Public First Program


Shane Elson


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+61-4-1349 7828

June 2008 # 3

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Back to Editorials 2008

Terrigals Eat Them Alive

Time travel is something that has, at some time, attracted the imagination of us all. Wouldn’t it be good to be able to travel back in time and pick the winning lotto numbers after seeing this weeks draw? Wouldn’t it be good to go back and make up with that lover you really wish you had married? Wouldn’t it be good to go back and find out why the current state of affairs is the current state of affairs? 

The ‘revelations’ that Federal Labor MP, Belinda Neal and her husband, NSW Labor MP, John Della Bosca, were abusive and threatening to employees of a NSW Central Coast club come at a time when both the federal and state Labor parties are under siege by their powerbrokers and their constituencies. 

Iguanagate, as the Neal and Della Bosca scandal is now known, is a headache for more than the staff of the bar and the patrons who witnessed whatever really did occur that night. The background to the way this fracas is being played out is just as colourful as the language supposedly used that night. 

The name of the bar shares a commonality with a little known species of politician from the NSW Right. They are known as the Terrigals. This species is a relative newcomer to the Brisbane Waters area but is renowned for is power, ability to eat its own when necessary for survival and their brutish demeanour towards any who are not of their breed. 

The Terrigals form a formidable block within the Right faction of the NSW labor party. Peter Botsman, editor of “Australian Prospect” and Director of the Whitlam Institute, describes them as being “known for their ruthless, anti-democratic tactics”. However, the links that bind the business and political world in the quiet backwaters of the Central Coast region just north of Sydney go far deeper than a few drinks at a bar. 

Rugby league is a passion in NSW. From little kids on suburban grounds to the big hitters in Sydney Stadium, rugby is a brutal game that demands big bodies, big egos and no mercy. So it comes as no surprise that Belinda Neal was a Director of the Central Coast Mariners, the local rugby team. Ms. Neal was, of course, not alone on the Board. One of her fellow Board members was the wealthy property developer and mover and shaker, Ray Awadallah. Mr. Awadallah also happens to be a part owner of the Iguana Bar in which Ms. Neal and her hubby had their bust up with staff. One now wonders why the bar management were so quick to offer an apology? One wonders about the ties that bind big business to politics. 

One of the alleged comments made to the Iguana Bar staff by Ms. Neal was to the effect of “do you know who I am?” Followed by something to the effect of, “you will never work in this town again”. While these alleged comments are yet to be tested, one wonders why she made them. Again the ties that bind the Terrigals and big business lie at the heart of them. 

Prior to taking up her seat in the federal parliament, Ms. Neal had been employed by NSW Lands Minister, Tony Kelly and had served on the Board of the Festival Development Corporation which controls a huge swathe of land at Mt. Penang. In another twist of power, the NSW Education Department, which was run at the time by Della Bosca, had applied to develop some of the land near Mt. Penang as a highschool. Concurrent with this is the approval of a licence to the Bourne Family Hotel Group to relocate a hotel licence to opposite the visitors centre near Mt. Panang. The Bourne family run a number of large venues in the Central Coast region. Bob Bourne is also a member of Della Bosca’s local ALP branch and was at one time President of the Australian Hotels Association. Bourne also owns the local Australian Post licence and has located the outlet in his new pub at Mt. Penang. One wonders at the links that bind? 

Jumping in our time machine and travelling back to 2003 we find the Terrigals gathering with the Trogs (another NSW Right faction) to discuss the post-Carr years in NSW and how they could take back the power they once enjoyed. Morris Iemma is aligned with the Terrigals and his rise to power was certainly swift and to many in NSW, unexpected. He got the Premier’s gig and pretty soon had promoted prominent Terrigals to his ministry. Della Bosca was one. Jump forward to 2007 and his wife was put forward as the Right candidate for Robertson and she fought hard (and some say dirty) to win pre-selection and the seat last year. 

Then along comes Iemma’s decision to privatise the NSW electricity grid in defiance of his own party platform. Iemma tells the party to ‘stick it’ and that he will push ahead with his plans to sell off the grid. No doubt the numbers were crunched and the Right was certain it would win the vote on the floor of parliament. Then, out of the blue (or perhaps not) comes news that drives everything else off the front page and radio talkback lines. 

Iemma, like Rudd, is a machine man. These types don’t care much for the rank and file nor do they care much for the desires of their constituencies. Oh, they make a lot of ‘cluck, cluck’ noises from time to time, usually over insignificant issues such as whether art is porn, but generally they disregard opinions that vary from their own. Back in 2003 the Terrigals were planning their agenda once Carr went. When he did, as the Australian Financial Review put it, “pity the poor voters of NSW who think they elect their government”. 

Ah! for a time machine. To be able to travel back in time and uncover the bits and pieces that lead to the present. Having attempted to do that a little, let me offer my opinion as to why Ms. Neal and hubby John Della Bosca are now in a pickle. 

They are a highly connected couple who enjoy all the trappings of power and influence. Their connections are used, as are they, to ensure that what the powerful want, they get … until they ‘interface’ with real people who in turn get used by their opponents who attempt to bring them down. Throw into the mix an unpopular state leader and a federal government who is further entrenching the policies of the previous government and you have a mix of intrigue, payback and revenge. We, the public, are mere spectators to the goings on on the floor of the Colosseum. Our role in all this is to cheer on the good guys and boo the bad guys. We are, in effect, the props in a drama that has nothing to do with us and everything to do with ensuring the promises made to get certain people elected are fulfilled. 

I guess, if we could turn back time and travel to almost any epoch in human history, we would find that nothing is really new. Schemers, frauds and charlatans have always been able to sidle up to power and taste its intoxicating elixir. I guess Belinda Neal and John Della Bosca now wish they could turn back time and behave a little better so as to not do something that allowed for their enemies, both within the Terrigals and without, to not only abandon them but to eat them alive.

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