The iguana is a strange looking creature. Half of this lizard’s length is taken up by a whip-like tail. It’s a highly adaptable animal, and iguanas can be found in a range of environments, from cold oceans to rainforests to hot desert environments. (Apparently iguana soup also makes men more virile.)
This iguana-like adaptability and tenacity is exactly what a successful Opposition needs to knock off one of the longest serving NSW State governments. A Queen’s Birthday long weekend is a long time in State politics, and staff at the Iguanas Waterfront Bar on the NSW Central Coast have provided the NSW Liberal Opposition and their Federal counterparts with an excellent opportunity to land some fatal blows to the Iemma Government.
Whichever way you look at it, the incident on Friday night involving Education Minister (and NSW ALP Right heavy) John Della Bosca and his wife Federal Labor MP for the Central Coast seat of Robertson, Belinda Neal doesn’t look pretty for the Labor Party in NSW.
In addition to assisting the Minister for Finance, Della Bosca is also supposed to be Minister for Industrial Relations and for the Central Coast. If media reports and statutory declarations prepared by Iguanas’ employees are correct, Della Bosca’s drunken disrespect (and subsequent bullying) of staff shows little regard to Central Coast workers.
Della Bosca’s friend, a co-owner of the bar, has apparently withdrawn the Iguanas Bar complaint against him. On that basis, Premier Iemma is standing by his Minister. Why would an employer contradict the sworn statements of so many employees? Especially when their statements are corroborated by at least one patron?
One could argue that Iemma is effectively suggesting that the Iguanas Bar employees have committed an offence under the Oaths Act 1900 (NSW) by providing false stat decs.
Belinda Neal doesn’t look much better. In her maiden speech, delivered in February this year, Neal speaks of her pride in the Australian voters who "rejected the exploitation of workers and embraced a fairer relationship between employees and employers". Her alleged threatening of the establishment’s liquor licence shows plenty of the "self-seeking opportunism" she claims Aussie voters rejected.
(In a further round of stat decs, Neal’s friend has now signed one swearing that the Federal MP doesn’t swear.)
In Neal’s defence, hubby Della Bosca remarks that claims she threatened the club’s liquor licence represent jurisdictional confusion: "That is a ridiculous argument. She is a Federal member of Parliament … She said nothing of the sort". With respect, that’s a ridiculous defence.
The NSW Liberal and National Parties need to be screaming about this from the rooftops. They need to hammer home the message that the Iemma Government has become arrogant and out-of-touch with ordinary voters, its ministers behaving more like mafia bosses.
Back in 1995, in the months leading up to the demise of the Fahey Liberal government, stuff far less sordid and scandalous was used effectively by then opposition leader Bob Carr and his campaign director (ironically John Della Bosca). They provided plenty of running commentary to journos when a Liberal police minister was forced to resign after allegations of sexual harassment were made by his staff.
These were allegations. I can’t recall if they were ever proven or if the minister was convicted in the manner in which a former minister of the Iemma Government was convicted for far more serious offences. (Ironically, he too was from the NSW Central Coast.)
But are the Liberals scoring any punches? All we’ve heard thus far is Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell (or "Fatty O’Barrell" as he used to be known before his weight loss strategies showed more success than mine) cautiously calling for Della Bosca to be sacked for driving without a licence on the night of the incident. He also wants some kind of inquiry.
Federal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson is showing slightly more muscle: "Belinda Neal as the member for Robertson actually sought to use her parliamentary position to intimidate workers at the night club, and further to that, we understand that to threaten the licensing and other arrangements at the club … Now, this is an abuse of power, it’s the ugliest form of abuse of power by a parliamentarian. Belinda Neal is meeting the description of an ugly bully."
But O’Farrell can’t rely on Nelson to be fighting his battles for him. Why he is treading so cautiously thus far is beyond me. This whole incident is an absolute political gift, and O’Farrell seems to be prevaricating and hesitating. He should be going in for the kill.
And what about his shadow ministers? Why haven’t we heard a peep from them?
What should be a nervous moment for Morris Iemma’s Government has suddenly turned into a test of Barry O’Farrell’s leadership. Quite frankly, if the NSW State Opposition doesn’t grab this opportunity, if they drop even this simple catch, they simply don’t deserve to be in government.
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