AFTER MONTHS OF bad press for the Liberal Party in NSW — with 10 of its MPs ensnared in ICAC investigations into official misconduct — NSW Labor’s notorious “dirty duo” of powerbroker Eddie Obeid and former minister Ian MacDonald are to be prosecuted, having been charged today with corruption-related offences. It turns the focus back onto the ALP, on whose watch NSW’s business and government spheres grew rotten to their core.
Just a few general remarks from me on this subject tonight; in my mind there’s not too much room for any other opinion on official corruption than outright condemnation, and with these matters now set to go before the Courts, I don’t want to say anything that might be prejudicial to any trial that ensues.
I think I have been adequately clear with readers that when it comes to the cleanliness and integrity of government, my views are unequivocal, and aimed at recalcitrants without fear nor favour: public office is a duty and an honour, not an opportunity for self-enrichment; and where matters of official misconduct are concerned I really couldn’t care whether your political colour is red, blue, green, yellow or whatever — do the crime and frankly, you deserve to have the book thrown at you.
It seems such a fate will now befall NSW Labor’s so-called “dirty duo,” with ALP heavyweight and powerbroker Eddie Obeid and former NSW minister Ian MacDonald both charged today with misconduct in public office as the ICAC investigations that have dragged on for the past few years reach their zenith; the pair may be innocent as they claim, or they may be guilty as sin, but either way, they are finally set to have their day in Court once and for all.
Both of these gentlemen — along with former union figure John Maitland — will appear in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court for a mention on 18 December.
Careers — from the top down, and starting with former Premier Barry O’Farrell — have been tarnished, damaged and/or destroyed by the present round of ICAC investigations and, happily, no quarter appears to have been given, nor allowances made, for the niceties nor the sensitivities of political allegiance or for the shifting sands that underlie structures of power in NSW.
ICAC has pulled no punches, with prominent business identities from NSW and beyond hauled into the mire of misconduct along with political figures on both sides of the chamber in Macquarie Street and the federal Assistant Treasurer in Tony Abbott’s Liberal government, who has stood aside pending the finalisation of investigations into allegations of impropriety levelled against him.
But the big-ticket item was always going to be the Labor names long mentioned openly as central to the festering edifice that sprang up during 16 years of Labor rule, with Obeid in particular said to have benefited to the tune of millions of dollars as companies owned by his family allegedly profited from a litany of favourable decisions by the then state government.
I have welcomed, in this column, the resignations of those from the Liberal Party found to have engaged in improper conduct; I do think the party in NSW has been severely damaged by the revelations that have ensnared 10 of its MPs in the web of impropriety that was supposedly going to tip the corruption muck bucket all over Labor and help keep it in opposition for at least a decade.
In fact, as a lifelong Liberal supporter and member of the party for almost 25 years, I’m disgusted by the revelations that centre on some of those in our ranks who are less than upright — and if found guilty of any offence, I’m just as adamant the punishment should be considerable, as it should be for any offence committed by those in the Labor Party.
And there are those (especially in the Left-leaning press) who will argue that the timing of the charges against Obeid and MacDonald is convenient, with a state election due in NSW in four months’ time, to which I would simply observe that if there were anything synthetic in these matters, then a Liberal Premier would not have been forced from office over a bloody bottle of wine. Anyone silly enough to suggest otherwise ought to grow up.
I will confess, however, to a certain sense of relief: having watched (predominantly) Liberal Party identities hauled through the ICAC muck for what seems an eternity, I was beginning to wonder just when (or even if) anything was ever going to come of its inquiries into the Labor figures who were allegedly on the take for years.
Now it’s happening, the circle closes: without fear or favour, those who are alleged to have done the wrong thing — and based on an adequate weight of evidence to warrant laying charges — are being held to account for it.
Far from putting people off politics, or fouling the already low reputation of politicians even further, the general public should be heartened and encouraged by these developments.
It shows that if you do the wrong thing at taxpayers’ expense, sooner or later you will be caught.
And if you’re caught, you will be humiliated, ruined, and — where appropriate — prosecuted for your trouble.
Simple common sense and reason dictates that there will always be someone who gets away with something: so it is in every walk of life, and people are entitled to be angry and frustrated by this unpleasant reality.
But for every one who is caught, the innocent and the swindled can take heart; and for every one brought before the law, the deterrent to others who might follow suit is magnified.
It doesn’t matter whether I think the “dirty duo” are guilty or not; that’s now up to a Court to ascertain.
But for all the scuttlebutt and innuendo and open secrets that have flown around NSW and beyond for many years, this pair of alleged miscreants will finally be forced to explain themselves: and for that, today has been a very, very good day in Sydney indeed.