Return of the prodigal Kev?

What with the sheer number of journalistic political pundits churning out daily “footie commentary” columns to fill the voracious maw of the media cycle, you’d imagine that no possible play would be left unanalysed.  Instead we get a curious brand of groupthink where they all write pretty much the same thing, leavened by occasional tendentious leaks from inside sources.

There’s one angle in particular I would have thought was obvious but which hasn’t been explored AFAIK.  What is Richo up to? And why?  You remember Richo, the corpulent, oleaginous semi-retired ALP factional fixer and former senior Hawke-Keating government Minister.  Richo has been up to his oily neck in leaks and commentary on the Craig Thomson affair.  In fact he may even have leaked the information that restarted the focus on Thomson’s alleged commercial sex penchant in the first place.  You don’t have to be a genius to work out that Richo is almost certainly the “senior Sydney Labor source” referred to in this 17 August piece by Murdoch journos Andrew Clennell and Steve Lewis.  And here’s Richo keeping things on the boil by fearlessly predicting more leaks to come.  And of course there were.  Fortunately for Richo he’s not only a semi-retired political player but apparently accepted unquestioningly by a supine media as a credible disinterested pundit/analyst.  Thus there is no end of Richo punditry aimed at destabilising the Gillard government and pouring petrol on the Thomson fire.

Does Richo just have a grudge against Thomson?  Or an interest in Health Services Union affairs?  Somehow I doubt it.  Or is he just morally outraged by Thomson’s behaviour?  The latter seems especially unlikely, as acerbic Labor blogger Andrew Landeryou observes:

A victim of quite spectacular scandal sagas himself, one of them relating to the provision of sex workers at the Sea World Nara Resort back in the days when he was a federal minister. It was never suggested he’d paid for them though. It was – as we say in Vegas – “comped” in circumstances later deemed unrelated to the exercise of his public duties.

So when he called Craig Thomson stupid for using credit cards (union-paid ones at that), his criticism might have been more limited and specific than it appeared.

In fairness to Richo, however, I should point out that allegations about his cavorting on a “Love Boat” in the 1980s with a prostitute delightfully named Virginia Perger were probably false, although I’m not sure we can reach that conclusion about rather similar allegations in the 1990s which immediately preceded his sudden retirement from elected office.

It seems much more likely that Richo’s assiduous efforts are aimed at precipitating or accelerating Julia Gillard’s dumping as PM.  That suspicion is heightened by revelations this morning that the Glenn Milne column pulled from the Oz yesterday under threats of defamation action by Gillard had emanated from AWU leaks to Andrew Bolt and others including Milne:

Milne wrote that Ms Gillard’s problems with the Craig Thomson scandal were about to get worse as elements of the AWU tried to demonstrate that Ms Gillard was implicated – albeit unknowingly – ”in a major union fraud of her own before she entered Parliament”.

Clearly there’s a push to get rid of Gillard and Richo is a prominent part of it.  But in favour of which other candidate?   Mungo McCallum argues there isn’t a “Plan B” because there’s no viable candidate:

“The deputy, Wayne Swan, is totally identified with the Gillard Government and in any case is too boring. Defence Minister Stephen Smith has been mentioned as a relatively unknown cleanskin but is hardly the man to excite the imagination of millions.((He’s also sitting on a wafer-thin margin in WA and will be lucky to survive the next election even without the added burden of leadership. ~KP)) Climate Change Minister Greg Combet is competent and convincing but tied to the unpopular carbon tax.((And he bears an uncanny resemblance to Clark Kent with a permanent sneer, which isn’t a good look. ~KP)) Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten is a down-to-earth figure who has had a moment in the sun with the disability proposals but is still remembered as one of the faceless men from 2010.”

But there’s one very obvious candidate whose dismissal by Mungo may be less convincing:

“Kevin Rudd is the voters’ choice, but absolutely unacceptable to the powerbrokers who killed him off once and would blow up the party rather than have him back.”

I don’t know so much.  Richo notoriously will do “whatever it takes” to win.  Could he have reached the conclusion that Kev is Labor’s only hope and be setting about persuading other faceless factional operators to the same view? Of course he assiduously disavowed any such intention only a couple of months ago, but then he would say that wouldn’t he?  Rudd certainly can’t be tagged with the “Juliar” label, and many Australians still think he was unfairly dumped and should have the chance to lead Labor to an election as PM.  Labor’s position now is not all that different in kind (though rather worse in degree) from the Coalition’s position just before Abbott rolled Turnbull.  All the talk then was of a landslide loss that would obliterate the Tories for a generation.  If factional leaders and a majority of MPs conclude that Kev is their only hope of salvaging even a respectable defeat from the current wreckage, I’d wager that they’ll manage to hold their collective noses, adopt fixed smiles and chomp into the shit sandwich that is Kevin Rudd.

