Clearing out the ratbags

NSW Labor leader John Robertson writes to the Sydney Morning Herald about how he is setting about cleaning out the ratbags.

For NSW Labor, losing the 2011 election was devastating but not unexpected. Under normal circumstances, the ashes of that government would now be safely scattered out to sea. Yet two years later, the embers still smoulder.

Right now, the focus of NSW politics should be on Barry O’Farrell’s cuts to services and his failure to fix the state’s problems. Instead, it’s been on the Independent Committee Against Corruption hearings – and the allegation that a rogue Minister improperly granted mining licenses.

Regardless of what ICAC ultimately finds, I know these hearings have damaged NSW Labor. The cascade of negative headlines has been water torture for our members and potential supporters.

Labor is so much better than what the public have seen through the ICAC hearings and I accept my duty to return it to the promise of its founding principles.

That’s why I have expelled Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald from the Labor Party.

The era of Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald is dead.

The public and the party needed heads on a plate. Robertson has delivered them, unfortunately though the ICAC hearings aren’t yet over and there is much embarrassment to come.

The reason the allegations before ICAC have offended me and every Labor member is because they are completely at odds with why we got involved with politics – to serve something larger than ourselves and make society more decent and fair.

There are unfortunately always unprincipled ratbags out there, and their natural home seems to be the ALP.

Unfortunately, recent experience has shown that even a party with the highest ethical purpose can be undermined by rogue individuals. Without constant vigilance, a movement can become atrophied in its culture.

ICAC has heard that Labor’s factional system allowed some individuals to amass a fearsome level of influence. They played the party’s backrooms like baccarat tables. It was too much power.

As leader, I have moved to ensure this can never happen again. This year, we have terminated the practice where factions can forcibly bind their MPs. Labor has a long tradition of caucus solidarity but MPs must first be free to argue for what they believe is right.

I have also enacted the “New Standard” – the strongest package of ethical reforms ever seen in this state. All Shadow Ministers and immediate family have been directed to publish their full income and assets, effective immediately. I’ve banned my MPs from holding outside employment – to remove any potential for conflicts of interest. I’ve also committed to new probity rules for mining licenses – requiring ratification by Cabinet, not just the relevant Minister.

I now call on the Premier to apply the same standards to his party as I’ve applied to mine.

The ICAC hearings have corroded public faith. Together, it’s time to draw a line in the sand and give people a reason to believe in NSW politics again.

Heh, Ross Robertson would fall foul of those rules.


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  • We need an ICAC in New Zealand. Reading the SMH reporting on this stuff has been good – but where were their tough questions for the whole decade NSW Labor was up to no good?

  • blokeintakapuna

    You can put lipstick on a pig – but it’s still a pig…

  • GazzW

    Nice rhetoric but that’s about as far as it goes. Obeid & Macdonald are just the tip of the iceberg. Tinkering with the problem on an intra-state basis won’t achieve anything lasting – this needs fixing at a federal level starting with Gillard and her backers.

  • Dave

    Many many more to come, Tripodi for starters, and then they need to go after the Moses Obeid, who along with another brother ripped of the “City of Sydney” for over $10 mill, and even after being found GUILTY thanks to a lax court system, got away with it. The whole dodgy lot are as corrupt as. Rot in Hell Obeid.