anoint.
As for Costa, he’s in the wrong house. He’d have to do an Unsworth and win a by-election, which means finding a seat safe enough to withstand the swing. The only problem is, Cabramatta’s ruled out as we’ve appointed Reba Meagher to Cabinet.
He doesn’t have the numbers anyway. Then there is the view of the younger MPs that a country member can’t be premier. Perhaps our younger MPs aren’t old enough to remember some of the c*nts Labor’s made Premier over the years.
And there is Brogden. Like everyone else, me included, he went for the buzz cut over summer. He’s become a new man since he’s become a father, though I am not sure about calling his son Flinders. I think we should have a law like the French where the only names allowed are those of the saints. What sort of a name is Flinders!
He made a mistake taking so long off over Christmas. Andrew Stoner has about as much wit and charisma and even less gravitas than Charles Blunt on a bad day. If you want mad and angry at a press conference, you might as well make Andrew Fraser leader. This is the era of colour television after all.
There is also still bewilderment about Brogden’s new chief of staff Peter Fraser. Goodness knows how Kennett coped with him, but then Kennett did go to Scotch College where they think it butch to wear kilts. Fraser’s idea of cocktail hour on Friday has been encouraging members to mix socially, though most of them have not taken to his preferred drink of a c*cksucking cowboy. Sounds like an outfit you’d wear to Mardi Gras.
But now my political career is at an end . The question is, can I honestly say I leave Parliament with the state a better place than I found it. I think I can face up to my confessor with a clear mind that I have done good deeds in this world. Perhaps not good enough for George Pell, but I personally prefer to go over the head of the current leadership of the Church.
Perhaps that’s why Bob won’t convert. He thinks it is bad enough having the Parrot sit in judgement, let alone an omnipotent being who isn’t open to flattery. Still, Bob’s political career is not yet at an end. Maybe when it is over, thoughts of mortality may become more prominent in his mind.
Still, it has not been a bad career. Six years as member for Cronulla. Eighteen years in the Legislative Council. Just under ten years as Treasurer.
Michael Egan’s Way
And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and ev’ry highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.
To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
No, oh no not me,
I did it my way.
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!
Perhaps some saint or martyr put it better, but that will do for now.