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Australia

Oct 28, 2016

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Victorian MP Steve Herbert is holding onto his job like a dog with a bone after it was revealed that he used his taxpayer-funded car to ferry his two dogs between his country property in Trentham and his residence in Parkdale. The Corrections Minister, who also forgot to declare the Trentham property, has made it through one day of question time on Spring Street, but it will be only a matter of time before Premier Daniel Andrews sends him to the naughty corner. Herbert will find himself on the backbench and among an illustrious list of Australian politicians who have lost their jobs over such measly indiscretions that they will barely rate a mention in the history books.

This is not a list for the Bronwyn Bishops or the Jamie Briggs of the world, those who were forced to resign over legitimately bad rorts. This is the list for the doggie chauffeurs, the Paddington Bears and the scandals that are blown way out of proportion.

Canine companions 

The Victorian Corrections Minister has gone through three drivers in the last two years and is accused of using them to ferry his dogs between his house in Trentham (now revealed as his principal place of residence) and his house in Parkdale, which is actually in his electorate. The Herald Sun, which broke the story, reports that Herbert also asked drivers to take the dogs, named Patch and Ted, for walks. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell: “It’s extraordinary, I’m amazed that he is still there, but it seems an extraordinary thing to do.”

The bottle of Grange

Bottles of wine can prove dangerous for Australian MPs, and it was a fine bottle of Grange that toppled former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell. The Liberal premier was forced to shuffle off after admitting that he had lied to the Independent Commission Against Corruption over the $3000 bottle given to him by Australian Water Holding’s Nick Di Girolamo. It was a significant gift, and having a “massive memory fail” at ICAC isn’t a good look, but in the context of the scale of corruption uncovered by ICAC, it was just a drop in the ocean of Grange.

Done his Dasher

In more recent times, Labor’s “junior senator from NSW” Sam Dastyari was also pushed to the backbench after it was revealed that a Chinese businessman had paid his $1670 bill for travel expense over his office’s allowance. After days of dodging the scandal, Dastyari fell on his sword, but it won’t be the last we hear from him.

The Paddington Bear scandal

In 1984 ALP special minister of state Mick Young was forced to stand down after the Paddington Bear scandal.

On the 5 July Young took an international flight into Australia landing at Adelaide airport, where he indicated on his Customs form that he had nothing to declare. However, much to the scorn and dismay of airport officials, it was discovered he had a Paddington Bear in his luggage. The soft toy in question was purchased as a gift for his wife, Mary, and sister-in-law Laurel Hughes.

The bear cost Young $1903 and his career.

Colour him sacked

In 1982 Michael MacKellar of the Fraser government along with then customs minister John Moore were forced to stand down after MacKellar falsely declared to Customs that a TV he had brought into the country was black and white.

It was later exposed that the offending TV was in fact colour, throwing the ALP into crisis mode. MacKellar stood down for had failing to declare the TV’s colour capacity and Moore stepped down for handling the disaster clumsily.

The sandwich shop scandal

 In 1993 ALP minister for industry, technology and regional development Alan Griffiths was sacked over suspicions of misconduct involving sandwich shop.

It was alleged that a sandwich shop he owned was going broke and that he had used Labor money to bail it out. The allegations were later disproved and dropped following an investigation, but the ALP asked him to step down anyway.

New South Wales

Oct 12, 2016

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In April 2014, Barry O’Farrell resigned as NSW premier for accepting a gift of a bottle of Grange, and now his successor, Mike Baird, has self-destructed his premiership by giving a lease of life to the widely reviled greyhound racing industry.

Baird’s spectacular backflip came with a double somersault and pike and probably merits an honorary Olympic gold medal. It is only seven weeks since the Premier steered the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill through both houses of Parliament, banning the industry from July next year. It was signed into law on August 26.

Now, like the Old Grand Duke of York, Baird is marching his troops down the hill that they had previously marched up. He is promising new legislation early next year that will overturn the ban and give the greyhound industry yet another “last chance”.

Baird’s backflip has enraged voters across party lines. Polls show that more than 60% of people want the industry — which has slaughtered tens of thousands of greyhounds and secretly buried them in mass graves — banned for good.

But voters are also alarmed by the way the original policy was dumped. On Monday night, Baird and his cabinet colleague Brad Hazzard trooped down to the multimillion-dollar Circular Quay apartment of right-wing Liberal broadcaster Alan Jones to seek his approval for the greyhound switcheroo.

In recent weeks, Jones has used his breakfast program to flay Baird, calling him “Kim Jong Baird” and comparing him to Soviet strongman Vladimir Putin.

The Premier decided to take private counsel from Jones before consulting his own cabinet, Coalition backbenchers, Parliament or the public. According to Baird’s critics, his night-time visit to Jones’s harbourside residence was ill-advised because it diminished the office of premier and his own public standing.

At Tuesday’s backflip announcement, Baird said that he expected to be criticised. “People will call me all types of names, they really will,” he said.

He wasn’t wrong there. Voters are asking, if Baird is ready to buckle to a 73-year-old radio ham, how will he stand up to major property developers? The answer is, he probably won’t.

A former senior minister sent a message to Crikey asking: “Will the Premier consult Alan Jones over future policy decisions made by his government? Is this a new protocol where Coalition policy is obliged to pass the Alan Jones test?”

RSPCA chief executive Steve Coleman said the animal welfare body would be wary of joining any Coalition body to reform greyhound racing.

[Baird’s backflip on greyhounds: well, they’re only dogs, right?]

“It’s tremendously frustrating to have been so close to seeing a ban implemented only to have it pulled off the table,” Coleman said.

“As demonstrated time and again, animal cruelty and poor animal outcomes are heavily entrenched and inherent to greyhound racing, including wastage and live baiting.”

He predicted that the proposed reforms are “likely to prove fruitless and continue to result in the deaths of many more thousands of healthy greyhounds”.

Baird’s choice of former ALP premier Morris Iemma to head a five-member Greyhound Racing Reform Panel has failed to inspire confidence. There is no reference in the panel’s brief to the implementation of a legally enforceable, legislation-backed regime. If that means the industry’s conduct will remain voluntary and self-regulatory then it is a sick joke.

Apart from leaders of the NSW Labor Party, “Blind Freddy” knows that greyhound racing is the state’s most disreputable form of gambling. The “dishlickers” have a worse reputation than the “red hots” [trots] and have benefited from tens of millions of dollars of public spending on new courses, grandstands and facilities.

When Baird flip-flopped and said, “I got it wrong, the cabinet got it wrong, the government got it wrong”, it is only part of the story.

In Queensland, former LNP premier Campbell Newman introduced the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD) Act in 2013 when he was surfing a tabloid-driven fear campaign against bikies.

In the process, the LNP criminalised the entire motorcycle-riding community, many of whom were law-abiding veterans and retirees who rode Harleys, wore leathers and grew long beards.

When Labor’s Annastacia Palaszczuk became Premier, the VLAD laws were scrapped and a new code introduced specifically to target criminal elements.

Baird would have succeeded with his greyhound reforms if he rejected the tabloid sensationalists and targeted the minority of organised crime figures, drug traffickers, race fixers, money launderers and tax dodgers who have infiltrated the industry.

Moral of the story? Stop taking policy advice from Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids … and Alan Jones.

Comments & corrections

Feb 11, 2015

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The difference between the ALP and the DLP

Federal Secretary  of the Democratic Labour Party of Australia Michael Byrne writes: Re. “Rundle: how the Labor party could reinvent itself — and save Australian politics” (February 6). Guy Rundle writes of ALP Labor’s lost way, yet he misses the point in his hopeful prognostications of their way forward. Rundle locates ALP Labor’s purpose as fighting for the “poor and marginal” but with its main support base having moved into the domain of “moderate comfort” and lacking “coincided” interests with the poor. He says the poor need their own Party to represent them.

