On September 1, Luke Foley, the newest Labor member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, rose to make his inaugural speech to the chamber.
Foley began: “It is with pride and humility that I enter this place, Australia’s oldest Parliament, as a representative of Australia’s oldest, and greatest, political party — the Australian Labor Party.”
Oh dear. What a day for Foley to praise the ALP in NSW.
Earlier that day, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) revealed it found that NSW Maritime's most senior lawyer, Tonette Kelly, had forged documents, cheated on her tax and lied repeatedly about a private conveyancing business worth $120,000 a year, which she ran from the NSW Maritime head office.
The same day, the government ordered an internal inquiry into the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and suspended senior consultant Andrew Kelly. As the second-most senior employee of the SHFA, Kelly received secret incentives from the Kazal family — a prominent tenant of the authority’s harbourside properties.
On the same day, famous NSW anti-corruption campaigner John Hatton, the independent MP for South Coast from 1973-1995, confirmed he would run for an upper house seat at the March 2011 state election.
Hatton said he was “fed up” with corruption in the state after successfully campaigning in the 1990s for a royal commission, which eventually led to the creation of the Police Integrity Commission.
He criticised the failure ICAC, saying NSW was now more corrupt than it was under super-corrupt Liberal premier Robert Askin, in power from 1965 to 1975.
In particular, Hatton attacked ICAC’s failure to draw the connections between corruption it uncovered in Wollongong City Council and the upper reaches of the NSW government.
Finally, on September 1 the Daily Telegraph “learned of” a parliamentary audit showing internet pornography use by ports minister Paul McLeay. Confronted with this information by the Telegraph, premier Kristina Keneally demanded, and got, McLeay’s resignation.
September 1 was the worst day yet in the history of the decaying NSW Labor government.
Even traditionally pro-Labor media like the Illawarra Mercury are now calling for its head, using the foibles and petty corruption of its ministers to bury all discussion of politics before the March 2011 election.
This campaign is intended to create an atmosphere where the Coalition will win in a landslide, opening the door to a government of Jeff Kennett-style “reform”.
So far, thanks to NSW Labor’s abominable record in privatisation of public services, its corruption and all-round incompetence, the campaign is a great success. Labor is at 25% of the primary vote support in the polls, its lowest rating since it won 23% of the vote in 1904.
If an election were held today, the conservatives would win with 61% of the two-party preferred vote.
In this context, the enormous challenge for the left and progressive movement in NSW is to make sure as much as possible of the community’s completely justifiable anger with Labor feeds into support for socialist, Green and progressive candidates.