Home > Oz Politics > Time to proscribe the NSW Right

Time to proscribe the NSW Right

December 15th, 2012

The latest news showing that former NSW Treasurer Michael Costa is up to his neck in the Obeid scandal comes as no surprise. Australian politics has produced few characters more unattractive than Costa, and it is unsurprising that he should have enriched himself mightily on the proceeds (to the tune of $3.5 million according to the SMH, he says “only” $500 000).

At this point, it’s evident that this isn’t a problem of individual malfeasance but one of structural corruption. The core of the corruption is the NSW Right faction aka “Sussex Street”. [1]. While corruption has been an ever-present problem on both sides of NSW politics[2], the wholesale corruption of the NSW right can be traced back to the election of Graham Richardson as General Secretary in the 1970s. From the bashing of Peter Baldwin to the rise of Obeid, Richardson oversaw the conversion of the rightwing machine into a wholly corrupt organization. At this point, there is no-one in the faction who doesn’t owe their position, directly or otherwise, to Richardson or the crooks he promoted and protected.

If Labor is to have any chance of avoiding catastrophe in NSW at the next federal election, the National Executive needs to intervened now to shut down the NSW Right once and for all. The faction should be proscribed so that no ALP member is allowed to belong to it. The current officers of the NSW Branch should be sacked, and direct national control maintained until the party can be cleaned up. In this respect, Faulkner’s “one strike” policy should be applied with immediate effect, and including past offences.

It may well be that the only way to get rid of the NSW Right is to ban factions altogether. While the factional system has both advantages and disadvantages, none of the advantages are remotely comparable to the cancerous damage wrought by Sussex Street.

fn1. Ludicrously, they now propose to fix their problems by changing address, perhaps to somewhere in the much-touted Western Suburbs

fn2. Back in the 60s and 70s, Premier Robin Askin and Lord Mayor Leo Port were notoriously corrupt and Howard’s right-hand man Arthur Sinodinos is caught up in the same mess as Costa.

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  1. Ikonoclast
    December 15th, 2012 at 14:23 | #1

    There are two types of dishonesty at that political level. Criminal dishonesty of the type mentioned above and also general personal, intellectual and political dishonesty. Sure Costa, et. al. must be dealt with according to law. But what hope have we when just about all front bench and opposition bench politicians operate solely from the basis of personal, intellectual and political dishonesty?

    The Australian constitution needs a further clause in addition to misleading Parliament. There needs to be a clause or section related to “Misleading the Australian People.” It would need to be carefully written and specified along with impeachment processes. The question is how would the Australian people get a referendum held on something that the people want but no politician wants?

  2. Ikonoclast
    December 15th, 2012 at 14:36 | #2

    It is a defining feature that the privatisation of what were and should always remain state owned natural monopolies, like water utilities, opens up such clear scope for dishonesty and corruption. It puts both amoral private enterprise and easily corrupted politicians (i.e. most of them ) in reach of easily pilferable billions of public money and assets. We should not be in the least surprised at the results.

  3. J-D
    December 15th, 2012 at 18:23 | #3

    The question is, how could any such ban or proscription be made operationally effective?

    In order to make effective an ALP rule saying ‘no member of the ALP may belong to the NSW Right’ or ‘no member of the ALP may belong to a faction’, it would be necessary to have some way of defining ‘belonging to the NSW Right’ or ‘belonging to a faction’. If disciplinary proceedings were brought to expel a party member for breach of such a rule, it would be necessary to have some way of proving that a person belonged to a faction (or to the NSW Right specifically if the ban were more specific)–unless the procedure was to put the onus on the member charged to prove non-membership, surely an undesirable approach. Or is the clean-up procedure going to consist of expelling everybody who knows Graham Richardson, or everybody who’s ever done a favour for Graham Richardson, or everybody who’s ever done a favour for somebody who’s done a favour for Graham Richardson? I don’t think that would work. But then, what would?

  4. Winton Bates
    December 15th, 2012 at 18:38 | #4

    Michael Costa up to his neck in the Obeid scandal?

    I have my doubts.

    But we will see what happens!

  5. Jim Rose
    December 15th, 2012 at 18:49 | #5

    corruption is more of a worry when those involved make little attempt to hide it. Their sense of impunity must be well-founded.

    The USA attacked the problem in the state and local delivery of New Deal programmes by make it a federal crime for anyone in an agency accepting more the $10,000 of federal funds to take a bribe. Funds were intermingled. It was easier to prove the bribery than prove federal funds in particular were stolen.

    Section 96 allows the federal parliament to make grants to the states on any terms and conditions it sees fit. A new condition should be the receiving agency must be corruption free.

  6. December 16th, 2012 at 10:40 | #6

    We need to talk about the things that encourage corruption. For example:
    Ministers having the power to make decisions that make enormous differences to somebody else’s wealth – without the process being transparent and subject to checks and balances.
    An electoral system that favours parties (and factions) who accumulate large war chests.
    Rules that allow ministers to accept jobs with organizations they have made favorable decisions for.
    Decisions on promotion and preselection being controlled by people who are uncomfortable dealing with the uncorruptible.
    And…….?

  7. Chris Warren
    December 16th, 2012 at 14:21 | #7

    You cannot ban factions as they are informal entities.

    The real problem is that large swathes of the left have absented themselves from the ALP leaving it to the likes of Keating, Hawke, Richardson, and any number of ALPers (and ACTU) who front-up at the American Embassy and otherwise swan around with the US Labor Attache.

  8. Matt Cox
    December 18th, 2012 at 14:31 | #8

    John D is on the money…. we need far more transparency and a much harder line on conflict of interest.
    J-D is also correct, it’s not clear how a ban on factions would work.

    Finally fraternal hugs from across the decades to comrade Warren… LTNS. Hope you’re doing well.

  9. Jim Rose
    December 18th, 2012 at 16:32 | #9

    British labor had a lot of trouble with Militant tendency: a Trotskyist entryist group since 1964.

    It took several years of work by Neil Kinnock and the national executive after 1983 to expel them

    Militant tendency was way out there so they could not just join other factions and not be noticed.

    The NSW right can easily move to other groupings and rebrand because their policies are not extreme.

  10. alfred venison
    December 18th, 2012 at 17:50 | #10

    you could try a combination of campaign contribution limits on individuals & corporations together with a system of public per-vote subsidy like they have for now in canada. that harper wants to screw around with this arrangement shows to my biased mind that its working in the interest of democracy in canada. the wikipedia article is said to be biased against harper (snicker):- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_political_financing_in_Canada -a.v.

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