NSW Labor and their dodgy ratbags are the gift that keep on giving

Eddie Obeid is proving to be a daily embarrassment for Labor in Australia. Now they are threatening to engulf Bob Carr.

The spat between former premiers over who was to blame for the rise of powerbroker Eddie Obeid in NSW Labor has again raised questions about how a succession of leaders failed to check his power.

As the allegations of wide-ranging corruption have emerged at the corruption watchdog, former premier Bob Carr has sought to portray himself as having stood up to Eddie Obeid’s influence. It was his successor, Morris Iemma, who had given him ”special status” within the state government, Carr told ABC1’s Four Corners this week – and, by implication, left Obeid unchecked to exploit his position.

Iemma responded with vigour, pointing out that he did not give Obeid a ministry, Carr did.

The picture of how Obeid accrued so much clout in the ALP is much more complex. Iemma might have been a closer friend to Obeid, but Carr turned a blind eye and at one stage even gave character evidence for the powerbroker in a defamation suit against the Herald.

Obeid, a budding Lebanese businessman and owner of ethnic newspaper El Telegraph, joined the Labor Party at 29 and was elected to the Legislative Council in 1991. A good networker with extensive ethnic contacts, he wielded significant clout in the ALP’s western Sydney branches even before he entered State Parliament.

But despite his power, there was reluctance to make him a minister. Carr finally appointed Obeid to the ministry in 1999 as the relatively lowly fisheries and minerals minister. At that time the ministerial vacancies were filled by factional caucus votes, leaving the leader’s hand tied other than to choose the portfolio.

However, after a thumping win in 2003, Carr asserted his power to demand, with the backing of John Della Bosca, the right to appoint some new blood to the ministry. Obeid, Richard Amery and John Aquilina were casualties.

Obeid returned to the backbench, and Carr chose to turn a blind eye to a string of reports about Obeid’s business dealings and political dabbling in the affairs of several inner west councils.

In 2006 Carr gave evidence in support of Obeid’s defamation action against the Herald, which sprang from a report alleging that Obeid had offered to smooth the way for the Bulldogs’ Rugby League Club’s Oasis development at Liverpool in return for a $1 million donation to the ALP. The Herald lost the case.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.