Local Hero

Posted: March 12, 2013 in Local Politics, Politics

Even those of you who didn’t watch 4 Corners this week already knew what a mess the Labor Party in NSW was in prior to the last state election.

Those of you who did watch it were probably not too surprised at the carnage that was on display.

What looked like a revolving door of leaders, and factional power playing at its worst has undoubtedly left a stain on the party that will take more than a bottle of laundry detergent to remove, no matter what the secret active ingredient.

Thankfully events in Victoria over the last few weeks have shown us that the disease is not just a NSW disease as it was often described, nor just a Labor disease as it was always described.

The Coalition in Victoria has members facing corruption investigations, MP’s leaving the Party, and an embattled Premier face down and bleeding from the back, assassinated in his first term.

Any suggestion that Baillieu fell on his sword is the stuff of fairy tales. If he indeed fell on a sword, he must have fallen on it backwards and surrounded it with steak-knives first.

Tough day at the office for Ted

Tough day at the office for Ted

I won’t go into the actions of the likes of Obeid, Tripodi and McDonald, there has been enough said about it already, and probably more to come. Nor do I want to throw my hat in the ring in the tassle between Bob Carr and Morris Iemma, I have made my mind up on that one long ago.

What I did want to write about is the positive side in all of this, and there is one.

Yes there are lessons to be learned from all of this, but not all of them are bad, one in particular is quite inspiring.

I think what people are looking for in their politicians these days, is someone who will stand up for what is right, someone who is true to their beliefs and works tirelessly for their community.

Someone like Nathan Rees. The Labor Party’s NSW Member for Toongabbie. A real example of what a Labor member does for the Western Sydney that the Coaltion talk about. While they talk the talk, Nathan is walking the walk.

Many people remember Nathan Rees as a Premier who got voted out by his own party, however that is not even half the story.

Nathan Rees lost the party leadership, and therefore the Premiers role for trying to clean up the parties act, the act that is playing out for us now through ICAC.

Nathan was the first, and the only leader to actually remove Tripodi from his position, and also take on Obied after Carr had sacked him. He had the foresight, as well as the courage and determination to take on the factional heavyweights for the good of not only the party, but for the good of the State.

How many stood up to Obeid and Tripodi?

How many stood up to Obeid and Tripodi?

For his efforts the factions came down on Nathan and he was savagely and publicly pushed from the Premiers position.

Before the caucus meeting that saw Nathan go in as Premier and come out a back bencher, Nathan gave a speech in front of the press. The full speech can be seen here, however here are some exerts:

“Throughout the past 15 months, my ability to do good has been impaired at every turn.

A malign and disloyal group well known to the NSW community has made the business of government almost impossible.

The presence of such a group within the nation’s oldest and proudest political Party is intolerable.

Their treachery and disloyalty can be borne no longer.

For that reason, I embarked three weeks ago on a campaign to clean up NSW politics and break the hold of these malignant forces on the public life of our State.”

Then later in the speech

“I will not hand the government of NSW over to Obeid, Tripodi or Sartor.

Under my leadership, there will be no going back.

The old regime will never again dictate the fortunes of our Party, nor will they regain the levers of control.

I will lead one sort of government and one sort of government only:

A government that is modern, ethical and progressive.

A government in which the people of NSW can have confidence, trust and respect.”

Nathan put his hand up to lead the NSW Labor Party at a time when nobody else would, and his determination to clean up government is probably one of the most admirable, yet underrated acts in Australian politics over the last few decades.

Not only did Nathan have the guts to try to rid the party of the cancer that is all over the papers and news today, even after being betrayed and knifed for his actions he has had the determination to keep standing. After suffering such a humiliating blow most others from any political party slink off into the shadows and resign. Not Nathan, he made a commitment to his constituents and vowed to stay on and fight for them, so that is what he did.

The US military swear an oath to defend their nation from all enemies, domestic and foreign, Nathan chose to defend his party from domestic corruption and paid a heavy price for it.

Who's smelling like roses now?

Who’s smelling like roses now eh?

Nathan chose to stay in politics and ran again in the 2011 election despite Labor being at its lowest point in living memory and facing annihilation. Nathan fought a tough campaign and succeeded where many thought he wouldn’t and was re-elected, despite the odds.

Nathan Rees is a politician we can all learn something from, and someone we should all look up to no matter what side of politics you are from.

He fought against his own party to rid it of corruption and to bring it back to its core beliefs and values. He has been a fantastic local member and has worked tirelessly for his community. He has the strength of spirit to stay on for the good of his electorate despite suffering a beating from within his own party.

In the world of politics it is great to see someone with the strength of his convictions, and the guts to follow the through. We need more leaders like Nathan Rees, leaders who put community interests ahead of self interests, even at their own peril.

It is people like Nathan Rees that remind me why I joined the Labor Party, and it is because of people like him that I will stay a member through the hardest of times.

In the midst of all the finger-pointing and accusation throwing going on in the NSW Party in the wake of ICAC there is at least one man who can hold his head high through it all.

Isn’t that what we all want from our politicians?

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  1. Marian Rumens says:

    Thank you for telling this story. I am not from NSW so knew nothing of Nathan Rees but he certainly sounds like the kind of man Labor desperately needs. Chuck out all the crooks. Get more like this man and Labor will stand a chance. All power to you Nathan Rees

  2. joy cooper says:

    So very true, Peter. It is politicians of this calibre that all sides of politics desperately need, We won’t see many in the Coalition but surely there could be some in the Labor Party?

    As for Right & Left factions, how did this come about? There should not be a so-called Right Wing in a Labor Party, surely. .We all know Obeid was a faction all of his own which attracted like-minded people. It had nothing to do with politics but everything to do with power, influence & money.

