Christian Kerr writes:

Some spectacular weekend reading on Bob Carr and the NSW
Labor Leadership.

David Marr disappointed with a soft spread on the departing
premier in Saturday’s SMH
– but it contained this beauty: “So what’s he going to do? He rules out Canberra
again and again… All he says is: ‘I am going to be very, very busy. I’m going
to be very busy. What at? That’s a question I can’t answer.’ As he pours
another cup of stimulating hot water, he seems struck by a sudden inspiration:
‘I’m going to write a diet and fitness book’.”

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the unknown Morris Iemma
became the first leader to say he wanted to spend more time with his family
even before he took up the job.
“The kids and my wife are a critical part of my life, and I’m not going to
change that,” the Smellie had him saying. “I still want to lead an ordinary
life. I don’t want to change what we do on a Saturday, what we do on the

“Mr Iemma denied he had told a Sunday newspaper he planned
to spend weekends off with wife and four young children,” later reports read. But much more interesting was the coverage of Morris Iemma
and his political family.

Iemma might be unknown, but Liberals fear that means he
begins a clean page for NSW Labor. A clean page that will offer plenty of scope
for the spinmeisters.

Iemma becomes premier with plenty of power behind him. He
will be hard to touch. The Machine has made an inspired choice. If he has an
independent streak he might even surprise a few on the Labor side. The position of
Deputy Premier Andrew Refshauge will be his first test, but Iemma seems set to
dump him from Treasury as part of the new beginning.

A clean page, but with one thing the tacticians will need to
paint over – his political family. Iemma may be a dark horse, but the people
who gave him his job – Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi and his old boss Graham Richardson – are
black sheep.

But, of course, the NSW Right is all one big happy family, as
Alex Mitchell documented beautifully in two yarns in yesterday’s Sun Herald. First he gave the historical background:

At a stroke, Mr Carr’s precious
legacy of keeping Sussex Street out of Macquarie Street has ended and the
influence of the ALP machine now overshadows the incoming administration.

Former general secretaries Mr
Della Bosca and Mr Roozendaal will almost certainly be in the first Iemma
cabinet. Another cheerleader, former senator Richardson, is an adviser to media
mogul Kerry Packer, while Loosley, a columnist with Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd,
acted for James Hardie during its asbestos compensation scandal.

In his maiden speech in
Parliament on October 30, 1991, Mr Iemma said: “Of my former boss, I
cannot allow the occasion to pass without saying that one could not wish for a
better boss or a better tutor than Graham Richardson. But above all one could
not wish for a better mate, and that is very important.”

Just two years later, on
Christmas Eve 1993, the Offset Alpine printing works in Sydney burned down
triggering a $53 million insurance payout later linked to Mr Richardson.

Upper house MP Eddie Obeid,
another factional powerbroker, had family interests in Offset Alpine at the
time of the fire.

Then Mitchell talked about what’s likely to happen now:

The right wing’s casualties are
likely to include Planning Minister Diane Beamer, Small Business Minister David
Campbell and Gaming and Racing Minister Grant McBride, all newcomers to the
ministry since the 2003 election.

One certain new minister will be
Eric Roozendaal, the former ALP general secretary who arrived in the upper
house a year ago itching for a cabinet spot.

The other leading contender for
promotion is Kogarah MP Cherie Burton, followed by Heffron MP Kristina

After years of being promoted and
protected by retiring Premier Bob Carr, a senior left-winger under pressure is
Attorney-General and Environment Minister Bob Debus.

His two portfolios are eagerly
coveted by members of the Right who belong to Mr Iemma’s faction known as The

Mr Iemma, who has been receiving
media and image training from Peter Barron, a former Hawke and Packer adviser,
is considering a tight inner-cabinet of fewer members than the 21 in Mr Carr’s
last cabinet.

He will give serious consideration
whether to continue with Dr Col Gellatly as head of Premier’s Department and Dr
Roger Wilkins, director-general of the Cabinet Office.

Meanwhile, nominations close this
Friday for Mr Carr’s beachside seat of Maroubra with Chris Bastic, former mayor
and the local campaign director for Mr Carr, and Penny Wright, a former
government relations officer with the ANZ Bank, the frontrunners.

How very Sydney. All one happy family. And family is
sometimes embarrassing, isn’t it?

Peter Fray

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