The Weekly Notebook – Latham the One Nation rat

Mark Latham: from Labor hero to One Nation rat

Mark Latham, leader of the Australian Labor Party (2003-2005), has joined Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and will lead her team in the March 2019 NSW Election.

Surprised? From becoming the 18th leader of the Federal Labor Party to the leadership of NSW One Nation is a startling development by any stretch of the imagination.

As ALP leader, Latham had an array of fans. Ex-Senator John Faulkner, then leader of the ALP’s “hard left” faction was one of them. So was Glen Byres, a former press secretary to Premier Bob Carr who became executive director of the Property Council of Australia, giving advice to developers.

Latham seized victory from Kim Beazley by 47 votes to 45 with right-wing numbers organised by Laurie Brereton (NSW) and Simon Crean (Victoria), centre right numbers by Martin Ferguson (NSW) and Julia Gillard (Victoria) and the left by Senator Kim Carr (Victoria), aka “Kim Il Sung”.

Latham’s “ladder of opportunity” was hailed as a “breakthrough” in Labor politics and the party embraced what it believed to be the outmoded platform which was derisorily called “Gough Whitlam’s stateism”.

Political commentators in Canberra fell over themselves to hail “the young Messiah” who was going to lead the Labor Opposition back into office. One of the few exceptions was Channel Nine’s Laurie Oakes, now retired.

Anyone who questioned Latham’s temperament or suitability for The Lodge – even after stories about his unruly behaviour surfaced – were cast as “enemies” and excoriated.

By hailing Latham, fawning his every utterance and handing him almost total command of the leader’s office, the commentators facilitated his right-wing trajectory. Leading publishers, Allen & Unwin, published two books on his behalf and reviewers were ecstatic.

Latham’s rebirthing

After leaving parliament, he became a columnist for Fairfax’s Australian Financial Review, then Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd, and eventually a member of the lunar line-up on Murdoch’s pay TV channel. He was kicked out of every job before managing to write a cookbook, Conversations in the Kitchen, with far right broadcaster Alan Jones as his co-author. (Has it been remaindered yet?)

Latham, right, cooking up something with Alan Jones

Louise Adler’s Melbourne University Press (MUP) kept Latham’s career alive by publishing Latham at Large which carried a foreword by Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons. The publisher’s blurb claimed Latham was “a formidable intellect” with a “forensic ability to get the bottom of things” while FitzSimons wrote: “I also admire his fine eye, how he can evoke time and place” … “As a writer on Australian politics, he [Latham] is the complete package.”

Scrambling to salvage some credibility with readers, The Sydney Morning Herald today published a hashtag editorial headlined: “Keep Latham out of NSW parliament.” (November 8, 2018).

Surely, that is the task of voters and not the prerogative of Fairfax editorial writers. But these days, the hashtag crowd who have taken over the Herald (and parts of the ABC) deem themselves to be political arbiters who decide what citizens should hear and not hear. It’s quite an extraordinary development. In future years people will shake their heads while others will write books and theses on it. But back to Latham …

Many Laborites appear to have no memory as well as no shame. They have air-brushed Latham away as if he never happened.

I’m looking forward to the ALP conference awarding Latham Life Membership for his contribution to the emancipation of working Australians from the yoke of capitalist exploitation. Or will his membership of One Nation put an end to that odious prospect?

How Westpac Bank burgles taxpayers

Westpac Bank Ltd, the discredited and disgraced money-grubbing institution, has received a handy few million dollars of taxpayers’ money from Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s NSW Coalition Government.

The announcement was smuggled out last weekend amid all the hoo-haa about the Melbourne racing carnival, ructions at Cricket Australia, the Invictus Games, the visiting royal rent-seekers and another row between Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.

NSW Police Association Minister, former chief inspector Troy Grant, issued a throw-your-hats-in-the-air press release headlined: “Westpac Life Saver Flies into the Future with Five-year $5.5 million Funding Agreement.”

If you thought that Queensland cops, e.g. Peter Dutton, were dropkicks, let me introduce you to Grant, a former member of NSW’s “thin blue line”.

Showing great promise as a cop and then as the National MP for Dubbo, Grant fell into ignominy when he became Nationals leader and a Cabinet minister. As a keen observer I watched with mounting alarm as Grant apparently decided his job was to implement the agenda of the NSW Police Federation. It had worked for the cops’ trade union in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania so the “union” decided to employ the same stiff-arm tactics in NSW. It worked wonders.

The allocation of public money to Westpac air rescue service is only the latest in a long line of Police Association demands that Grant has obediently introduced.

Days after Grant was giving the banking spivs $5.5 million, Westpac disclosed that its cash profit for this year was $8.07 BILLION. In 2017 net profit was $7.99 BILLION and 2016 it was $7.4 BILLION. And next year Westpac’s profits are due to rise by almost 3%.

Despite these gargantuan profits and bloated salaries, Westpac receives a taxpayers’ subsidy to fund the air rescue service in NSW. It is the equivalent of taxpayers paying for Westpac’s public relations.

People who see the helicopters flying over beaches and bushfires by brave and courageous pilots, falsely believe that the bank is doing a public service. It isn’t. The bank is engaged in a public relations exercise that we, the taxpayers, are paying for.

