The ICAC Reports are now out, and they cannot be at all comforting to the Labor Party. There won’t be any legal cases before the election, but the smell won’t go away, at least in New South Wales. Mr Rudd, aware of what would be coming, acted as the avenging angel once he was Prime Minister again, though with his passion for reform and purity he had been strangely silent, over the preceding six or so years, about what was going on in New South Wales. I don’t think he said anything of consequence about Craig Thomson, either. Still, an avenging angel could have a lot on his plate.
But what happens now? Jack Waterford, the editor-at-large of The Canberra Times, who has been around for a year or two, points out that everyone who could have done anything about it is now distancing himself from the problem, and that includes Foreign Minister Carr, former Premier, who once had both Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald in his Ministry. Waterford has a telling sentence in his summary: ‘What is happening also bespeaks a leader and an organisation which wants to draw a line, to walk away and start again, but never never to look too closely at what went wrong, who did wrong, or why things went badly wrong.’
I think that is spot on, but at this time of electoral decision, the question is whether or not electors will be prepared to forget a decade of mismanagement run (Waterford again) by ‘a gang determined on having power and using it for their own ends, including rewarding their mates and punishing their enemies’. At the moment the polls don’t help, but then they won’t until the election campaign is official, and the Coalition can roll out its own onslaught, within which there will be reminders of all this stuff.
If I move from Jack Waterford to Ben Eltham in New Matilda, no more right-wing than Jack Waterford, we get this summary: ‘Obeid was not some rogue operator. He was at the very heart of Labor’s system of power. His methods were indistinguishable from celebrated power brokers such as Graham Richardson – Obeid’s former mentor. Obeid controlled the NSW Right faction. The NSW Right controlled the party, including federally. If Eddie Obeid was corrupt, then the greater part of the Labor Party was too, because Obeid controlled it. It was Labor’s factional system that allowed a man such as Obeid to seize control of the apparatus of state power, and use it to enrich his family.’
I agree with that, too. Now let’s wander over to The Conversation, which is not in any way a right-wing organisation either. Here we have Mark Rolfe from UNSW quite upbeat about the fuss. He suggests that Mr Rudd will just wave the ICAC findings away. ‘I’m Kevin and I’m here to help!’ Rolfe follows this with ‘I think it sums up how much the current recommendations for prosecutions by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will affect the chances of federal Labor at the upcoming election – not at all. Any effluential by-product attached to NSW Labor by the ICAC recommendations for prosecutions will not be influential on federal Labor.’
So there you go. I find it hard to believe that Rolfe is correct, but then I don’t live in NSW, let alone in Sydney, where the NSW Right ruled. I just find it hard to believe that the citizens of Sydney have forgotten about these people, and think that things are so OK again that they can vote for Labor with a clear conscience, knowing that everything has been sorted and that virtue is triumphant.
In fact, the links with Federal Labor are everywhere. It wasn’t just a local, NSW scam. As Mr Rudd knows very well, it was the factional heavies, including the Right, that toppled him in 2010. And it was they who three years later decided it was time for Julia Gillard to go. When we go the election those in the NSW seat of Kingsford Smith will have the option of voting for Matt Thistlethwaite for the House of Representatives and Sam Dastyari for the Senate.
You haven’t heard of them? Well Sam Dastyari used to be the General Secretary of the NSW Labor Party, but he moved up to the Senate in 2011, and is throwing his hat in the ring for the Kingsford Smith seat being vacated by Peter Garrett. Thistlethwaite preceded him as General Secretary, and is following him into the Senate. Before Thistlethwaite, the General Secretary was Karl Bitar, who was National Secretary as well. He resigned to work as Head of Government Affairs for Crown Ltd, which runs casinos, and recently secured the new licence for Sydney.
Before him was Mark Arbib. You’ve heard of him because he was a Minister in the first Rudd and Gillard Governments, and then suddenly resigned from both the Ministry and Parliament to spend more time with his family. He now works for Crown Ltd too. Before him the General Secretary was Eric Roozendaal, later Treasurer in the Labor Government led by Nathan Rees. Roozendaal resigned from Parliament in May this year, after having been quizzed by the ICAC inquiry about, among other things, his getting a surprisingly large discount on a new car.
All in all, it does look as though the position of General Secretary of the NSW Labor Party does lead to federal political representation, and/or to working in the casino industry. It makes you think, doesn’t it. But how good is the electoral memory?
And then there is Craig Thomson, still awaiting his fate, which will arrive, before the election, in a couple of weeks’ time.