ICAC: NSW Labor’s “Dirty Duo” Charged Over Misconduct

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.


ALP Corruption Scandal: Purge Too Late To Merit Voter Reprieve

AS KEVIN RUDD zips around erecting facades around Labor’s worst legacies and dirtiest laundry, the filthy bomb of Labor corruption is set to detonate; to head off damning ICAC findings into the disgraced NSW branch, Rudd is engineering a purge. It is too little, too late to warrant voter sympathy.

I’ve been reading Sydney’s Daily Telegraph this morning between phone calls, and the latest fix to fool voters — and not just in NSW — is about to get underway.

Readers can access the article I’m alluding to here, and I urge everyone to read it — my remarks are going to be fairly brief and very candid, and I’m not going through the background to all of this again from scratch (I’m a bit time-constrained today).

Firstly, the positives.

Anything that clamps down on union control of anything (other than, of course, unions), or weeds faceless thugs out of our political structures, is to be welcomed.

And corruption — especially in, or adjacent to, public life — should never be tolerated, and to this end the stated intention to stamp this scourge out of the NSW ALP is also welcome.

But readers will excuse my cynicism that this is anything other than a convenient ruse to hoodwink voters into thinking Labor under Kevin Rudd is a changed beast.

For starters, the corruption scandal that has been played out in ICAC hearings had its genesis in activities undertaken by disgraced Labor figures during the period Labor spent in state government in NSW — some of which overlapped with Rudd’s first stint in office.

Moreover, Labor — in NSW and elsewhere — has known for a very long time that the misconduct of the relatively small number of rotten apples in its barrel would stain the party, and bring to it disgrace and shame.

It has had ample time to address these issues, and opted to do nothing.

Indeed, that misconduct was a contributor to the massive electoral defeat Labor suffered in NSW in 2011.

The point, very simply, is that Rudd (and other senior figures) have now had years to do something about Labor corruption, and the fact the measures Rudd has announced come on the eve of a federal election amounts to little more than a stunt.

It is certainly commendable — but by no means exceptional, judged by ordinary decent standards and common expectations — that NSW Labor is to take “a zero tolerance approach to corruption.”

Yet it raises one very salient question.

Why, if the ALP under Rudd is so hellbent on purging itself of institutionalised corruption and weeding the perpetrators from its ranks, are the measures outlined in the report I have linked to not being rolled out across the Labor Party nationally, and in all states?

An ounce of prevention, after all…

Is a “zero tolerance of corruption” only indicated when the whole thing blows up in your face?

Or are such lofty standards and tough talk only wheeled out when confronted with a difficult federal election campaign?

A cleanup — and cleanout — of the NSW ALP is long overdue and well and truly justified, and this column certainly has no quibble on that point.

But these “reforms,” cynically wheeled out in a brazen attempt to mitigate the extreme gravity of an official anti-corruption investigation’s findings and to curry favour with lost Labor voters, should be properly seen for what they are.

Like everything else Rudd has announced in the past 33 days, this is just another stunt.

And the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Labor Party — in seeking to win votes off its own corruption scandal by attempting to be seen as fixing its own festering mess — deserves the electoral kicking such a scandal, in ordinary circumstances, would rightly await whichever party was responsible for it.