Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Obeid Obye

Today Eddie Obeid's retirement from the Legislative Council was finally confirmed.

To be perfectly frank about it, he has been hanging round like a bad smell for some time now.
I think he can smell it too.  From SMH
In the year leading up to the 2011 election Kristina Keneally begged the "old guard" to retire and let some "flesh blood" into NSW Labor's ranks.  We saw, as a result, a mass exodus of Labor members of the Legislative Assembly and Council in what would have otherwise been described as rats deserting a sinking ship.

Obeid quite neatly summed up everything that was wrong with NSW Labor, and I have little doubt that Robertson is breathing a sigh of relief that he is to leave.

His record includes the following:

- In 2002 he was investigated and later cleared of corruption in relation to the Oasis redevelopment 
- He repeatedly failed to disclose business interests on Parliament's pecuniary interests register
- In 2004 he was censured due to his undue influence in the elections of Matrite Council
- In 2009 he made representations to NSW Minister for Roads, Michael Daley, on behalf of Mid-Western Regional Council without disclosing his business interest in the area
- In 2009 he was alleged to have links to Ron Medich and the murder of Michael McGurk

Most importantly, when Nathan Rees was dumped and replaced by Kristina Keneally, Rees famously announced that the new premier would be "a puppet of Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obeid."

Perhaps nothing better characterised the shambolic of Labor's governing by that stage.  In my view, it all but guaranteed Labor's loss at the next election (insofar as it was not already a sure thing).

As a final note, Obeid was the leader of the "Terrigals", a disproportionately powerful ALP subfaction. 

Of course Obeid's departure is only part of the story.  He will now have to be replaced.

As Obeid is a member of the Legislative Council, his replacement can be directly nominated by the ALP without the fuss of a by-election.

As well as Obeid, John Hatzistergos (former Attorney General) announced not long after the election that he would be retiring.

In one sense, it is surprising that so few are quitting.  Labor have been in power for a long time, and once a long reign ends there is normally a purge of the ranks as former ministers contemplate 4 years on the backbench in opposition.

That said, Keneally's plea for renewal in the year leading up to the election may have adequately depleted of the ranks of those who weren't in it for the long haul.

The word around the traps is that Obeid is to be replaced by Walter Secord, former chief of staff to Keneally, and Hatzistergos is to be replaced by former Blue Mountains Mayor Adam Searle

Unsurprisingly, some have let their displeasure be known about Sussex Street appointing the replacements, even calling for a rank and file ballot of members.

Others have suggested that those that missed out on election to the Legislative Council in 2011 (Andrew Ferguson and Natalie Bradbury) should be the replacements.  

That does make sense to some extent, but in fairness it's not as if Obeid and Hatzistergos ran intending to retire if Labor lost - both were not up for reelection round as they were continuing members elected in 2007.

It would certainly be unfortunate for Labor if the issue of Obeid and Hatzistergos' successors became the circus that Labor avoided by electing John Robertson unopposed on 31 March.

At least insofar as it avoids a drama, a quick and quiet appointment of suitable candidates would make sense.

Having said that, backroom deals are one of the prime causes of Labor's present seat-count - people tired of seeing power-brokers (like Obeid) calling the shots and disenfranchising "rank and file" members.

The point was neatly summed up on twitter by @rickeyre who tweeted today: "If Secord gets parachuted into the NSW upper house ahead of candidates who stood for election, it shows the ALP has learnt nothing."

The problem is that Labor cannot resort to a rank and file vote every time something contentious comes up - their is a time to cnsult everyone and a time to just get things done and LEAD.

This may well be one of those times.

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