    Nathan Rees has been overlooked by most but he is young enough to have his day in the sun again. That’s if he can put up with all the BS along the way.

  3. johnlord2013 says:

    I watched the program and wondered how it was allowed to reach the level of corruption it did. But good on Nathan Rees for standing up to them.

  4. hilderombout says:

    Thank you Peter for shining the light on Nathan Rees. It restored some hope for me in politicians. I don’t live in NSW so did not really know about Nathan Rees’s heroic stand against corruption in the NSW branch of the Labor Party. I live in Victoria and as far as mentioning Ted Baillieu, i too believe he was pushed or knifed in the back. Not that i had much time for Big Ted as he was quite ineffective in general and very destructive in cutting back funding for education, health and infrastructure. And he certainly did not deal with corruption in his cabinet. And the LNP would lose the election should it be called now in Victoria.
    It has been a relief to hear heroic news about a decent politician, not afraid to stand up to corruption and bulling in his government. Go Nathan Rees! How fortunate your constituents are!

  5. sue says:

    Thanks Wixxy
    Although Nathan Rees got rolled it would be interesting to know if he had any support within caucus and if they are still there, as these are the people to rebuild.

  6. Brenda orr says:

    Yes I agree but who is left in parliment to support his values and beliefs this is what people want no lies no cover ups just the plain truth

  7. clarittee says:

    NSW has been a hard place to do a lot of things. Corruption is not a new thing. You need constant vigilance to keep it in check. Follow the money trails. Money buys many things. Look at where the money was going in the Leveson inquiry. Implicating even the police and the governments. Why would we be at all surprised?

  8. MarkWW says:

    According to ‘the Narrative’ the NSW disease has tainted all Labor MPs and only a root and branch ‘reform’ can make them magically pure and incorruptible, and everyone will live happily ever after if only Labor would listen to us (the media, the people, anyone except the unions because they’re not people).

    While the disease rages through the headlines and spreads all over the country – because it’s endemic you know – the current NSW and QLD governments are handing out favours to their friends in the big end of town (Eg. Packer’s new casino in Barangaroo, Public Health/Schools/Electricity for sale) that make the Terrigal’s sideshow look amateur – and that’s all Labor’s fault too.. because the Narrative.

    So belated congratulations to Nathan Rees for standing up to the big bad Terrigals, but according to the Narrative he is still part of the problem, because the problem is Labor, and unions and greens. At the time his “red hot go’ at leadership did nothing to placate the Narrative (Labor is the disease, the disease cannot be cured by Labor) or the media’s insatiable appetite for gossip and manufactured crises.

  9. Nathan Rees was the last card left in The Terrigal pack. I remember thinking what the hell is he doing? He took them on , by appealing to their egos and powerbase eith the intent to destroy them. What he did not count on is the extent of the corruption. I have no doubt whatsoever that Obied is blackmailing people who have compromised themselves within caucus. Lets stick a magnifying glass on, Arbib, Rosendale and Costa (Paul Howes mentor). Nathen Rees is a good man, as a true believer I feel that the party must cut out the cancer, prosecute and move on. A return to branch pre-selections with good credentialing and the abolition of the N40 is a good start.

    Just remember when listening to Bobs selective perception that he was actively encouraging branch stacking with an I know best mentality and his two henchmen were on his staff, Obied and Rosendale. Ironic he is out there defending the world from despot dictators…. 😦

  10. Janice Ford. says:

    Nice to know that there are still some good guys out there.Maybe he could go into federal politics.

  11. Great posts here, very pleased to see there are real people left in the Labor Party.

    Obeid needed not just Labor figures to indulge him, he profited from a media that refused to investigate him properly. 4 Corners didn’t have time, but one of Obeid’s very first adventures with Richo was the Offset Alpine affair. Just that should have led to reporters hounding his every move.

    The media’s indulging of Obeid ran right up to the end of Labor power, they were still fawning over Kristina Kenneally despite Rees’ gutsy warning the morning he was booted, despite her being an open puppet of Obeid and Richo as Planning Minister.

  12. Geoff Andrews says:

    Perhaps it’s time to review/revise/abandon the factional system devised by Bill Hayden during Fraser’s memorable regime. No caucus member should be pigeon-holed (and therefore vulnerable to any petty Caesar like ……well, you know, to whom I could refer.
    If I was a member of caucus, I would vote with the left “faction” 65% of the time; the unaligned 25% of the time and the right 10%.
    It’s a stupid system that generates despots suffering from the Peter Principle or criminals (apparently).

  13. clarittee says:

    there’s an old saying “good guys come last”. It’s good to see some truths come out here about these matters.

  14. the referral says:

    Peter, as per our Twitter exchange, please there are factual errors in this post.
    Eddie Obeid was a Minister from 1999-2003. He was sacked by Carr & never reinstated to Cabinet.
    Joe Tripodi became a Minister in 2005, and was steadily promoted by Iemma & Rees until he was sacked in 2009, when the move against Rees began.
    These facts are easily verified by checking the NSW Parliament website.

    • wixxy says:

      My point is, who sacked Tripodi in 2009 and what happened to him as a result?
      Who took on the faction and was knifed for it?
      Those he took on and their allies are before ICAC, we are looking bad as a party as a result
      Nathan faced the consequences for his actions, but I believe they were noble actions

      • SG Warren says:

        You do gloss over the fact that Carr actually tried to remove Obeid and reduce his factions dominance of the NSW Labor Party but was also knifed in the back.

        Rees did the same thing, just with a different approach (I’m sure seeing what happened to Carr was a factor here) and then was also removed as leader.

        Not taking anything away from the man, but he wasn’t the only leader of Labor that tried to clean up the party, just the most visible failure to do so.

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