Looking at the stories of pervasive corruption coming out of the Burke inquiry in WA, a point I haven’t seen noted is that Federal Labor dodged a bullet by dumping Kim Beazley just as the scandal was breaking. Beazley was no doubt telling the truth when he said he’d never spoken with Burke about the latter’s business interests. Still, given is role in WA Labor, he could scarcely have been unaware that Burke was in a position to influence ALP preselections, and that Burke was using that power for his own personal enrichment. That might not have been a crime, but it was obviously damaging to the Labor party. And given the damage Burke had already caused, having such a person as a friend was an indication of judgement so poor as to cast doubt on Beazley’s capacity for high office.
Sticking with state issues, I can’t recall such a deplorable choice as that being faced by the voters of NSW on May 24. If ever a Labor party could do with a spell in opposition to sort itself out, the NSW branch is that party. Iemma seems decent enough, but thoroughly mediocre, Carr made a dreadful mess of things but profited handsomely out of it, and the ministerial team seems On the other hand, thinking over the string of mediocrities, sharpers and no-hopers who’ve led the NSW Liberals since the corrupt but competent Robin Askin departed the scene, I can’t thing of one who’s less appealing than Peter Debnam.
By contrast with these states and with the systematic corruption of the Federal government (the fact that no-one in government can be charged with anything over the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars to Saddam Hussein indicates a situation far worse than if a single minister or public servant had acted corruptly), the problems faced by the other Labor state governments seem pretty minor. Still, I nearly spat out my morning coffee when I read that Peter Beattie was canvassing yet another canal project, reviving and expanded the Bradfield scheme. I can only hope this is some sort of diversionary tactic.
Update Not as clean a dodge as all that, as it emerges that Rudd met Burke several times. The factional system that gives power to people like Burke is a disaster for Labor. More generally, the decay of mass political parties is a big problem for Australia.