Arbib’s mysterious exit

Julia Gillard’s easy victory over Kevin Rudd was predictable, the resignation of Mark Arbib wasn’t.
The NSW ALP right has an unwritten set of rules and one of them is that members must gain any and every bureaucratic position they can in the labour and trade union movement, no matter now menial.
Once they’ve gained those positions, they don’t resign from them: quitting isn‘t an option.
Just look at Craig Thomson, the former health union official and MP for Dobell. He’s hanging onto the wreckage of his parliamentary career despite inquiries by Workplace Australia, the Australian Federal Police and the Fairfax media.
So why did Arbib quit on the very day that peace broke out in the federal Parliamentary Labor Party?
We can dismiss his story about needing more time with his family. His wife is Kellie Field who worked for Eddie Obeid when he was a minister in the Carr Government and then became chief of staff to Michael Costa when he was Police Minister and then Treasurer and then chief of staff to Eric Roozendaal when he was Treasurer.
Mrs Arbib, aka Kellie Field, is a career woman in the same mould as Belinda Neal, wife of another former general secretary of the NSW ALP, John Della Bosca. Ms Neal managed a political career in Canberra and then as a high-powered consultant while her husband was a NSW Cabinet minister. Kellie Field, though never holding an elected public position, has worked for Labor Cabinet ministers at the top of government for the past 12 years.
Arbib hasn’t walked away from the Senate as he suggested at his press conference, it’s more likely he’s been forced out.
A senior minister and Rudd supporter has told Gillard that he is willing to serve in her next ministry “but not with Mark Arbib” and Gillard has cut him loose – as she did Karl Bitar, the party’s national secretary and her former media director Amanda Lampe. Both went soon after the disastrous election campaign which almost saw Labor turfed out of office.
Arbib had become the ugly face of ALP factionalism and his role in the overthrow of Rudd two years ago was destined to become a centre piece of Tony Abbott’s election campaign advertising. Arbib’s exit means that strategy is no longer available.
It may have been that Arbib was not only unwelcome political baggage for the “new/new” Julia but there is something in the saddle bags that we don’t know about. Either way, the departure of Arbib has raised spirits in the Caucus and if there is a tribute dinner it won’t attract a large crowd – except maybe from the American Embassy where he was a regular visitor.

One comment

  1. Mark Arbib wasn't just a regular visitor to the American Embassy. He should forever be accorded the title the Americans gave him: "Protected Source."

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