Yes, we’ve witnessed some pretty egregious political behaviour from America lately. But the Sentinel is here to remind you not to saddle-up the high horse – because our local brand of politician frequently demonstrates some pretty ordinary inclinations too.
NSW politics has seen more corrupt and generally incompetent behaviour than you could shake an ICAC subpoena at.
How to select the highlights from such a rich, varied and storied history? Well, as with cream, shit inevitably rises to the surface.
But to narrow the field (a bit), we’ve opted to strictly focus on NSW state politics (thereby, for example, precluding Mr Alex Hawke). And we’re not including those whose politics we generally disagree with, but who actually seem like decent human beings (hello Gladys).
Nor will we include people who seem like prats but haven’t done anything too bad (Michael Costa).
So here, in no particular order – is an objective, absolutely impartial guide to the greatest shonks, charlatans and minor douchebags that have represented our fine state over the last 30-odd years.
Warning: Viewer discretion is advised.
Where else to begin? Ah, yes, Edward Moses Obeid. The infamous ‘power-broker’ of NSW Labor politics and the high chief of a right-wing support group for the pathologically venal, named ‘The Terrigals’.
A career so riddled with overt sleaze it almost felt like a meta-commentary on political corruption, Eddie’s backstory includes mysterious fires, a secret stash in a Swiss bank account, millions of dollars in corrupt real estate deals, and bromances with other bloated grifters like Graham ‘Richo’ Richardson.
Funnily enough, you get the distinct impression Eddie didn’t get into politics for the benefit of the greater good.
In the midst of a succession of ICAC inquiries, it was once noted by counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson SC that Obeid’s various business interests operated “on a scale probably un-exceeded since the days of the Rum Corps”. Ed was ultimately pinged for corruptly lobbying his former colleagues to gain concessions over cafe leases at Circular Quay (secretly owned by his family).
It was a typically grimy, low-key, and essentially Sydney way for him to go out.
It’s a bit hard to remember, but there was a time when this guy seemed vaguely human. But then he lost a federal election, the wiring in his brain fused, and everything went wrong.
Instead of sensibly becoming ‘another bitter cranky old guy at the RSL’, he went into Sky News punditry – then, as we know, successfully parlayed that into a rebranded political career based on the persona of a drunk uncle at Christmas. Fun fact: his Twitter handle is ‘Real Mark Latham’ – almost as if even he can’t quite believe he exists.
Part of Eddie’s ‘Terrigals’ cabal (surprise, surprise), Joe’s good name was besmirched by numerous allegations of corruption and generally terrible behaviour throughout his political career.
These run the gamut from allegations of branch stacking to accusations of sexual assault (of an Australian Democrats staffer). Another notable ‘power-broker’ of the era, at a time when power-broking could allegedly mean threatening a political rival with physical violence.
This guy was a relatively low-profile part of NSW politics – serving as the Aboriginal Affairs Minister under former NSW Premier Morris Iemma.
Well, that changed when he turned out to be a paedophile. On 7th November 2006, Orkopoulos was arrested and charged with 30 offences including involvement in child prostitution, sexual assault and supplying illegal drugs.
These charges included assaulting two underage boys and a third young male – as well as using taxpayers’ money to pay for sex with a teenage boy. In 2008, Orkopoulos was finally sentenced to 13 years and 11 months in jail, with a non-parole period of 9 years and 3 months.
It’s fair to say that in the pantheon of morally corrupt politicians, Milton Orkopolous was next level.
Anyone remember Franca?
Franca was a force in the ’90s. She also had some unfortunately retrograde attitudes – notably conflating homosexuality and pedophilia.
Her profile got a major boost when in 1996 she recommended that the Wood Royal Commission should investigate Supreme Court judge David Yeldham and former MP Frank Arkell as alleged pedophiles.
The resulting publicity storm outed Yeldham as a gay man living a ‘double life’ – and seems to have resulted in the poor guy committing suicide. Franca was unrepentant, saying: “I asked questions which I felt it was important for me to ask after I was contacted by several people. As a member of Parliament, I have a duty to my constituents. Throughout this whole affair, I have acted according to my conscience.”
Oh yeah, that Franca.
Just three days into the job as NSW Police Minister, and Matt thought it would be a good career move to (allegedly) strip down to his undies at a party, then gyrate on a female MP.
To emphasise the point, he decided to tell the woman’s adult daughter (who was also in the room) that he was “titty fucking your mother”. Oh boy.
Brown ultimately ascribed a lot of the issues to drugs, alcohol and depression. Look, we’ve all had too much to drink and done something we’ve regretted. True, we weren’t the NSW Police Minister at the time, but we’ve all been there.
Carbon-dating reveals that Fred is about 300 years old — and yet his politics are even more ancient than he is.
If you are unfamiliar with the man and you want a primer, note that he says that homosexuality should be labelled a “mental disorder”.
Of course, every dinosaur has its day, and it seems the sun is setting on this one. Last week, it was reported that Fred’s political party was facing deregistration by the Australian Electoral Commission over a lack of members.
Barry was a colourful politician during the ’80s and ’90s who was ultimately jailed for the minor matter of making bomb and death threats.
In June 1993, he apparently used an ‘Italian accent’ to phone a local paper to make one of these threats against a Blue Mountains City Council alderman, with whom he was in a dispute.
Curiously, the council chambers had already been bombed, the previous year in 1992 – but this crime has been categorised as ‘unsolved’.
Everyone stroke your chin and go, “Hmmmm.”
The likes of Joe Tripodi seemed so ubiquitous, so entrenched, in NSW state politics it almost seems redundant to mention someone like Ian Macdonald at this point.
But there he is – plagued by scandal, whether it’s a mysterious visit to Dubai or being pinged by the ICAC for corruptly issuing proverbial “lucrative” mining licenses in the Hunter.
What defines a lot of this stuff – you know, the particular NSW stank – is that it’s so petty and ordinary. Trump has proved that performative outrage is the new normal. We need scandal on a grander scale.
Mark Latham we’re looking at you.
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