Well, DLP Labour has something to say on that, as an historical, remnant, but growing, component of the labour movement.  Our Rachel Carling-Jenkins — a 39 year old Protestant with a PhD Social Sciences , and having been a single mum with a now 17 year old son — represents this growth in the Victorian parliament today. Rundle’s “progressive” ALP Labor is at a disjuncture, not because its members/ supporters, in their comfort, have moved on from the issues of “inequality” but rather its core beliefs are at odds with its traditional worker, migrant and disadvantaged mass electoral base. A fundamental question to be addressed in the public square is whether “we are of God, or not?”. ALP Labor’s disjuncture is in its elected representatives;  with its vocal and active “not” brigade (seemingly containing 100% Emily’s Listers when viewing swearing-in ceremonies …) and a timid unassertive inarticulate platoon or two who hold the Bible but cannot be seen to talk to it.

The Democratic Labour Party (DLP Labour), in its history and current presence, proudly claims its purpose, passion and programme in the labour movement. It has its heritage in working towards a policy direction of Family and Workplace for the Good Life.  Through its constitution it locates mankind and its destiny as “under Almighty God” and thus establishing the key differentiator to ALP Labor with its socialist influenced system-law solutions.

DLP Labour is a secular political party engaging in the secular public square where people of all religions or none gather to work for human flourishing — life to the full as we see it. Its constitution’s principles are to uphold Democracy, Liberty and Peace, which require no religious affiliation to work for. However the path to their fulfilment within DLP Labour is that which has God as the ultimate future and end. For the Christian members this is understood in the eschaton when/ where all things are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. People who work within DLP Labour, whether pew sitters or not, work within that hope of ultimate promise and always in the shadow of the Cross. For others, it can at least be a participation in the presence of an enduring hope.

DLP Labour has its origins in the Labor split of the mid 1950’s wherein men and women sacrificed political careers through standing to a principle amidst the excesses of jealousy, untrusting and manipulative power within the ALP. They had committed to work to prevent a situation; that of Communist influence within and throughout the labour movement. In 2015 DLP Labour has embarked upon the task of making good a situation  that which has seen the influence of soft Marxist/ materialist meanderings through the institutions having underpinned an era of lost faith in mankind and its destiny, failing hope in mankind’s endeavour for the good, and love being diminished to sentimentality expressed in cheap charity. DLP Labour is ready and willing to work for Rundle’s “poor and marginalised”; not limiting itself to “economic hand outs” but as being there with them to lift up.

Ruddock won’t be rolled

Barry O’Farrell writes: Re. “Ruddock’s not for retiring” (yesterday). To whoever pretends to be in charge: Crikey would be better sticking to reporting facts, than adopting tabloid practices of presenting gossip is news.  Had you been focused on facts you would know that when I announced my intentions to retire at next month’s state election, I ruled out any future shift to federal politics.  Philip Ruddock deserves re-election and a continuing long career, because he’s a terrific local MP and an important wise counsellor in the federal Liberal Party.

Subscriptions

Nov 25, 2014

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From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Old friends helping Lib candidate? We know that Tim Smith will find himself in Victorian Parliament after Saturday’s election no matter who forms government, but whether he will have many friends there is another question entirely. Smith started his campaign on the wrong foot in his own party after winning preselection for the safe seat of Kew from Mary Wooldridge, who was supposed to be parachuted in after her seat of Doncaster disappeared in redistribution. Luckily for Smith, we hear from a tipster that he does still have friends at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he worked for three years:

“On Friday afternoon at 3 pm I was handing out how to vote cards at the Kew early polling booth on the corner of Studley Park Rd and Princes St.  I was surprised to see four men (two young, two obviously retirees) wearing liberal party T-Shirts and the local liberal candidate Tim Smith handing out how to vote liberal cards. When I commented that we would be out numbered if they started a fight, one of the young men said there are a lot of people at PWC who want to see Tim win and that PWC had given them time off work to hand out cards for the liberal party.”

We put this to both PwC and Smith, who denied it, saying the claim was “absolute garbage”. Seen any interesting campaign tactics in the lead-up to the Victorian election? Let us know.

