NSW Right Senator Mark Arbib is a man in a hurry.
The former NSW ALP General Secretary arrived in Canberra less than a year ago and is the first of the Senate newbies to be promoted.
The weakest link, Stroganoff enthusiast John Murphy, was broken and in his place the putative leader of the NSW Right in Canberra has emerged as his successor in Parliamentary Secretary ranks.
At the same time, some interesting coverage of Arbib’s activities has been published in the Australian newspaper. Some see this as a continuation of Arbib’s insider’s media offensive. Others say the Australian’s yarns are designed to white-ant him.
Today’s speculation from Dennis Shanahan (soon to be vindicated by public announcement) suggests that Mark Arbib will become one of Rudd’s parliamentary secretaries. Or perhaps even the only one.
We’ll find out very shortly but it certainly appears Arbib will get a more senior role than Trade otherwise he would have been slotted into that initially. A more senior role suggest being Rudd’s Parl Sec. Or at least one of them.
IF YOU’RE NOT IN SYDNEY MATE, YOU’RE CAMPING OUT
It’s impossible to see Arbib’s activities outside of the context of what’s happening to Labor in NSW. It’s not in a good way, to state the bleeding obvious. It faces a state election like 1988 and quite possibly much worse.
Not that many years ago, many NSW Right operators would look down their nose at Club Fed and say all the action was in Sussex or Macquarie Street. Now, they couldn’t be keener to leave Sydney, they are sending talent to Canberra after years of not giving a stuff. Their re-engagement is good for Labor and good for the nation.
Their best and brightest, like Morris Iemma, Michael Costa and Reba Meagher have been chewed up and spat out by a very difficult political situation in Sydney, made worse by a fight over privatising electricity. Now that taxpayers around the world are forced to become investors of last resort in everything from car companies to banks, the debate almost seems to belong to another era.
The indulgence of the electricity feud still astounds most observers. In this era, a serious bid from non-Chinese government sources for any public assets would probably be gratefully received by any of our governments.
NSW politics got so bad the NSW Right dominated government turned to one of few presentable options Nathan Rees to lead the show. Trouble is he’s from the Left. He’s done reasonably well, we think, in an insanely difficult situation.
Whether he ends up being like a Joan Kirner who made a catastrophic situation slightly better or Barrie Unsworth – a great bloke – who made a bad situation much worse will soon be known.
What Arbib and his brothers will be trying to do is to keep their cancer spreading to the federal part of the body. Voters can distinguish between the two, but they don’t always. Federal Labor in Victoria was brutalised in 1990 when voters were keen to punish Labor’s worst ever Premier John Cain for deceiving them about a range of issues.
THE MILNE MASSACRE
On Monday, Glenn Milne at the Australian presented an email that could either have come from one of Arbib’s critics or some suspect might have come from the Macchiavellian chap himself.
Arbib’s enthusiasm to claim credit was well established some say in that book about the Kevin07 election campaign which saw Arbib well positioned as a campaign genius nearly single-handedly responsible for victory. To be fair to him, Rudd can’t have disagreed or minded too much because he launched the book.
Milne says the source was someone senior in the NSW Right who claimed:
â– Arbib was keen to offer an alternative source of power to Rudd than the Gillard/Crean/Latham axis
â– Bob Carr – the former NSW Premier – was a confidant of Rudd’s and had encouraged this alternative
â– The first big example of it was the elevation of Karl Bitar as National Secretary, (who we note was Arbib’s hand-picked choice who was heavily touted in the pages of The Australian)
â– Arbib had somehow positioned himself, Chris Bowen and Jason Clare as spokespersons for Rudd on Sky (not watched by many people except the pollies and journalists during sitting weeks)
â– Arbib intends to neck Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, Attorney-General Robert McClelland, Senator Steve Hutchins and replace them with Bowen, himself (naturally), Mike Kelly or Maxine McKew and Graeme Wedderburn respectively.
Who knows who was the source of such unpleasantness. It was either Arbib doing the print equivalent of wearing a T-shirt emblazoned “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way” (as many suspect) or someone attempting to disrupt Arbib’s plotting by giving it a public airing.
Nothing would surprise. While the Victorian Right might split from time to time, the NSW is like a big plank of wood with some rather terrifying splinters flying from it occasionally.
Today’s leak to Shanahan is considered more likely to be from Arbib himself. A pre-victory victory lap you might call it. Nothing wrong with celebrating small victories we think. Promoting Arbib is a good call, he’s smart and able.
What we do know is that aside from what’s good for Senator Mark,Â in a move most patriots will see as welcome, the NSW Right is reinventing itself for a new era. From dividing 9-5 on the Beazley v Rudd leadership fight, they are attempting to consolidate and recover.
Its one-time colossus Senator Graham Richardson made himself indispensable to then Prime Minister Hawke. Ironically their star started to wane when their own Keating became Leader. He didn’t have much use for a factional fixer for his own faction.
Since in Canberra then they’ve been led and misled by all sorts of characters including the illustrious Leo McLeay, a man so sleazy that he transcended our normal affection for Labor patriots. He was not so much a skunk as the foul scent from one. Those within his orbit included Julia Irwin, whose support for Hamas is exceeded only by Iranian President Ahmadinejad. She is a suicide bomber without the explosive.
Arbib has promised all and sundry that she will be executed soon, hopefully his growing power can be put to good use.