Update: – See my comments at #10 and #19 for a more sober explanation of my thinking behind this speculation

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
This entry was posted in Politics - national. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
32 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

Ken, any comment on this or
<a href= "http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2857018.html&quot;.this.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

should be
this.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
10 years ago

Brandis is certainly something of a goose, but that has little or nothing to do with the point of this post. It certainly won’t reduce the damage the Thomson affair is doing to the Gillard government nor does it negate the fact that Richo is clearly up to funny business.

rog
rog
10 years ago

I wouldnt be too quick to dismiss the testimony of Virginia Perger, she was once a “close friend” of Joe Meissner who allegedly arranged the bashing of Peter Baldwin at Richos behest.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

Ken,

can Thomson be charged with anything?

Those of us with long long memories remember Richo’s wife having a job with Danny Casey in Balmain!!!

Alan
Alan
10 years ago

The Gillard numbers are so bad there is no chance she will lead Labor to an election. The only interesting question is how long it takes the ALP to admit it.

Pedro
Pedro
10 years ago

I’ve seen the reports that Thompson has not actually committed a crime, not being a crim lawyer I have no more than a lay opinion, but it would be astonishing if you could help yourself to that much money and it not be a crime.

Now on topic, I was wondering the same thing about Richo, especially when he flagged there was more to come. I wonder if it is all out yet. It’s a pretty big risk to take though. If you make the party look mucky enough then a cleanskin leader might get smeared as well.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
10 years ago

“Fortunately for Richo he’s not only a semi-retired political player but apparently accepted unquestioningly by a supine media as a credible disinterested pundit/analyst”

Far be it from me to defend the supine media, Ken, but if you really think Richo’s appeal to the commentariat gatekeepers is based on some erroneous assessment of his ‘disinterest,’ you’re dreamin.’ It’s precisely because of his bias, connections and rich insider knowledge that his opinion is sought.

I suspect he has concluded that Gillard is a lost cause (I doubt it’s particularly personal) and I’m sure his grudge (if that’s indeed what it is) against Thomson is soundly based. Thomson appears to have misled the ALP as to the depth of the doodoo he was in prior to the 2010 election given that his 2009 defamation action against Fairfax (since ignominiously withdrawn) might have indicated to the less than inquisitorial Sussex St apparatchiks that there was much less to worry about than has subsequently proven to be the case.

Homer, whether or not charges ever emerge from the mix is perhaps less important than the enduring image of Craig Thomson apparently assuring all and sundry that the Craig Thomson allegedly using Craig Thomson’s photo ID, mobile phone and credit card details – to purchase the sort of celebratory hedonistic excess that good Sydney Anglicans must always eschew – wasn’t Craig Thomson. Or something. It’s not overwhelmingly persuasive at face value…….and it’s the gift that keeps on giving pending an alternative explanation.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

Err Geoff, the Liberals must have an election or change of government before the ETS comes into being.

Just imagine in a number of years time the ETS has not had the impact the Libs had said, the budget is back in the black etc etc

Thomson’s history will be fish and chips wrappers soon enough.

You do have a history of being highly rigid on saying something has happened and then being wrong about it.

Alan
Alan
10 years ago

I suspect something very like Ken’s last paragraph is happening now. I hope they add, as one of the conditions, that Rudd and his immediate staff get some rest occasionally. And I hope whoever becomes deputy is made aware that their job is to keep the system working and the leader in line, not gather numbers against him.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
10 years ago

“You do have a history of being highly rigid on saying something has happened and then being wrong about it.”

Excusing any unconscious (and unlikely) use of irony on your part, Homer, I’ll take that as a compliment given your truly heroic track record in that area.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

err remember your stringent support for the Aussie cricketers in the imbroglio against India and how Indians tend to stick together.

hmm Investigative commissioner pretty much what I said.

I could also comment on the farce concerning Abbott and his invitation from Gillard re- Afghanistan which you wouldn’t even admit to being wrong even when it was perfectly you were.!!

here again you are vigorously asserting something without much idea of the facts at all.

Pretty predictable really

Pedro
Pedro
10 years ago

“The carbon tax won’t even commence until 1 July next year on current plans, and it would certainly take many months after that for significant numbers of people to realise that Abbott was telling porkies about it.”

My recollection is that every serious new tax has raised much more money than forecast by Treasury, so we’ll not really be sure who’s telling porkies.