Who will get Ku-ring-gai? It was only two weeks ago that former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell told us that rumours he was leaving politics were “bullshit”, but last night he redefined that term by announcing that he was leaving NSW politics at the next election. While O”Farrell hasn’t given much away about what he will do next, speculation has now moved to who will be preselected for the safe seat of Ku-ring-gai. Says a tipster:

“In Liberal Party circles there will be alot of intrigue and jockeying about who will succeed O’Farrell in the plum Ku-ring-gai seat. Possible successors include Sydney barrister Alister Henskens SC, former president of the local branch. O’Farrell once rebuffed him, saying that if Henskens was ever elected as a Liberal MP he would never be a minister in a government led by O’Farrell. With that obstacle now removed, it will be interesting to see who — whether Henskens or someone else — will seek preselection.”

We called Henskens repeatedly this morning to see if he would put his hat in the ring, but our calls were not returned. Of course preselection is up to the local members, not O’Farrell, but we hear from other sources that the ex-premier favours a female candidate for the seat. According to the tipster, his preferred candidate is Carolyn Cameron, who is president of the branch’s State Electoral Conference (SEC) and she most likely has the numbers. We’ll be watching with interest.

Resources and recruitment at the WA DAA. We were told by a tipster to have a look into the practices at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Western Australia, as we were told there many questions to be asked about Director General Cliff Weeks’ perks and the department’s hiring and firing practices. We obliged accordingly, putting a range of questions to the department and receiving many response from the spokesperson. According to our tipster the DAA is a top-heavy organisation, with a senior team that has “doubled since 2011”, but a DAA spokesperson told us that was wrong, saying: “Executive level positions have increased by just two since 2011. In this time, the department has restructured its operational areas to align with delivering against its legislative responsibilities.”

According to our tipster, the department struggled to fill the role of executive assistant to the Director General recently, after high turnover in recent years. The DAA denied the claim that there was a high turnover of the position, saying: “In the past two years, there have been four occupants of this position, including the current occupant. The three previous occupants, including one who substantively occupies the position, left the position to take up higher duties acting opportunities, within the department. The department is committed to providing development opportunities for staff including through higher duties acting.”

Our tipster also accused the Director General of snagging two car spaces, and until recently, three. According to our source, car spaces are a scarce resource at the department. When we put that to the DAA spokesman, he told us: “There is one parking space allocated to the Director General. The parking space adjacent to the Director General is allocated for the use of the Director General’s visitors.” On the third car park, we were told “Three parking spaces were previously allocated to the chairpersons of the Department’s boards and committees and were used intermittently. One of these spaces was used for a short period by the Director General. These spaces were recently rationalised to one shared parking space.”

Picking your audience. The banking world is waiting with bated breath for the release of David Murray’s Financial System Inquiry report, which is due to be handed to the government by the end of the month. It seems that reporters are staking out Murray’s public appearances to get word on the report, but were disappointed yesterday:

“Just something amusing — David Murray spoke at today’s Financial Services Council lunch. All the major media companies were in attendance and we were all expecting him to say something about the Financial Services Inquiry. Murray did not mention the inquiry at all. He spoke about ‘leadership’ including building a supportive culture and ensuring trust with consumers. This is from a former head of CBA who spearheaded the acquisition of Colonial (a disaster both from a cultural point of view and business. His comments on the recent financial planning practices really began under his watch when commissions were a normal part of the remuneration and conflicts of interest was rife). Needless to say I don’t think many journalists were impressed — probably expecting more on the FSI.”

ABC grumblings. When it comes to job cuts at the ABC, everyone has an opinion, and almost all staff will argue that their department shouldn’t be the one to be cut. We hear from this tipster that some at the ABC are pointing the finger at News24 for fat that should be trimmed:

“News 24 IS the elephant in the room that we’re never allowed to discuss. It is sucking up our resources (money, people, time) and Senator Bridget McKenzie was right on RN Breakfast this morning. Why for example do we have two serious presenters aiming to ‘take it up to Kochie and Karl’ on a breakfast program that provides low rent content and is hardly watched? Why is 24 insulated? It’s wrong.”

