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”. . While corruption has been an ever-present problem on both sides of NSW politics, 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.