Thursday, March 01, 2007

Corruption in the ALP snares another victim

Alexander Downer asks Kevin Rudd a reasonable question: Did disgraced Western Australian lobbyist Brian Burke help Rudd secure the federal Labor leadership?

Peter Costello also makes a reasonable point: ‘Those who understand politics will say it was no coincidence that the leader of the opposition was looking for numbers for his leadership bid when he happened to be going regularly to WA to meet with Mr Brian Burke. Mr Brian Burke never does something for nothing. Anyone who deals with Mr Brian Burke is morally and politically compromised.’

John Quiggin argues that Labor ‘dodged a bullet’ by giving the leadership to Rudd rather than Kim Beazley given the links Beazley had with Burke. But Rudd seems to have had a few links of his own and today copped a bullet or two.

Rudd said that, with hindsight, he should not have met with Burke and that he simply knew nothing of what was going on. But he knew that Burke was a criminal* who had served time in jail for fraud. Saying that the meeting was a ‘lapse in judgement’ is barely satisfactory.

Burke is a crook that the WA Labor Party has kept close to its bosom until it again has been caught out in what seems to be corrupt behaviour by Burke and several WA Government cabinet ministers. The State Government itself is recognised as being in peril by its Premier Carpenter on account of this complicity.

I don’t think that Kevin Rudd is corrupt. I think he has stupid policies seeking to protect manufacturing industry, ruling out nuclear power and seeking to reverse needed reforms in labour markets. I also think that his call for a prompt withdrawal of Australian forces from Iraq will damage the US, damage Australia’s relation with the US and have damaging consequences for the people of Iraq. But as far as I can sense Kevin Rudd isn’t corrupt.

But the Labor Party is hopelessly corrupted as events in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Western Australia have recently shown – child sex, drugs, backhanders, gambling licences, political deals with police and lies to parliament. This is the party that is presenting itself as the alternative government of Australia.

It is not a minor matter when the leader of the Labor Party meets with a convicted criminal involved in ongoing corrupt dealings within the party. It is urgent for Labor in Australia to investigate corruption within its party boundaries and to 'heal itself' before it asks for the community's trust on significant issues of economic management and national security.

* Recall that the Royal Commission into WA Inc which began in 1990 lead to Burke being sentenced to 2 years jail for fraud – he had rorted travel expenses. Burke eventually served 7 months in prison. In 1997, Burke served 6 months of a 3-year sentence for stealing $122,585 in campaign donations before his convictions were quashed on appeal.

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