Sunday Night staff rumblings. Following yesterday’s tip that 60 Minutes‘ Gareth Harvey was the top pick to replace Mark Llewellyn at Sunday Night, we received this from an insider telling us we were on the money — or at least staff hope we are:

“Staff have been sharing your article madly. Insiders and the industry are flummoxed by the idea the Seven is going to advertise the position of EP — no-one of the calibre for the job would ever consider ‘applying’. The smart money and staff hopes are on Gareth Harvey who is considered a ‘game changer’, but it’ll cause a bombshell at Nine.”

Halls of power go high fashion. Ms Tips often notices the fashion that graces the halls of Parliament, whether it’s a nice suit or eye-catching brooch (Speaker Bronwyn Bishop is often decked out in one of these), but this week clothing choices are gaining more attention as part of the Parliamentary Friends of Australian Fashion’s push to have MPs and senators wear outfits made by designers from their own electorates. Ms Tips applauds this OOTD (“outfit of the day” for the uninitiated) by Northern Territory MP Natasha Griggs.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Tips and rumours

Nov 10, 2014

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From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

O’Farrell moving on? “Bullshit.” What do you do after holding the top job in New South Wales? It’s the talk of the town in Sydney, with rumours swirling that former premier Barry O’Farrell will call it quits within the next few weeks. Former Labor premier Bob Carr was parachuted into the federal Senate, and today’s Daily Telegraph suggested O’Farrell might be doing the same. O’Farrell responded to the article on Twitter this morning, calling a move to the upper house “cruel and unusual punishment”.

O’Farrell hasn’t even officially announced that he’s moving on from politics, but callers to 2UE this morning suggested that he would be moving to the private sector — specifically to work for James Packer. If true, this would be an interesting move for O’Farrell, who was responsible for granting the licence for the Barangaroo casino development, which is set to rake in the cash for Packer. We called O’Farrell to ask about the rumours, and this is what he told us: “Media have run every form of rumour about my future.  None of it has been true. I have had no discussions about a switch to federal politics — nor any interest in it. The Packer/Crown rumour has previously been aired by media.  It is bullshit.”

Well that’s that, then.

Meade says she never applied. We know The Australian hates Fairfax and the ABC, but it seems the top of the Holt Street hit list is ex-employees of the Oz‘s media section. The paper, through its media pages, has rarely turned down the chance to have a dig at former media editor Nick Leys, who joined the ABC as chief spinner earlier this year, and now that she’s got another high-profile job writing about the media (for The Guardian), it seems long-serving Oz journo Amanda Meade is also fair game. But Meade has hit back, saying they need to check their facts over at her former employer.

According to the Oz, Meade had applied for Leys’ current job at the ABC, which means one can dismiss her entire Guardian column as ABC spinning. But the short brief was riddled with errors, including its statement that Leys “replaced” Meade as media diarist. But it wasn’t Leys at all who replaced Meade — it was Caroline Overington. But then again, it’s no wonder the Diary these days seems to have little sense of its own history. Meade’s specialty is described as “reporting the moanings and groanings of low-level ABC employees and sniping at News Corp”. Meade is the longest-serving media diarist, having run the column for a decade. Any specialty she has was developed during her 18 years at the Oz. But current editor Sharri Markson doesn’t appear to hold the section’s past in high regard.

When Crikey spoke to Meade this morning she was, well, rather unimpressed with the item, saying she had never applied for the ABC job. The item didn’t name Meade’s current employer (describing it merely as a “loss-making colonial outpost of a website” — oh, the irony). Further up in the column, the Diary has a go at Tele gossip scribe Annette Sharp for not supporting other women. Pot, kettle, you get the idea …

Quality or quantity from Bolt? Sometimes Ms Tips likes to marvel at the output of Australia’s most prolific blogger, Andrew Bolt. Between 6am and 9am this morning he uploaded no fewer than nine posts, including one that was no more than the flyer and booking details for the Liberal Democratic Party’s Victorian campaign launch (personal friendship with Tony Abbott aside, the Liberal Party clearly has to work for Bolt’s vote). Mind you, a tipster has reminded us the key to his output is his ability to readapt content. Bolt’s Herald Sun column today, for example, bears a striking similarity to his opening rant from his Channel Ten show yesterday, and touches on the tried-and-tested topic of an “out of control” ABC. Perhaps with Bolt spread so thinly, a bit of repetition is unavoidable …

