Former NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher has given an “exclusive” interview to the Daily Telegraph, her first since flouncing out of the Labor Government in September, causing a by-election in the south-west Sydney seat of Cabramatta.

More “exclusives” can be expected in the coming weeks and months. Her new partner is former Channel Nine state political reporter Adam Walters and he has just been hired by the Telegraph.

It only seems like yesterday that the “Terror” was assailing Meagher’s incompetent handling of the health portfolio under the banner headline: “GRIM REBA”.

But now all is forgiven. In her interview Meagher, 41, slammed the Rees Government as “gutless and disgraceful” and accused it of scapegoating her for the chronic problems in public hospitals.

“I am disgusted at the way the party has behaved over the past few months, they are not delivering for the people of NSW,” she pouted.

The most eye-catching line in the interview was Meagher’s admission that she has not renewed her membership of the Labor Party.

Why should she? After 14 years in parliament and five as a minister, she is now living on a lifetime parliamentary pension, fully indexed, of more than $120,000-a-year.

For the past few years she has lived in an apartment at Coogee rather than in her own Cabramatta electorate: now she can live by the oceanfront and keep up her permanent sun tan guilt-free.

If she does quit the ALP, it will be an act of high-level treachery. The Labor Party is responsible for everything that Meagher has achieved in her career.

After she left Sydney University with an arts degree in 1989, her first job was as electorate secretary to Paul Elliott, then the federal MP for Parramatta.

Then she became an industrial officer for the NSW branch of the Transport Workers Union under Steve Hutchins, now a senator.

She was president of Young Labor in 1992-94 when Joe Tripodi was secretary and together they routed the left who had controlled the party’s youth organization for 20 years.

Carr, a petty-minded factionalist who had endured defeats at the hands of YL lefts and hated their anti-Americanism, joined the ALP’s general secretary John Della Bosca in rewarding them with parliamentary seats — Meagher in Cabramatta and Tripodi in Fairfield.

In 2003 Carr promoted her into the ministry and two years later brought her into the Cabinet as Minister for Community Services. In February 2005, Carr promoted Tripodi into the ministry making Housing Minister. Carr’s leading protégés had both played hard, done good, as rugby league legend Jack Gibson might have said.

In her inaugural speech on December 1, 1994, Meagher thanked Carr, Morris Iemma, Joe Tripodi (“a constant source of encouragement and support” and “we are a great partnership”) Della Bosca, and Eric Roozendaal, now NSW Treasurer, for supporting her successful campaign.

At 27, parliament’s youngest MP, Meagher told the chamber: “My first priority — and my deepest commitment — will remain to the Labor movement and the people whom I represent.”

That commitment has been terminated and she’s settled for giving anti-Labor stories to Rupert’s tabloid. Anyone for a sick bag?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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