Next month marks the deadline for NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald to announce his resignation from the Upper House and his retirement from politics.
In a succession deal made two years ago, his successor is to be the NSW ALP’s assistant secretary Luke Foley.
The only trouble is that “Macca” reckons no such deal was ever made. He’s staying put, trousering a quarter of a million dollars plus ministerial expenses. And his new wife, who works in the department, is on a six-figure salary.
Macdonald has done 21 years in the upper house and he is not up for re-election until March 2015.
Starting out as a left-wing firebrand and protégé of former attorney-general Frank Walker, Macdonald now doesn’t attend left-wing faction meetings and acts as a roving enforcer for the right.
In return for his loyalty, the right have promoted him so that he now holds four portfolios — primary industries, energy, mineral resources and state development.
In private, Foley maintains that he has been “dudded” by Macdonald but the ALP hierarchy cannot enforce an unrecorded and private deal. In other words, Foley’s political ambitions are on hold.
The whole affair has added to the very nasty atmosphere in which the Rees Government is mired. Foley is well-regarded and has talent to offer Macquarie Street while Macdonald is roundly disliked by all sides of his own party, the Opposition and the four Greens.
Broken succession arrangements aren’t new. Paul Keating reached an agreement to step into Bob Hawke’s job in a deal brokered at Kirribilli House in the presence of TNT boss Sir Peter Abeles (for Hawke) and the ACTU’s Bill Kelty (for Keating).
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The so-called Kirribilli Agreement was dismissed by Hawke when he fell in love with the job as well as himself.
John Howard and Peter Costello also had a succession agreement but Howard repudiated it after taking advice from Janet and George Bush.
The only way that Macdonald and his partner will be shifted from the public payroll is through a policy involving the darker arts of the political process. As a result, the comrades are hard at work — white-anting, destabilising and leaking.