When Eric Roozendaal departed the NSW Upper House in early May, the former general secretary of the NSW ALP and treasurer, delivered the most self-serving speech heard in several generations.
“Electric Eric” made no attempt at self-criticism or to review his political career when he was in charge of the Sussex Street machine, co-managed the right-wing faction, and stacked parliament with MPs who never earned their seats at rank and file pre-selections. His “triumph” was to flog part of the publicly-owned power assets at fire sale prices.
By the end of his career in government Roozendaal easily topped the opinion polls as one of the most reviled politicians in NSW, and that’s why the Liberals used his face all over their campaign advertisements.
Roozendaal is reportedly heading for the so-called “Big End of Town” to find employment. Wish him well.
Peter Costello (Treasurer) and “Lord” Alexander Downer (Foreign Affairs), two of the longest-serving ministers in the Howard era, were not offered proper jobs in their post-political careers so why would Roozendaal do any better?
And with an ICAC report hanging over his head, his prospects are not sparkling.
Such was the ignominy of his departure from Macquarie Street that only two lower house MPs bothered to listen to his farewell speech – Noreen Hay (Wollongong) and Cherie Burton (Kogarah).
None of his colleagues in the Legislative Council followed his speech with a parting tribute – not even his zealously loyal former chief of staff Walt Secord MLC. Everyone also noticed that ALP leader John Robertson’s press release was tersely brief. No love lost there.
By comparison, when Ann Symonds left the Upper House in 1998 no less than 17 MPs from all sides bade her farewell – Jeff Shaw, John Hannaford, Franca Arena, Richard Bull, Fred Nile, Ian Cohen, Meredith Burgmann, Virginia Chadwick, Johnno Johnson, Patricia Forsythe, Alan Corbett, Marlene Goldsmith, Helen Sham-Ho, Doug Moppett, John Tingle, Michael Egan and Upper House president Max Willis.
When I wrote about Roozendaal’s unedifying departure from politics for The Drum, the ABC website, there was a furious complaint from former Premier, the Hon Kristina Keneally, who brought Ian Macdonald back into the Cabinet. She has found a new calling as CEO of Basketball Australia.
A selfish moment
Roozendaal’s exit gave me a moment of wry pleasure.
In the run-up to the March 2011 NSW election, reporters badgered Roozendaal about his parliamentary intentions and whether he would serve a full term.
The lobotomised dills on the administrative committee had given him the No 1 spot on the Upper House ticket thereby insulting the intelligence of party members and voters generally.
The following exchange occurred at a press conference:
Q. If you’re re-elected to the upper house, do you commit to serving your full eight-year term?
ER: This is now about the fifth time I’ve been asked this on the record. I intend to stay in Parliament.
Q. For the full eight years?
ER: For the full eight years.
Writing in my Sun-Herald column, I remarked:
“I have no reason to doubt Roozendaal’s sincerity and I’m sure that he is a man of his word. However, I hope you will join me in placing a cutting of this column item in your wallet and another on the refrigerator door until 2019. Just in case.” (SH, Feb 27, 2011)
He didn’t apologise to voters or the party for his early departure and he didn’t explain why. He didn’t even thank the parliament and its staff for having him. He was in a class of his own, right to the end.
In the Senate on May 14, Senator Lee Rhiannon (Greens NSW) delivered a devastating speech devoted to the anti-corruption hearings involving the former NSW Cabinet minister Ian Macdonald, one-time leader of the so-called “hard left” faction.
She began by quoting from an article I had written on February 4, 2009, which I had quite forgotten. I wrote:
“NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald is standing by the poker machine waiting to pull a jackpot for the coal mining industry. But who will get the prizes?”
Rhiannon noted: “This was 16 months before Mr Macdonald resigned (from Kristina Keneally’s government) and well before he was summoned to appewar before ICAC.”
For her full speech, click on: