Graham Richardson, aka “Richo” or “Cardinal Richlieu”, has infuriated his comrades in Sussex Street with anti-Labor broadsides prompting moves to expel him. Is this a good idea?
In his post-political career, Graham Richardson has re-invented himself as a political commentator and a pundit on TV panels at Federal and State elections. He writes a regular column for Rupert Murdoch’s Australian and preaches his brand of larrikin politics on Sky News, also controlled by Murdoch.
Recently Sky News has coupled Richardson with right-wing Liberal Party broadcaster Alan Jones to discuss “hot” political topics from home and abroad. The programme struggles to achieve an audience or advertisers because many businesses, including Bing Lee and Volkswagen Australia, have pulled the plug on Alan Jones.
Since the start of this year, Sky News has let its commentators off the leash; if you thought they were slightly unhinged in the past, these days they are frothing crazy. It seems that the network has dropped any pretence at being an objective broadcaster and switched to the formula pioneered in New York by the late Roger Ailes and “Big” Bill O’Reilly.
“Richo” has blossomed in the new media environment and his criticism of Federal and NSW Labor has become more brutal. But Richardson’s former friends in NSW Labor have grown sick and tired of the former NSW general secretary roasting the ALP, especially as it seems to make Alan Jones smirk and give audible chuckles.
As a result, an anti-Richardson alliance in the ALP want him thrown out of the party. They furiously resent the fact that it was the Labor Party that gave him all his jobs, a place in the Senate and senior Cabinet portfolios.
Leading the charge to expel Richardson is former Federal Sports Minister John Brown AO, ex-butcher and MP for Parramatta. Now 88 years of age, “JJ” still takes an active interest in Labor politics, including the media antics of Richardson.
Ironically, there is much that unites Richardson and Brown: they are both from Sydney; they both belong to the party’s right-wing faction; they are both good Catholics from needy backgrounds.
When Paul Keating overthrew Bob Hawke as prime minister in December 1991, he promoted Richardson as his Minister for Transport and Communications, a very unlikely pairing of portfolios.
But it was perfect positioning for Richardson: he railroaded the privatisation of Qantas, TAA and the Commonwealth Bank through caucus and Cabinet and worked with media moguls to secure cross-media ownership regulations favouring all the existing players, including Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch.
In January this year Brown used his writing skills to support former 2GB broadcaster Mike Carlton when he said that Australia’s worst prime minister was no longer Billy McMahon but Scott Morrison.
Brown wrote that Morrison was not entitled to be prime minister because he had lied about his holiday to Fiji. The retired Labor war horse argued that the PM first claimed his decision to holiday in Hawaii over Christmas-New Year was a “split second hasty decision”. However, it later emerged the holiday was planned as early as March or April 2019.
Morrison’s second offence was the “sports rorts” affair in which hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money was spent on sporting facilities on the eve of the last Federal Election on 18 May 2019 to benefit voters in Liberal and National seats.
Brown singled out the $500,000 gift to “those poor little deprived petals at the Mosman Rowing Club in the richest electorate in Australia” where public money was used to build a swimming pool. I should stress that there is no evidence that the rowing club was involved in anything that was dishonest and not above aboard.
Declaring that “honesty” was the principal virtue for any PM, Brown concluded: “I rest my case. I would have expected more honesty from this man who believes In miracles and boasts loudly of his Pentecostal virtues.”
It remains to be seen whether Brown will ask the party’s awards committee to expel Richardson, but if it goes to a delegate vote there is little doubt what they will do.
Personally, I support Richardson’s right to flaunt his “coming out” as a Tory lapdog; he always was and always will be. As the founder of the school of politics known as “whatever it takes”, Richardson deserves to be “Hero of NSW Labor” because it utterly discredits an awards system that has become a sick joke. I suggest that loyal party members who want to clean up the house should start with the house.
What next? Posthumous life membership to lavish party donor, the late Abe Saffron?
Alex Mitchell is our regular NSW political correspondent. His commentary appears every Friday. A former Sydney Sun-Herald State Political Editor, his most recent book is Murder in Melbourne: The untold story of Aiia Maasarwe. For more information or to purchase see http://www.cometherevolution.com.au/murder-in-melbourne/