And the winner is … We hear that the Adelaide Advertiser broke its own embargo a few weeks ago, publishing the winners of their Advertiser Food Awards a few days early. The error was picked up, printing presses were halted and the copy was removed — but only in time to stop some editions of the paper. We hear some winners of the awards were called and told that they were successful, but only because papers in regional South Australia already bore the news. The winners were officially announced last week, hopefully not disappointed by an announcement that was taken out of the oven too soon.

You heard it here first. In July we tipped  that Kate Warner could be Tasmania’s next governor after the death of the popular Peter Underwood. Well, Warner was announced as the new governor today, the 28th for the state and first woman to hold the role. We thought she could be a bit too radical for Premier Will Hodgman, but she will be sworn in on December 10.

Palmer’s numbers game. It was a busy weekend of campaigning in the Victorian election, with both the Liberal Party launch and the announcement of the Palmer United Party’s 19 candidates for the upper house. Protesters from Trades Hall picketed the entrance to the Liberal event in Ballarat, and while they didn’t get to see Premier Denis Napthine, who came in through the back door, they did take offence at the attendees who gave them the finger and called them dole bludgers — they were there on their day off. Better get a union onto that. While Palmer United leader Clive Palmer hoped that yesterday would be all about the 19 candidates on stage with him, it was really about Jacqui Lambie’s threat to block all legislation until the defence forces were offered a better pay deal. He told those present “she can’t split the party, the party is bigger than that. We hold the balance of power in Australia. One senator doesn’t make much difference either way.” Someone better talk to Palmer about how many senators are needed for the balance of power — perhaps Ricky Muir could help? Ms Tips also found the choice of song at the two events revealing — while the Liberals found their seats to the strains of Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, Palmer went for a John Williamson album, including True Blue. We wonder what the soundtrack for the whole election should be; you can send suggestions here.

Pollies’ correspondence. While we’ve been covering the election advertising in Victoria over the last few weeks, we’ve been told that flyers are already appearing in letterboxes in New South Wales, even though the election isn’t until next year. This one is authorised by Adam Kerslake, who is connected to the Stop the Sell Off campaign and GetUp — they’re getting in early. With elections coming up in both NSW and Queensland next year, we trust our tipsters are on the lookout.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or use our guaranteed anonymous form.

Comments & corrections

Oct 21, 2014

5 comments

On Greens preferences

Victorian Convenor of the Animal Justice Party Bruce Poon writes: Re. “A soy latte and preferences please” (yesterday). Crikey has reported today the widely held but completely false belief that the AJP cost the Greens a seat in the ACT at the last federal election. This is despite me pointing out to your journalist the clear error in that view. If you took the time to look up the AEC website, you would clearly see that the Greens went down by a fair margin, unrelated to our preferences.

Leave the ABC alone

Laurie Forde writes: Re. “Beecher: we must ask tough questions about the ABC” (yesterday). The main reason the ABC must continue to be funded by the taxpayer is because it is funded by the taxpayer. It is not funded by multi-billionaire owners or corporations with vested interests that corrupt the democratic process by supplying false or limited information favourable to their own agenda. That is why Rupert Murdoch is happy to run his newspapers at a loss. They give him political power far in excess of his right as a voter in a one person, one vote democratic system. As part of the “mainstream” media, the ABC theoretically performs a vital role of providing alternative views to those of Murdoch et al, and quite often it does, in fact.

Douglas Stewart writes:  There really is no debate about the future of the ABC. The debate exists only in the minds of its enemies and in the forums available to them. The Australian public wants the ABC — simple as that. By and large they like it more or less as it is. And that includes the vast majority of Coalition voters as well. The far Right and those with vested interests like the Murdoch press can thrash about all they wish, but they well know they can only make a small difference round the edges.

