Following the resignation of Premier Barry O’Farrell and since the recent spate of ICAC hearings, the taste of corruption has been on the lips of everyone over the past few months.
Speaking at the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival, Sydney Morning Herald Journalist Kate McClymont, who last week released her book He Who Must Be Obeid, spoke about how she first learned of former power-broker Eddie Obeid.
McClymont recalled a day when she received information from a source about a conversation between two engineers and a representative of Sydney Water. She was told by this source that Eddie Obeid’s name was being dropped quite heavily throughout this conversation as a man with influence.
Throughout the time McClymont spent reporting on the Obeid scandal, she says much of the corruption in NSW lay at the local council level.
“I have seen cases where all some politicians had to do, was buy a councilor a Honda civic and they could have ten floors added to their apartments,” said McClymont.
Well-known journalist and author Mike Carlton, former journalist, successful screenwriter and recent author Terry Hayes and The Guardian journalist David Marr joined McClymont in providing their thoughts on how corruption has plagued much of the past twenty years of New South Wales Politics.
Although Marr reminded the audience that the origins of corruption in New South Wales could be found as far back as the Rum Rebellion.
“I have an admiration for Governor Bligh. During the Rum Rebellion, he got into the most trouble he had when he tried to implement simple planning procedures to stop military officials from simply making camp and building on the side of the road in what was today’s Sydney CBD,” said Marr.
Marr delighted audiences by teaching them his Corruption Beauty Scale where because states like New South Wales and Queensland where considered beautiful, this accounted for the corruption that had occurred.
Turning to the topic of defamation, session chair Christopher Warren then sought the views of Hayes who had worked as a journalist in the Neville Wran era.
“When I worked on the Dismissal, our in house counsel sat down and said to me, ‘Terry, I am going to sit down and create a list of the 20 best lawyers in the country and send them a copy of the script, that way they will never be able to appear against us should something happen’,” said Hayes.
McClymont echoed these theories saying it’s these ideas that see people like Eddie Obeid walk away, having received little punishment. McClymont didn’t stop before expressing her wish to see the government spend more money on the cases coming out of Independent Commission Against Corruption instead of allowing a lawyer two years out of university handle the case.
Towards the end of the session, Carlton elaborated, much to the audience’s amusement, on the time Neville Wran brought him up on defamation charges. During his premiership in 1984, Wran was being plagued by corruption rumours and at a media conference one day, he finally lost it.
“If I’m corrupt, then you can call me Marmaduke,” said Wran.
For Carlton, this gave him license to deliver three “Marmaduke” sketches on his radio show for which Wran unsuccessfully sued him for.
Telling a number of stories along the way, McClymont, Marr, Carlton, Hayes and chair Warren provided an entertaining look at where corruption in state politics has taken New South Wales.
Brendan Pearce is a Media and Politics student at Southern Cross University.