“And I hope whoever becomes deputy”

Hmmm, just what does happen when the revolution comes? Surely Mr Useless should get sent to the back bench at last.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

it isn’t the amount of revenue gained that will determine whether porkies have been told but whether the destruction of the economy by the ETS ever eventuates

FDB
FDB
10 years ago

“Excusing any unconscious (and unlikely) use of irony on your part, Homer”

Z-to-the-motherfucking-ING!

murph the surf.
murph the surf.
10 years ago

Ken outlines such an unlikely scenario in the last paragraph of 10 and Alan’s subsequent comment at 11 maintains the fascination.
Do you really think there are complicated machinations rumbling away?
It is always a pity more insiders don’t spill all on blogs otherwise the speculation always seems too removed.
Is the fact Richo is shit stirring more about Richo than the possible victims of such aggitations?
And what happened to the belief in the narrative all about how many items are being passed in the Reps and how the ‘unreality’ of the crude politics of the Oppositiion reflects poorly on them?
If Kevin Rudd makes it back to the PM I expect his immediate beatification and elevation to the Sainthood almost as quickly.Whatever the faith.

Alan
Alan
10 years ago

Richo does not have a history of shit stirring for its own sake. Labor is looking at a historic electoral defeat that will make its performance at the NSW election this year look like a triumph. We were told the crude politics of the opposition would lose traction when the carbon price was announced, then when the details were announced, then when the package was enacted, then when the package went into effect, then some time after the package went into effect. Governments that rely on Friedman units to win elections do not have a long future.

Douglas
Douglas
10 years ago

Pedro said:
I’ve seen the reports that Thompson has not actually committed a crime, not being a crim lawyer I have no more than a lay opinion, but it would be astonishing if you could help yourself to that much money and it not be a crime.

The Health Union can hardly complain now as they paid up. As a lay opinion they would be estopped from complaining years after the event.

Pedro
Pedro
10 years ago

Douglas, you can’t be estopped from complaining about a crime. Estoppel is an equitable remedy and equity won’t operate like that. Also, a malefactor cannot raise an estoppel in defence of his own misfeasance.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

I think a reality check is needed on Richo.

yes he helped get Hawke the leadership but Hawke had it anyway and Keating was much more involved.

He actually cost votes for Keating so much that Keating told him to … off in that leadership challenge.

His appearances since on channel 9 and now on ? have never lead to any knowledge out of the ordinary.

I can recall way back when he came in to a function to talk about polling. He said to the group that Newspoll was easily the best.
A person got up and showed Morgan in fact was much more accurate in State polls and as good in Federal pols and on what basis had Richo made such an assertion.

He never answered the question.

A perfect example of the Peter principle

observa
observa
10 years ago

As I read it Brandis (presumably cautioned by conservative lawyers a la Labor pollies would be with their Slaters and Gordons) approach to NSW Police was on the basis that either there was a case for fraud by Thomson with HSU funds or if Thomson was to be believed re his stolen CC then it was theft. Up to the coppers to decide then as a result of their investigations.

In any case the serious allegations against Thomson, particularly Jackson’s stance now, means he has to answer the electorates’ questions via the media or Opposition, no ifs, buts or maybes. That’s because he purportedly stood for the little bloke as a union man and even more so once he stepped onto the bigger stage of Federal politics. Anyone or anybody who stands in the way of him looking the electorate’s cameras straight into our flatscreens now and telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, is on a hiding to nothing. We already know he lied to his Labor colleagues re the defamation settlement with The Age and he has no friends now except friends in need and friend indeed they are. Furthermore the Thomson revelations naturally threw the spotlight back on Gillard’s past and since she was 34 yrs old at the time and not some love struck 18-20 something, the obvious questions are being asked about an ugly pattern of behaviour in the Union/Labor movement.

If ethics and political judgement are in short supply in all this, tapping up media to pull a story must take the cake under the circumstances. All it needs now is for Labor to accede to an ‘enquiry’ into media being pushed by Brown and the Greens to really ice the cake. It’s like this boys and girls. We want our Watergates, Climategates, Wikileaks, etc and our nightly feed of conspiracy theories about our elites and our paparazzi media to keep the bastards honest by fair means or foul, but don’t you dare pick on us or ours you media bastards or else! That’s why we don’t give a stuff about where the mobile phone records, credit card and bank account statements or knock shop chits come from now, just that they’re coming thick and fast and PLEASE EXPLAIN you bastards and bitches! Sure blew News of the World confected outrage by Julia, Bob and Co right off the political radar and if they don’t get that now, they’re absolute political morons.

As for who must take over damage control for Labor it has to be someone like Crean who can self-sacrifice at the next election and make way for one of the new hopefuls. Noone else but Rudd would want the poisoned chalice and none of his colleagues want Rudd anyway and flip-flopping leaders seems to be the preserve of Oppositions only, but with this mob, anything’s possible.