And pious concern about the ABC’s tax funded status is also a non-debate. Some don’t use the ABC yet have to contribute to it … so what? I’m not a pensioner, unemployed or a single mother but I don’t begrudge the recipients a cent of my taxes. That’s the nature of a society. And the ABC is biased? Don’t just assert it, prove it! No one has yet. Let’s stop futilely storming the ABC castle and devote our energies to examining the worst parts of our nation — not the best.

No happy returns for a Farrell comeback

Jonas Ball writes: Re. “Is Barry O’Farrell eyeing Canberra?” (yesterday). Many of Ku-ring-gai’s electors can’t wait to see to the back of Barry. While he might have been a good local member for many years, his recent actions (or inaction) will be the legacy for which he will be remembered — namely allowing an unfiltered ventilation stack from one the world’s largest road tunnels (ie. NorthConnex) to be placed in the middle of his electorate in a residential area with over 9300 school children within close proximity to the stack.  This is the stack that the NSW Health department in its submission on the NorthConnex Environmental Impact Statement has said “the external air quality impact for residents around the Northern and Southern Stacks demonstrates a non-negligible risk in terms of long term health impacts.”  and the NSW EPA said “the project is predicted to significantly contribute to the overall ground level concentrations (of NO2 and PM2.5) at some sensitive receptors”. So while Barry contemplates his navel and new career options, the electors of Ku-ring-gai are basically left unrepresented and facing 4 years of 24 hours a day 7 days week construction noise with a promise of “non-negligible” health impacts when the tunnel is opened.

New South Wales

Oct 20, 2014

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As the 55th Parliament of NSW enters its final days, senior MPs from all major parties are handing in their resignations. A changing of the guard is underway.

Two former premiers, Liberal Barry O’Farrell (March 2011-April 2014) and Labor’s Nathan Rees (September 2008-December 2009), have decided to throw in the towel.

Rees, 46, starts his new job as CEO of the Public Education Foundation next month, promising to develop the non-for-profit body’s mission of awarding scholarships to needy students. “A strong and powerful public education system is vital to a functioning democracy,” he said.

O’Farrell’s post-political career remains unclear, and current media speculation  involves a job quite unconnected with assisting a functioning democracy. His name has been linked to a development and marketing position with the National Rugby League, which would be a temporary staging post before O’Farrell relaunches his political career in Canberra.

Since leaving university at the age of 21, O’Farrell has been engaged in politics, first as a lowly adviser, then as a NSW state director, opposition leader and ultimately premier. His family is soaked in politics. Wife Rosemary is the daughter of the late Bruce Cowan, who served in NSW politics for 14 years before transferring to Canberra to serve another 13 years.

With Philip Ruddock, 71, and Bronwyn Bishop, 72, both expected to retire from their Sydney north shore seats at the next federal election in 2016, the popular O’Farrell would be well placed to make a political comeback.

The other senior Liberal quitting at the March 28 election is Robyn Parker, the former environment minister, who has served 12 years in the upper and lower houses. Her departure from the seat of Maitland will mean the end of Liberal Party presence in the Hunter.

Chris Hatcher, MP for Terrigal, a survivor of the Greiner-Fahey era and a major factional player with the hard Right, will not recontest after a bruising encounter at the Independent Commission Against Corruption over donation scandals.

Greg Smith SC, MP for Epping and the former deputy director of the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, is standing down in favour of his son Nathaniel, who faces a preselection contest on Wednesday night.

Another MP likely to quit is Attorney-General Brad Hazzard, MP for Wakehurst on Sydney’s northern beaches. As a last hurrah, he appointed right-wing Labor’s John Hatzistergos as a District Court judge at the end of last week. It was generally regarded as a “thank you” to the former ALP attorney-general, nicknamed “Hatz ’n’ coats”, for his report to the government recommending a severe tightening of bail conditions in NSW.

If Premier Mike Baird wins the election, he will almost certainly offer the law portfolio to Cronulla MP Mark Speakman SC, a 54-year-old newcomer with one of Parliament’s sharpest legal minds.

