Labor politics in NSW have degenerated into what can only be described as “Bonfire of the Vanities” by the Harbour. Two more pillars of the dominant right-wing faction went up in smoke today.
Police Minister Matt Brown has resigned less than three days after the new Cabinet’s stroll through the immaculate gardens of Government House to be sworn in by Lieutenant Governor Jim Spigelman. His Illawarra colleague, Noreen Hay, MP for scandal-ridden Wollongong, won’t hold her position as parliamentary secretary to the new Health Minister John Della Bosca and there must be a question mark over her job as convener of the Parliamentary Women’s Unity Network.
Their spectacular fall from grace is in keeping with the colourful standards of behaviour voters have come to expect from the NSW Government.
In a wild celebration of Treasurer Michael Costa’s June Budget (it turned out to be his last) ALP revellers repaired to Brown’s office where he proceeded to strip to his underpants and perform some unusual dirty dancing techniques with Hay.
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They involved the then Tourism and Housing Minister “mounting the chest” of Ms Hay and shouting to her adult daughter: “Look at this, I’m t-ttie-f-cking your mother.”
Apparently there was no chair sniffing during the evening, but the report of the incident by Imre Salusinszky in today’s Australian was enough to force Brown’s resignation. (Until recently Salusinszky was touting Brown as a possible successor to Iemma. Nice work, Imre.)
The cops have lost a man after their own hearts and will now have to put up with the sterner qualities of Lands Minister Tony Kelly, who has been given the job.
Rees is discovering that the legacy of former premiers Bob Carr and Iemma and ALP general secretary Mark (now senator) Arbib is an Augean stable desperately overdue for a cleanout.
In his 1999 inaugural speech as the MP for Kiama, Brown singled out three Labor personalities for special praise — Arbib, Joe Tripodi and Reba Meagher.
“I wish to thank Mark for being a mate and for his interest in my political career to date. I look forward to working with him in the future,” he told parliament.
Once in government, the former corporate lawyer opened his shoulders and began to make friends and acquire wealth. His pecuniary interests register notes that he is the proud owner of 14 residences, which is double the number owned by Republican presidential candidate John McCain, and he raised an impressive war chest of $209,547 in donations for the 2007 state election.
Hay’s career hasn’t been as meteoric but just as fascinating. On arrival in Macquarie Street she deserted her comrades in the left faction to become a right-winger and then quickly became a formidable fund-raiser.
Greens MP Lee Rhiannon, who has tracked Labor’s donations scandal meticulously, reports that Hay raised $268,465 before the 2003 and 2007 state elections and in the 14 months up to June 2008 raised another $93,080 which was $20,000 more than Cabinet ministers managed to collar.
In April it was reported that she had failed to declare $110,000 worth of donations to Election Funding Authority as required by NSW laws but she blamed the party machine in Sussex Street for an apparent mix up.
“While Nathan Rees is the new broom it seems no matter how hard he tries, he will be unable to sweep his government clean,” Rhiannon said this morning.