Senator FIFIELD (Victoria-Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (15:15):
I also rise to take part in the debate on the motion to take note of answers by Senator Bob Carr to questions from Senator Abetz. Although I am a Victorian senator, I actually feel well qualified to take part in this debate. I used to work for a New South Wales government; I used to work in the New South Wales parliament. I used to work for a government that was led by a good, decent and honest premier in Mr Nick Greiner. I did work for that outstanding minister Mr Bruce Baird. And I did have the opportunity to observe closely the then Mr Carr and the way that New South Wales Labor operated. You might recall a fellow by the name of Rex ‘Buckets’ Jackson, who was a minister in a government in which Mr Carr himself served. Mr Jackson was the corrections minister in New South Wales-
Senator Carol Brown: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order: as much as I am very interested in the CV of Senator Fifield, I do not think that was part of Senator Bob Carr’s response today. If you could bring Senator Fifield back to order, that would be good.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I will remind Senator Fifield of the matter before the chair.
Senator FIFIELD: I am coming to the point. Mr Jackson went to jail for selling early releases for prisoners, as a prison minister. We are always told that these are aberrations, that these are isolated instances, and that they do not go to the very heart of the culture of the New South Wales Labor Party. Mr Carr used to straddle New South Wales as some sort of political colossus, so I must say that it did bring a smile to my face when Senator Carr, on Four Corners, in reference to Eddie Obeid, said that he was:
… a marginal figure, someone lurking in the corridors, never to be taken that seriously…
That is the old Deidre Chambers defence. You might recall Bill Hunter in the movie Muriel’s Wedding, when he was the mayor of Porpoise Spit, walking into a restaurant and his mistress, Deidre Chambers, was there. He saw her and he said: ‘Oh, Deidre Chambers. What a coincidence!’ We are meant to believe that every time Bob Carr had any association, or was even in the same room as Eddie Obeid, it was: ‘Eddie Obeid. What a coincidence! Fancy seeing you here!’ They were cheek by jowl. Mr Carr chooses to ignore the method, the manner, the when of the appointment of Eddie Obeid to the frontbench. He prefers to say that it was actually Mr Iemma who gave him a special status. It was Mr Carr who first appointed Mr Obeid as a minister of the Crown.
You know whenever Mr Carr is under pressure because he always reaches for some sort of Chairman Mao story. We saw that on Four Corners when he said: ‘Forget about how Eddie Obeid was appointed, let me tell you about how I took on the ‘Terribles’. Let me tell you about when I had Eddie Obeid in my office and I pushed him out of the ministry. I got so frustrated I had to reach for my Chairman Mao jar, which held my pencils and pens, and I threw it against the bookcase and, oh boy, I tell you, go and see Barry O’Farrell. Book an appointment with Barry, and if you go into the office you will still see the bookcase and you will still see the nick out of the bookcase the shattering jar caused’. That is part of the Bob Carr-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Carr.
Senator FIFIELD: Senator Carr MO, to come up with a colourful story to distract attention. But it was, in fact, Mr Carr who appointed Eddie Obeid as a minister, and Eddie Obeid served as a minister in that government in 1999, in 2000, in 2001, in 2002 and 2003. This was no short-term sojourn on the frontbench; this was five years as a minister of the Crown courtesy of Mr Carr.
But 1999 was not the first time Mr Carr tried to appoint Mr Obeid to the frontbench. He tried in 1995. He backed Mr Obeid over the then opposition frontbencher Mr Bob Martin. It is part of New South Wales Labor folklore that the vote was split at 22-all between Mr Obeid and Mr Martin and the name ended up being drawn not out of a hat, because they could not find one, but out of a briefcase. Mr Martin’s name was drawn out and Eddie did not get to be a frontbencher. But Senator Bob Carr, as early as 1995, was fighting to have Eddie Obeid in his ministry. He eventually got there. He got there as the minister for minerals and fisheries. And let us not forget Ms Gabrielle Harrison, who was dumped to make way for Mr Obeid so that he could become the minister for minerals and fisheries. He was known and Mr Coal and Mr Fish.
Bob Carr has been cheek by jowl with Eddie Obeid. He stands condemned. He is not a credible figure to be our foreign minister. (Time expired)