Apart from Rees, the other Labor MPs standing down are Richard Amery (Mount Druitt), Barry Collier (Miranda), Cherie Burton (Rockdale) and Robert Furolo (Lakemba).

The Nationals are losing three heavyweights — former leaders Andrew Stoner (Oxley) and George Souris (Upper Hunter), and former local government minister Don Page (Ballina), grandson of former Australian prime minister Sir Earle Page.

Labor’s focus is on winning back at least 15 seats after the utter humiliation of the election in March 2011. They are Londonderry, Riverstone, Granville, Mulgoa, Heathcote, Rockdale, Newcastle, Charlestown, Swansea, Lake Macquarie, The Entrance, Wyong, Gosford, Kiama and perhaps Monaro, based in Queanbeyan.

That’s just enough to take Labor’s presence in the Legislative Assembly to 35, but not enough to save Labor Leader John Robertson’s future as party leader.

Companies

Oct 8, 2014

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If the newspapers are right, SBS could finally have a new chairman in a little over a week.

The role, which has been left empty since Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to renew the term of former chair and CHAMP Private Equity co-founder Joe Skrzynski six months ago, is expected to go to little-known businessman Nihal Gupta, as revealed in a report in The Australian on Monday.
Continue reading “What we know about the man likely to be the next SBS chair”

New South Wales

Oct 1, 2014

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New South Wales Governor Dame Marie Bashir bows out of vice-regal office today ending a 13-and-a-half-year term of widely admired service. Described most frequently as the “people’s governor”, Bashir’s tenure encompassed some of the most tumultuous years in the state’s history, covering six premiers and five opposition leaders.

Bashir was raised and educated (at a state school) in Narrandera in south-western NSW. Her parents were first-generation immigrants from Lebanon. A psychiatrist by training, Bashir has dedicated her life to a string of causes, most notably Aboriginal and children’s health, mental health and welfare, juvenile justice and the resettlement and housing of refugee families.

Continue reading “‘An angel masquerading as governor’: Marie Bashir leaves a grateful NSW behind”

Comments & corrections

Sep 18, 2014

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The truth of those deleted tweets

Barry O’Farrell writes: Re. “Bureau of Regret: the streets are paved with iPhones” (yesterday). While not disputing the intent of today’s article, can I just point out that my original tweet is still in my timeline and wasn’t deleted (and no, I can’t explain your pic).

Dept of Australia replies: Intrigue! Actually, there’s not so much intrigue as there is a Mundane Explanation; the one that’s in his timeline was posted a minute later than the one that was deleted. The difference between the two is the one that was deleted had a typo in it (“that” instead of “than”).

The fox in charge of the hen house

John Richardson writes: Re. “Committee recommends (marginally) reining in new security laws — but media still face jail” (yesterday). As far as most reasonable people are concerned, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a duck.

That our spymasters and their corrupt political enablers want our spooks to be able to break the law with impunity is surely beyond the pale. To compound the affront, these same agents of totalitarianism would render journalists accessories to such crimes, by making it illegal to report them. While Australians might be desperate to trust their political leaders and those who would allegedly keep us safe is one thing, but it doesn’t take a Rhodes scholar to figure out that the day the fox is put in charge of the hen house, it won’t be long before we’ll be right out of the chicken business.

If the cynical manipulation of public opinion by the Abbott government in recent days hasn’t convinced Australians of the dangers of allowing our intelligence agencies to become a law unto themselves, then maybe they should reflect on the level of criminal abuse already being visited on our so-called democracy by those we entrust with its defence?

Whether it’s the scandalous attempts to cover-up our government’s illegal spying activities against the government of East Timor, arguably conducted to corruptly enrich private sector interests, gross abuses of human rights, the criminal activities condoned by the leadership of our central bank or any of the other 1500 high-level matters deemed too “sensitive” for the Australian people to know about and concealed by “superinjunctions” imposed by the Victorian Supreme Court over the past five years (almost one a day), surely we shouldn’t need convincing.

The successful passage of the legislation containing the benignly termed “national security reforms” will surely transform Australia’s status as a liberal democracy to that in name only.