Crikey can reveal that the South Australian state Labor government has put Liberal Party pollsters and strategists Mark Textor and Lynton Crosby, two Howard allies despised by the ALP federally, on the public payroll as consultants.
The revelations will almost certainly anger – even infuriate – senior Labor figures in Canberra.
Crosby-Textor is a Liberal Party-orientated, Canberra-based lobbying, polling, and electioneering firm credited by the Prime Minister – and blamed by Labor – for John Howard’s four election wins.
The pair advised Howard in the so-called Tampa election, which the Liberals won after falsely claiming asylum seekers had tried to blackmail their way into the country by throwing children overboard.
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Crosby is a former state secretary of the Liberal Party in Queensland, a former national director of the party, and has been John Howard’s campaign director. Textor controls the Liberal’s internal election polling.
Last month, federal opposition leader Kevin Rudd launched a savage attack on the pair, saying they were being used by John Howard to convince Australian working families that black was white.
“One of the leading indicators that the government is experiencing a few political problems is when the lights burn late down at Crosby-Textor,” Rudd told parliament on March 27.
“When the lights are burning late down at Crosby-Textor, it is not just that they are increasing their carbon footprint,” Rudd continued.
“It is a sure sign and symbol that life is not proceeding swimmingly in the government ranks.”
Crikey has now learnt that the Labor Government in South Australia is using the company.
South Australian Premier Mike Rann’s Labor Government is paying Crosby-Textor to work on the $8 billion air warfare destroyers project, which Rann used as a campaign issue for his re-election in 2006.
The Liberal strategists were hired by Rann to lobby the federal government for the destroyer program to come Adelaide. The money was paid through the wholly SA Government-owned Port Adelaide Maritime Corporation.
This means the Liberal lobbyists were paid by Labor through the public purse.
“They have got very good contacts in Canberra,” Rann’s media secretary told Crikey.
“They’ve been quite helpful to us.”
Far from being dismissed after SA won the destroyer contract, Rann continues to pay Crosby-Textor through the Maritime Corporation. Crosby-Textor has been hired for $18,000 plus $3,000 a month for “strategic market research on commercial and government activities that may impact on the Corporation in delivering its objectives”, according to corporation documents.
“Yes, we’ve kept them on,” the premier’s office confirmed.
Federally, Labor sees Crosby-Textor’s hand in the latest scare campaign which blames the States – SA included – for rising interest rates.
Mike Rann is the ALP’s national senior vice-president, and has already been elected its next national president.
Crikey investigations have shown a relationship existed between senior Rann ministers and Crosby-Textor executives before the firm was officially employed by the Labor government. The firm’s connections reached to the highest echelon in Rann’s administration.
One of Rann’s closest economic and business advisors, Robert Champion de Crespigny, was chairman of Crosby-Textor’s research and strategic business while being paid to chair Rann’s Economic Development Board.
And as a member of Rann’s executive cabinet committee – Rann broke centuries of Westminster tradition with the appointment of a non-elected cabinet committee – de Crespigny had access to ministerial correspondence and submissions.
de Crespigny accepted the appointment as chairman of Crosby Textor Research Strategies Results Pty Ltd on September 4, 2002, and served on Rann’s cabinet committee and development board from their inception until March, 2006.
And one of SA Treasurer Kevin Foley’s most trusted advisors left to work with that same part of the Crosby-Textor business, Research Strategies Results Pty Ltd.
The Treasurer’s former media secretary, John Kent, was a Crosby-Textor director until earlier this year, when he became the communications manager for the Victorian grand prix.
The Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman is Ron Walker, a former federal treasurer of the Liberal Party and a joint owner of Australian Nuclear Energy Pty Ltd, which wants to build an atomic-fuelled power station in Australia.
Walker’s partner in Australian Nuclear Energy is Robert Champion de Crespigny.
In a double irony for Rann, Crosby-Textor is not only campaigning to re-elect Howard, it also worked for the Conservatives in England, where it tried to oust Tony Blair as Prime Minister.
Mike Rann claims to have a sincere and close friendship for Tony Blair and Rann has a photograph of the two of them taken in London.
There’s a saying: “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”.
In the curious world of SA politics, it could read: “my enmity is with my enemy’s friend”.