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New South Wales

Nov 15, 2012

Ghost of NSW government past may haunt Gillard

State politics may prove a boon for Julia Gillard -- look at Queensland's troubled Coalition crew. But how much will the ghost of NSW Labor haunt Gillard, as ICAC continues?

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

“Gillard a hit at community cabinet” was the AAP headline from last night’s forum in northern Brisbane where the Prime Minister was “warmly applauded” as she and her ministers dished it out to Campbell Newman’s government.

Quite a change from July, when the PM was heckled at a community cabinet in federal Labor MP Shayne Neumann’s seat of Blair.

One of the underappreciated factors in Paul Keating’s win in 1993 was that he had the new Kennett government to campaign against in Victoria and, to a lesser extent, John Fahey’s wounded post-Greiner government in NSW. Kennett and Keating later formed an uneasy kind of mutual appreciation society for crazy-brave reformists (and both loathed John Howard) but Kennett’s reforms, especially on industrial relations, made for a potent weapon for Labor in Canberra.

Now Newman is doing something similar for Julia Gillard, albeit with far less competence than Kennett displayed. Newman’s government appears to have gone straight to the constant scandal stage that usually only happens after a decade in power. As the NSW ALP so vividly demonstrated.

The NSW ALP was scandal-plagued while it was still in office, but only since its welcome demise has the full extent of its systemic corruption become apparent, to such an extent that it must now rival the Bjelke-Petersen era as the most corrupt of modern times. Moreover, the corruption wasn’t accidental; it wasn’t a couple of rotten apples, it was endemic and the product of the factional system within the party. And everyone knew about the malign influence of Eddie Obeid, which is why Bob Carr was desperate to drive him out of his ministry in 2003.

The party, in its last stages after Carr left, was a suppurating tumour on Australian public life. It ran the NSW economy, a third of the national economy, into the ground. It infected the rest of the ALP via two of the most ineptly cynical apparatchiks it had ever produced, Karl Bitar and Mark Arbib, who exported the NSW practice of knifing leaders, using internal party research against them and substituting releasing media statements for governing. It ripped off NSW taxpayers by blocking the privatisation of NSW electricity assets. And, we now discover, it was profoundly corrupt.

It took a massive election loss to start the process of excising this tumour, but John Robertson, a symbol of all that was wrong with the ALP in government, is, unbelievably, the parliamentary leader in opposition.

The question is, how much damage will the rotten NSW ALP inflict on federal Labor, even from beyond the grave? Between now and the election, NSW voters will be regularly reminded of just how corrupt Labor was in government. If the Commonwealth-state dynamic does, in contrast to 2010, play out in Labor’s favour at the next election, in NSW it must surely be offset by the drip-drip-drip of revelations about how profoundly, endemically corrupt a government could be.

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28 comments

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28 thoughts on “Ghost of NSW government past may haunt Gillard

  1. Edward James

    When I consider party politics is a team activity. I question just how ignorant these team players can claim to be. Nathan (scurried like a rat) Rees was after all the Chief of staff to Milton (the Horrible) Orkopolous. Edward James

  2. Barry Tucker

    Bernard, the headline (which you probably did not compose) has little to do with your story. Your story has little to do with the Federal Labor Parliamentary Party or the Prime Minister. Why are you drawing this long bow?

    As for the last par (not too sure what it means), perhaps the drip-drip-drip in NSW will be offset by the drip-drip-drip of revelations about the new LNP government in Qld. And who knows what else is to come in NSW and Vic?

    One thing is for sure, governments of all kinds everywhere (and their servants) seem to have their feet firmly planted in corruption.

  3. Salamander

    The fact that the NSW ALP is not in government makes a big difference to people’s attitudes in my view. In this instance Labor has already been kicked – out.

  4. Edward James

    It is certainly time for others to start asking questions about the probity of the NSW Coroners inquiry into the five wrongful deaths at Piles Creek Somersby. The findings of human error are based on the Coroners easy acceptance of information which can be demonstrated as misleading. Edward James

  5. John Bennetts

    The last couple of paras are entirely disconnected from the body of this opinion piece dressed up as reportage.

    What has Robertson done to deserve the slagging in the penultimate paragraph? He has very tenuous connections to Obeid, Arbib and Bitar, who operated very differently.

    I have every expectation that the current NSW Government, which has shown great talent when it comes to being able to achieve both little and late, will help Gillard’s cause greatly come election time.

  6. Mike Flanagan

    In the hope mother moderator may return from her afternoon siesta I would like to add to my previous post the following question. (I have little hope for the time before last it took 48 hours.)
    Why don’t Roosendahl and Tripodi get a mention Bernard?

  7. shepherdmarilyn

    You have been around the lazy press gallery for far too long.

    Just because something is being brought to ICAC does not mean corruption actually happened.

    If it was criminal he would have been charged.

  8. The Pav

    I suspect the events will aid Gillard.

    It will weaken the hold of the NSW Right so she won’t have to have that lead in in her saddlebag & can focus on doing what is the proper thing. I suspect her willingness for the new Royal Commission was aided by the fact that the NSW Right was in turmoil.

    Gillard will be able to dissociate her self ( after all she’s Victorian) from the events and will benefir from the fallout as BOF continues to slash & burn.

    Abbott hasd a greater probelm with Newman. Not only is Newman causing pain but the basis on which is doing it has been proven to be false and overlaid to that is the scandals. Two ministers in a few weeks good ‘eavens!

  9. floorer

    Newman’s a gift. He might be lucky to hold his own seat even if the LNP win a second term.

  10. michael crook

    WE just hope that Campbell Nukeman doesn’t do a Barry o’Feral and have a royal commission into some of the dodgy contracts let by the Queensland Labor Government, I think that the levels of corruption in Queensland were a lot higher than generally supposed and the cozy relationship between then current and ex cabinet ministers with big business and mining was very questionable to say the least. Gordon Nuttall was the tip of the iceberg.