Thursday, November 16, 2006

A faction-based theory of Labor sleaze

The Australian’s Mike Steketee supports my claim that it is the factional system in the Labor Party that hands out favors to career-length membership of strong factions that leads to the problems the state Labor Governments are having with sleaze.

Steketee claims that Milton Orkopoulos who was sacked last week as NSW minister for Aboriginal affairs after being charged with 30 offences related to child sex and drugs:

‘…is a product of the Labor Party's internal breeding program. Although he worked briefly in some menial and unskilled jobs after leaving university, most of his working life until he entered parliament in 1999 was spent as a political staff member for other Labor MPs in the Hunter Valley.

If they had come up through a trade or profession, the way Labor MPs used to, their character would have been tested and any flaws exposed in the light of the outside world. Labor's Borgia-like internal councils and processes do not lend themselves to the same kind of assessment.

Orkopoulos was catapulted into the ministry after only 6 years in parliament, not on the basis of experience or perceived sagacity but simply because of Labor's arcane
factional geometry. He was the candidate put forward by the "soft Left" sub-faction, for which he was the official numbers man.

With the Labor caucus factions and sub-factions dividing the spoils in a way that ensures they all receive representation and with the caucus formally endorsing the choices through a vote, Morris Iemma as Premier has limited say.

…….Another former minister says Orkopoulos was one of those in caucus who opposed every tough decision while supporting all those calculated to make
Labor's core supporters feel warm and cosy’.

Not too many Ben Chifley (ex railway engine driver) or John Curtin (long-term political activist but also newspaper editor for a decade) figures in today’s ALP although these were exceptional men. There are efficiency arguments for claiming that people need a specialised education to be successful politicians. But I am not sure the rabble running the State Labor parties have the sort of education we want.

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