Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Modern Prince & Blasts from the Past

While talking to Liberal Insiders about the demise of Barry O’Farrell as premier, the best description I heard of the actions that have tainted the party was this brief but deadly portrait of lawyer, lobbyist and Liberal fund-raiser Nick Di Girolamo: "Anyone who spoke to him for two minutes could work out that he was a name-dropping spiv."

Paul Sheehan: a story about under the influence

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the now Infamous  thank-you note that ended Barry O’Farrell’s premiership this week is that it was sent so soon after his bone-crushing election victory. This was a man who swept to power thanks largely to the insufferable stench of corruption that had engulfed NSW Labor. Thus was Labor’s position apparently unrecoverable, and O’Farrell apparently invincible. All he had to do was stay clean.

Barry O'Farrell's Liberal machine as rotten as Labor's

So many people prominent on the political scene today were involved in conservative politics back then, leaving a trail of intriguing connections. They all travelled a long way, both up and down. Baird’s chief of staff was Barry O’Farrell, who married Baird’s PA Rosemary Cowan, the daughter of National Party MP Bruce. O’Farrell later acquired Baird’s seat of Northcott.

Ross Cameron, who as a reborn political commentator last week criticised O’Farrell’s performance on Sky, was also a researcher on Baird’s staff at the same time, entered federal parliament and became a rather colourful MP. Joe Hockey worked for George Souris, Sophie Mirabella (nee Panopoulos) was on Michael Yabsley’s ministerial staff, John Brogden worked at various times for John Fahey and Ted Pickering. Brogden’s friend Marise Payne, who is friends with both O’Farrell and Baird, and who is finally coming into her own now, was also a political adviser to Fahey.

A regular visitor to Baird’s office in those days was his bright, personable student son Mike. All the staff knew and liked Mike, so when O’Farrell finally made it, they, like many others, were puzzled by the treatment the new premier meted out to the son of his former boss. Fair enough, O’Farrell wanted Gladys Berejiklian to succeed him, but ranking the young treasurer at No 11 in his ministry while stripping him of many of his powers was a calculated emasculation.