Westpac has been damned by the first report from the Banking Royal Commission and it was fined $35 million by ASIC a few months ago for giving 10,000 loans to customers who didn’t have the earnings to pay them off. It was a heartless and unscrupulous practice to “cook the books”.

The air rescue service should be taken off Westpac and given to professional pilots, medical staff and rescue staff employed by the State Government and protected by trade union conditions.

By the way, when will the chair of Westpac, Lindsay Maxsted, resign? The former CEO of KPMG Australia, and a board member of BHP Billiton and Transurban Group, Maxsted is one of the highest paid business poobahs in Australia. And will any of Westpac’s directors go with him?

Shame on US pollsters

Prior to this week’s mid-term elections in America, polling companies disgraced themselves with wild predictions. Some polls got it wrong by up to 10 points.

An overwhelming number of pollsters claimed a “blue wave” would carry re-energised Democrats to victory in both Houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives. A minority were more cautious. They detected a Trump-energised “red wave” that would secure victory for the Republicans.

At the same time, TV commentators were claiming that the Senate was the most critical vote because it was the “senior” house.

All that changed when the results poured in showing that the Republicans had lost their slender majority in the House but picked up a couple of seats in the Senate. Suddenly, without any explanation, the House (now controlled by the Democrats) was the most important chamber on Capitol Hill and the Senate (where the Republicans made ground) was of little or no importance.

Wow, what a turnaround! No wonder Americans are turning off the mainstream media; “news” has been politicised by the media and turned into a weapon in campaigning for the Democrats and against the Republicans. US media has been “Stalinised” without a murmer of opposition.

An example? Four Democrat senators who voted against Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court were viciously targetted by Republican money-bags and consequently lost their seats in the mid-terms. No mercy there.

So where is America after the mid-terms? More deeply divided than before. The rift is felt right across the nation and it is dividing families, communities, towns, cities and states. It is a recipe for gridlock and stagnation.

When empires fail and then fall, the disintegration is always spectacular and tectonic. Britain managed its imperial decline with aplomb, immense hypocrisy and doublespeak but the Yanks are going down shouting at each other and reaching for their guns. The finale will be ugly.

Tweed Hospital scandal

The NSW Government has paid several million dollars to purchase precious farmland at Cudgen in the Tweed Valley to build a brand new “world class” hospital. The government refuses to disclose how much money was paid for its compulsory purchase of the farm.

The joint owners of the property have been identified as investor Duane Joyce and local farmer Kerry Prichard.

They became joint owners of the 22-hectare farmland in 2010 when the NSW Labor Government was on its last legs and polls were predicting a Liberal-National landslide in March 2011. The election was the worst defeat in Labor’s 100-year history and brought Barry O’Farrell’s Coalition to power.

Prime agricultural land at Cudgen purchased as hospital site

Today Tweed Valley residents are up in arms over the official secrecy surrounding the hospital deal and the sad lack of community consultation.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s Coalition Government has handled the whole transaction through a separate institution called Health Infrastructure whose transactions are secret due to “commercial confidentiality”.

According to local reports, the two owners asked for a tidy $30 million from the government but they received an offer of around $2 million or $3 million. The pair challenged the offer in the NSW Supreme Court but comprehensively lost.

In the wash-up the owners have scaled back their original price to between $10 million and $20 million but Health Minister Brad Hazzard shows no sign of budging.

Because the pre-election wrangling is so messy and the question of campaign donations is being openly canvassed, some irate locals are calling for a full-scale investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

There is no suggestion of corrupt practice by anyone involved in the war over the hospital site, but there is a legal question about the possible misuse of public money in the compulsory purchase.

Only an ICAC probe can halt the rumours, gossip and speculation surrounding the deal and get to the bottom of this secretive transaction.

Press Release of the Week

“Don Harwin, NSW Energy, Resources and Arts Minister, announced NSW is celebrating a major win for its renewable energy sector, securing two major global meetings set to bring the world’s best and brightest in energy innovation to our shores. Focusing on future energy generation such as storage and conversion needs, the International Conference on Photovoltaic Science and Engineering (PVSEC) in 2021 and the International Meeting on Lithium Batteries (IMLB) in 2022, are both set to be hosted at the International Conference Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney).”

COMMENT: What Harwin’s press release did NOT say was that his Coalition Government is committed to building a new coal-fired power station in the Hunter region.

And last February Harwin lauded a decision by AGL to upgrade its coal-fuelled Bayswater power station at Muswellbrook.

The energy giant’s investment will “play an important role in our energy security”, cooed Harwin. “The NSW government welcomes new investment in energy generation to boost supply to bring down power prices.”

Since his declaration, residential power prices have risen by an average of 10%.

Harwin is a Cabinet minister in a Coalition government whose right wing, dominated by Abbott, Dutton, Joyce and Abetz loyalists, doesn’t believe in climate change and vocally supports coalmining and coal-fired power stations.

2 comments

  1. Most engaging is the appraisal of Latham’s nuptial with Hanson. Always narcissistic and authoritarian – how did Louise Adler and Peter Fitzsimmons miss that – Latham now finds a sister in arms. But of course, narcissistic authoritarians can’t love one another for long 😡

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