No Cockroaches in this Operating Theatre


Fourteen long and hard years serving the people of NSW have come to an end for Reba Meagher. After Powergate, Costagate and Undiesgate we’re now ensconced in 1800 NSW Premiergate.

In true Reba style, the former Health Minister resigned from NSW Parliament on Saturday without informing the new Premier (and ex-garbo) Nathan Rees. Instead, she emailed AAP to let the media know that she was quitting.

The Premier naively believed Reba had made every effort to inform him of her impending announcement. Surely she would have left a regretful voicemail, sent a pithy SMS or faxed through a drawing, aptly portraying her regret of what could have been? He spent part of the weekend sounding like a frazzled boyfriend, pleading with the media, "I had all these missed calls … I’ve been given this new mobile and can’t figure out how to use voicemail".

When Reba caught on, she sent another email to AAP to publicly clarify the matter. No message was left for the Premier (who once worked as a garbo).

Clearly Rees needs to sack his incompetent staff. Morris Iemma never had to stuff around with mobiles. If Sussex Street needed to give him the heads up, they’d happily wait for Morris to arrive after dropping the kids off at school or visiting his mum. Plus, Morris had awesome staff in his office, people with names like Winky Chow and if he wasn’t entirely across an issue, he’d remind people that he was Premier and therefore a busy man.

Nathan Rees did recently try this trick, and just about got away with it.

Last week, Premier Rees (the ex-garbo) acknowledged there was more than $1 billion missing from the NSW Budget but — and this is the important part — he was too busy becoming Premier to look into the details.

One billion dollars is a lot of money so you would expect the state Liberal Party leader Barry O’Farrell to be front and centre on this one. Unfortunately he wasn’t around, so it was left to the Shadow Treasurer Greg Pearce to give Labor both barrels on this blow out. Unfortunately he was out of the office, so instead Rees had to endure the torment of the member for Willoughby, Gladys Berejiklian (otherwise known as Opposition Spokesperson for Transport). The Australian carried the pithy headline "Rees too busy to track $1b loss". Aren’t we all…

Of course Barry O’Farrell is all over the Dial-a-Premier mess. Tough questions such as "If Nathan Rees is prepared to lie about an issue like this, what else is he prepared to tell lies on?" are bread and butter for opposition leaders. Dream big Barry.

There were big hopes for Reba Meagher when she was elected MP for Cabramatta at just 27 years of age. She entered Parliament a few years after former boyfriend Joe Tripodi (there’s a rich image for the imagination) entered. Both had reshaped Young Labor and reaped the rewards for a decade as integral parts of the NSW Labor family.

During her political career, Reba had seven portfolios. The most recent and undeniably the most difficult was Health. Dubbed "Grim Reba" after one too many media conferences explaining cockroaches in the operating theatre, women delivering still-born babies in hospital toilets or bullying of staff by hospital management, Meagher has resigned with an annual superannuation package of $130,000 and another by-election (estimated to cost us $300,000).

Who knows what’s next for Reba? She has formed a relationship with former TV newsman Adam Walters — who is a sort of Ron Burgundy of Sydney newsrooms. Whatever happens, it’s reassuring to know that each night somewhere (Neutral Bay, Coogee, who knows!) someone will be saying, "Stay classy Reba Meagher!"

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.