Christian Kerr and Phillip Adams had an interesting discussion on Late Night Live last night about the evolution of political apparatchiks, which has prompted us to update some of our various lists tracking political career paths, nepotism and the prevalence of unionists in Australian parliaments.

First, check out what happened to more than 200 former Howard Government staffers. Then you have this list of 150-plus former staffers in the Hawke-Keating governments. Christian was absolutely right to talk about a whole new political class greasing the wheels in PR or government relations, many of whom are brighter and earn more money than the politicians they used to work for.

And with Nathan Murphy, son of Plumbers Union secretary Tony Murphy, attempting to depose Harry Jenkins in Scullin, we’ve also decided to dust off our political nepotism list. Wasn’t Nathan’s first ever television interview a shocker on Sunday? He’s also hoping to qualify for our unionists in Parliament list, just like Bill Shorten.

Simon Crean appears to be trying to use his impressive grass roots victory to tackle union domination and factionalism in the ALP. There is no mainstream political party in the Western world that still has a similar union gerrymander and Crean’s claim that he’s copping payback for merely trying to reduce union control from 60-40 to 50-50 does appear to have merit.

Crean then backed his numbers behind the anti-faction candidate Mark Latham and now the factions have botched their ultimate attempted revenge, giving Crean and fellow reformists some momentum they could never have dreamed of getting.

Tony Blair unbundled the controlling mechanisms that unions used to have over the British Labour Party while in opposition. Wouldn’t it be nice to see Simon Crean use his momentum to deliver a similar change in Australia?

Sadly, despite the Howard Government’s industrial relations law, the unions-ALP power bloc remains both rich and powerful in Australia with an estimated $500 million in largely undisclosed assets, control over every state and territory government and 48% of the popular vote federally.

The system probably won’t be changed any time soon, even though it has now largely degenerated into a corrupted job placement system that saw an unimpressive union hack like Nathan Murphy tackle Harry Jenkins in Scullin when a proven performer like Evan Thornley wanted to have a go but couldn’t raise the numbers.

Thornley, who would have made an excellent Federal Treasurer, will now be accommodated in the Victorian upper house in another factional deal, albeit one dictated by Steve Bracks.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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