Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Bye, Barry.

Erstwhile leaders Barry O'Farrell and Julia Gillard at COAG - AAP: Alan Porritt
You won't often see a lot of love for the Liberal Party here. But as one of about five committed federalists left in Australia, I love a good constitutional conservative and will recognise and applaud good governance regardless of its political colours.

That is why Barry O'Farrell's resignation today as Premier of New South Wales is a great disappointment. He restored more than modicum of dignity to the Parliament of New South Wales after Labor's disgraceful years in office.

Most importantly for the country, he proved an effective partner at the COAG table. He was not afraid to break ranks with fellow Coalition state leaders over issues such as school funding and the NDIS, negotiating with the federal Labor government to to get the best deal for his state.

Tony Abbott rightly said O'Farrell acted with "honour" and "integrity" in resigning. But it also seems Abbott has a slightly more slipshod idea of integrity in political life:
If you're in public life, you meet lots of people; from time to time people give you things. They might give you ties, they might give you pens, a bottle of wine and, sure, a bottle of Grange is pretty special, no doubt about that, but given that premiers and other senior politicians have very crowded, busy lives, I don't think it's reasonable to expect everything from some years ago to be front of mind.
This must be the standard Abbott has applied to Arthur Sinodinos. Time (and ICAC) will tell...

One can only hope that through O'Farrell's dignified example, politicians will recognise the need for politicians and business interests to be at arm's length and be substantially more transparent. As Bernard Keane points out, the toxic web of MPs, lobbyists, ex-staffers, advisors, trade unionists, former politicians and ministers is no good for the health of our democracy. It is an unspoken stain upon it. Is it too much too hope that the next Eddie Obeid will think twice before engaging in corrupt conduct?

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