Stop press: NSW premier Morris Iemma has called a press conference this afternoon at which his most senior minister John Della Bosca faces either suspension pending the outcome of a policy inquiry or the sack. Meanwhile …

Some extraordinary political jiggery pokery is taking place in the Labor Party on the NSW Central Coast where the ALP’s “golden couple”, John Della Bosca and his wife Belinda Neal, live and rule.

They have almost feudal power in the area: apart from being Education and Industrial Relations Minister, Della Bosca is Minister for the Central Coast and Neal’s federal electorate of Robertson covers the area.

So when the party’s local government committee makes preparations for the council elections in September there is great interest in the ticket. Or, in this case, the tickets – two of them.

The primary ticket will comprise Gosford’s current mayor and state president of the electricians’ union, Jim Macfadyen (repeat Macfadyen), Vicki Scott and Craig Munnings, who previously worked for John Aquilina, a former education minister and speaker.

The “other” Labor ticket will be David Humphreys and George Sidiropoulos, who are both ardent “Della” supporters.

Does the NSW Electoral Commission have a view on members of the same party standing on two different tickets? Isn’t that going to confuse the upright voters of Gosford?

Interestingly, the branch members who are party to this strange electoral ploy include Despina Karlsson and Chris Keating who have recently shared the media spotlight following the Della Boscas’ notorious night out at Iguana Joe’s on the Gosford waterfront.

Ms Karlsson, an industrial officer with the NSW Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union which keeps Sydney’s sweatshops up to world’s best practice, helpfully produced her recollection of the Iguana’s fracas in a statutory declaration stating:

Ms Neal did not swear at the operations manager. She did not threaten or use abusive language. Nor did she say ‘Do you know who I am’.

Keating, Neal’s media spokesman, was equally obliging. In his sworn statement he said the group was having “a pleasant meal” and “no one was drinking excessively and Mr Della Bosca was drinking mineral water”.

“I did not hear anyone swearing, being aggressive or threatening any of the restaurant staff,” adding that he then stepped outside for a cigarette.

So, it seems, the staff who wrote statutory declarations saying they heard Ms Neal say she would have the club’s “f-cking licence” and she would have the “f-cking police down here every weekend to close you down”, are lying.

Now that Della Bosca has admitted writing the fulsome apology given to him and his wife by the Iguana’s general manager last Sunday, questions will be asked about whether Karlsson and Keating received editorial guidance in writing their sworn statements too.

Coalition leader Barry O’Farrell has received an assurance from the NSW Police Force that the conflicting statutory declarations will be investigated to see whether a criminal offence has been committed.

Knowing the strong Labor loyalty of the police hierarchy, it can be safely assumed that the bar staff will be rounded up for swearing false statements and locked away and the Della Bosca partygoers will be given a clean bill of health. That’s the way NSW works.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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