Alan
Alan
10 years ago

I have always thought that changing leader without a good reason is very, very bad tactics. Rudd seems to me the only viable candidate because in a way it would be undoing the folly of last June. (For the record, I was a June fool along with everybody else) Anyone but Rudd will lead only to talk of the NSW disease, replacing a semi-elected prime minister with a totally unelected prime minister, and the need for am early election.

Gillard has managed to delegitimise herself by never actually giving a reason for deposing Rudd and it is now too late to fix that error. Sadly it is also too late to fix the no carbon tax, it is not really a carbon tax, okay it is but I got lost driving home and this was the only thing I could find in the street directory. That sounds dangerously like a prime minister who has lost her way.

Caucus can either bite the bullet or it can start reading up on the exciting career of the UK Liberals between 1918 and 2010.

del'Vhar
del'Vhar
10 years ago

I think that if the ALP replaces another sitting PM it will damage the “brand” far worse than any election result. The opposition/MSM would simply do what they did when Rudd was replaced: Change their target.

The “Thompson Affair” should blow over within another two weeks or so(additional revelations from Richo/others notwithstanding), the Government needs to use this time to plan their counter offensive, come out swinging and aim for the Coalition/Abbotts weak points, in Abbotts case, putting him on the spot is a great way to do this; maybe an unscripted debate or something…

Otherwise play on the just under the surface tensions in the Coalition, maybe point at how the Nationals have basically stopped caring about the bush etc.

Unfortunately any solid move from the Government needs to be reported by the media, and that seems increasingly unlikely these days.

Alan
Alan
10 years ago

The Malaysia deal would seem to be dead.

observa
observa
10 years ago

As dead as Federal Labor Alan as Bowen refuses to rule out Nauru under media questioning and it looks like he’ll still have to honour the 4000 deal with Malaysia now.
Recall when the Mayor of Brisbane was the highest ranking Coalition member in the land? Perhaps a jubilant John Quiggin at the time can explain what happened to his predictions about wall to wall Labor and the thousand year Reich? No stopping Keynesian hubris and folly by all accounts. OTOH looking back at the Hawke/Keating and Howard/Costello years, maybe it’s a generational thing and that was the best of the West and it’s all downhill from here.

Very very Sorry John,

Urgently seeking reconciliation.

Howz name yer price, King and only 2 days a week at the office grab ya?

Yours Humbly
The People of Oz

PS One day a week????

Peter
Peter
10 years ago

The men who are most outraged by the Thompson credit card affair are the guilty (there but for the grace of God go I) and schadenfreude brigade.

observa
observa
10 years ago

I don’t think you really get it Peter and neither could Thomson’s associates in the Labor Party have possibly comprehended the enormity of the hole he was digging them into.

Mr Thomson is understood to have claimed the DA was designed to increase the value of the property so he could borrow against it to pay the remainder of his legal bills.

Labornomics at its scintillating best perhaps?

You know I was thinking with all this Union/Labor stench about, an incoming Abbott Govt could easily introduce draconian legislation to clean up the unions and the Labor trough, but on second thoughts why on earth would you bother with such a political gift that just keeps on giving. Much better never to deliver these bozos from constant temptation.

observa
observa
10 years ago

Meanwhile Senator Fisher faces Court for theft and assault.
Whatever the outcome of Court proceedings Abbott must demand her resignation as a Senator or sack her if she refuses to see the obvious, all things considered.

Let me say I have no sympathy whatsoever with anyone who pulls rank on ordinary workers or business people going about their implicit duty to the community, whatever the excuse trotted out at the time. There is a higher standard such people must adhere to and Abbott as PM must ensure that standard is upheld, no ifs, buts or maybes.

observa
observa
10 years ago

Right about now it would be remiss of the Observa not to recount his ideal democratic reform and since you all asked so nicely how can he resist? The Reps by national proportional representation on a political party basis with the majority forming the Cabinet with the PM. The immediate benefits are an end to branch stacking, marginal seat pork barrelling and a solution to casual vacancies without the need for destabilising byelections. The Parties can select their best talent and protect their best at the top of their ticket as well as dealing quickly and expeditiously with the odd Craig Thomson should they wish. The Reps deals with the broad national interest free from the vicissitudes of single member representation (the lost Centrelink cheques, etc)

OTOH the Senate would consist of single member electorates to deal with the lost cheques as well as having rigorous overview and inquisitorial ‘keep the bastards honest and their feet on the ground’ powers. Candidates cannot belong to a political Party but must stand on their own merits. The Senate would select the HofS and have the power to block supply and send both Houses back to the people as a result. You’d expect such a House to contain popular ex-Party politicians with their expertise, as well as the Harradines, Xenophons, Wilkies, etc and they’d bring the required practical review to national policy laid down in the Reps.