When Tony Stewart, the Labor MP for Bankstown became Minister for Science and Medical Research, Small Business and Minister assisting the Minister for Health (Cancer), on September 6, there were sceptics who said he wouldn’t last a week.

In the event, he proved them wrong. He lasted eight weeks.

Premier Nathan Rees sacked him yesterday after barrister Chris Ronalds’ report found he had behaved inappropriately towards staff member Tina Sanger at a Garvan Institute dinner in Sydney on October 22.

Stewart, the putative leader of the sub-right-wing faction known as the Troglodytes, always had a relentless capacity for self-destruction and he was always dogged by slightly bizarro publicity.

Headlines from the 1990s come to mind when he was building his parliamentary career, first as MP for Lakemba (Morris Iemma took it off him) and then Bankstown:

  1. Police link threat to murder by Martin Chulov, Sun-Herald, October 27, 1996: “Police in two States are investigating death threats against a NSW State MP (Stewart) and controversial federal Independent MP Pauline Hanson.”
  2. Private eye MP busts drug ring by Martin Chulov and Darren Goodsir, Sun-Herald, February 1, 1998: “An MP has turned private detective to help smash a major heroin ring.”
  3. MP sleuth praised over drug house tip-off by Darren Goodsir, Sun Herald, November 22, 1998: “A prominent politician (Stewart) has helped police smash an alleged major illegal immigration and drugs racket, winning prise from top commanders for conducting covert midnight surveillance.”
  4. Shot-at MP says police falsified log by Martin Chulov, Sun-Herald, July 20, 1997: “NSW MP Tony Stewart, caucus chairman and anti-drugs campaigner, who was shot at in his car and waited 18 minutes for help, has blasted police in a call for an investigation.”
  5. MP attacks: Killed hunted by Martin Chulov, Sun-Herald, March 7, 1999: “Police investigating attacks on Labor MP Tony Stewart’s campaign office and a bungled attack on the home of a supporter are hunting a hired killer. The person being sought is a suspect in several murders.”

From the above, it is possible to gain a picture of Stewart’s colorful life representing the hard-working folk of Bankstown, birthplace of Paul Keating.

Stewart cast himself as vigilante crime-buster, fugitive from hired killers, undercover cop and all-round action hero who was shot at in the course of duty.

Having anchored himself in the seat with double-digit margins, Stewart has spent the past few years as champion of Father Chris Riley’s Youth of the Streets charity, an organization which is heavily backed by the club and pub industries.

Stewart has twice tramped the Kokoda Track for Riley’s charity and is chairman of Youth of the Streets Overseas Relief Fund Limited.

Stewart intends staying in parliament on his $126,000-a-year salary. Relieved of ministerial office he will be freer to roam the jungles of Banda Aceh and Bankstown.

Peter Fray

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