CentreLink’s office in Sydney’s CBD has become crowded with new clients from the political hierarchy — Premier Morris Iemma, Treasurer Michael Costa and Health Minister Reba Meagher.

All are job hunting after being sacked amid political high drama. It will be interesting to see where they end up.

Like federal Treasurer Peter Costello and former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer they won’t be showered with job offers and will have to take whatever comes along.

At least Deputy Premier and Transport Minister John Watkins had the foresight and grace to plan his post-political career — and has started as the CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia (NSW).

The Sydney media reported Costa’s resignation today with straight faces and no hint of perhaps getting it all wrong.

After the NSW ALP conference decision on May 3 to oppose Iemma and Costa’s power privatisation, the metropolitan papers lauded their joint decision to fight the conference and ramrod the sell-off through parliament against the party’s wishes.

The dynamic duo were hailed as great reformers and iron principled political leaders who would earn huge plaudits for taking on the unions bosses.

Those were the front-page headlines on May 5, two days after the conference. On September 5, just four months later, Iemma went to a Labor caucus meeting with his plans to shake-up the Cabinet and was turned down flat. He resigned in disgust and Costa was forced out.

Costa has already given some indication of his future work choices. He told one of his chief fans, Imre Salusinszky of The Australian, in April that he liked the idea of opening a coffee shop at his rural retreat in the Hunter Valley.

“I like making coffee,” he said.

“So it’s one option in retirement. People would get to come along — I’d make coffee and Deb (his wife) would make cakes — and they’d get five minutes to argue with me about anything they like. The cost would be built into the price of the coffee. Then I’d tell them to get f-cked for nothing.”

It’s more or less the way he ran the NSW economy.

While one set of ALP right-wingers moves out of Macquarie Street, another group prepares to move in. Labor seems determined to do itself no favors whatsoever by choosing Councillor Nick Lalich, mayor of Fairfield, to replace Meagher in the seat of Cabramatta, and Councillor Robert Furolo, mayor of Canterbury, to replace Iemma in the seat of Lakemba.

Lalich is an old-style suburban Labor boss who made headlines when he visited convicted murderer Phuong Ngo, a fellow Labor councillor, who is in Goulburn’s SuperMax for life for the assassination of Labor MP John Newman.

Furolo, a former member of Iemma’s staff, is a town hall deal-maker with lofty political ambitions but singularly lacking the prerequisite talent.

With these two as front runners, Labor is showing that it has learnt nothing from the past and is destined to repeat the same errors. Premier Nathan Rees should take aside the party’s general secretary Karl Bitar and tell him to come up with two better names — perhaps from the large Vietnamese or Arab communities which are in desperate need of representation in state parliament.

Peter Fray

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