The scarcely believable revelations in parliament yesterday that Anna Bligh’s former chief-of-staff and convicted vote rorter Mike Kaiser had been gifted a $450,000 per annum parachute in his new role as the National Broadband Network’s “government relations” officer has distracted attention from the rumblings inside his old office over a successor.
Crikey understands that the two obvious internal candidates, Nicole Scurrah and Stephen Beckett, were believed to be angling for the prize gig that pays more than $200,000 a year, but that Bligh remains keen to recruit an outsider to halt the destabilisation campaign that has seen nearly every member of her inner circle linked to a mutiny attempt.
The confusion last Friday, when just hours before Kaiser’s departure, a Bligh spinner told Crikey that the rumours of his departure were false and had been “put about by the opposition”, has done little to restore confidence in the fractured office.
Kaiser’s Labor Forum colleague Cameron Dick has been slugging it out with the old guard’s Andrew Fraser for the poisoned leadership chalice, but 27 long months out from polling day, Bligh is keen to lock in a loyal headkicker and dispense with any lingering threats from the all-powerful AWU.
Kaiser, who before the Ruddband announcement was widely expected to return to his former state seat of Woodridge to succeed Desley Scott in 2012, clearly decided that the inner circle had turned gangrenous and that two-and-a-half years of hard slog wasn’t worth it.
Better to plump for a cushy NBN “liaison” role, which will apparently involve stitching up deals with state-based utilities and dealing with media inquires, although the job description so far has been vague to say the least.
Nick Minchin, taking time off from his crusade against deep green cryto-communists, put it best yesterday when he observed that Kaiser is “to promote a company that generates no revenue, has no customers and provides no services to anybody”.
The document revealing Kaiser’s fat salary, humorously tabled by his close Queensland AWU mate Joe Ludwig, seems out of whack with market and public expectations, and will be funded almost entirely by the taxpayer with the NBN unlikely to ever realise anything resembling a profit.
The timing of Kaiser’s appointment is also interesting. Tasmanian sources have twigged that the veteran dirt digger’s presence in Tasmania to supervise the first stage of the broadband roll-out next year corresponds conveniently with the March state election. Just as Kaiser flipped the campaign switch to negative in an attempt to skewer Queensland LNP leader Lawrence Springborg in the dying days of the Queensland poll, Tasmanians fear Kaiser could easily reprise his role if things get desperate.
Liberal leader Will Hodgman, who is currently coasting with an approval rating of 40, will almost certainly fall victim to a desperate assassination attempt and conservative sources are said to be wary of Kaiser’s presence in the state as polling day nears.
The latest ructions come as the $43 billion NBN begins to resemble an increasingly costly white elephant, with AAPT chief Paul Broad hammering the project yesterday as “absolute rubbish”. With basic line rental set to skyrocket, and high-speed internet hurtling towards wireless and satellite services, Kaiser’s millions could end up being syphoned deep into the project’s under-utilised intertubes for decades to come.