Last night's Four Corners Program, The Enemy Within, on the Obeid matter was interesting. How could it be otherwise, given the subject matter? In a way, more revealing was a story in today's Fairfax press by Anne Davies and Sean Nicholls, Diary Carr kept refers to Obeid's 'untidy' interests.
During a torrid meeting In March 2003, then NSW Premier and now Foreign Minister Bob Carr told Minister Obeid that he would not be reappointed. In his diary notes, Mr Carr wrote: ''Removing Obeid from cabinet means not having controversies about his untidy pecuniary interests. That eliminates one area of vulnerability.''
He also wrote: ''I took on the Obeid faction, the Terrigals, and forced their leader out. Squalls and turbulence, but I won, breaking Obeid's power. Now he flutters around me, desperately reasserting his relevance by managing and massaging backbenchers,''
As I read, I thought how revealing it was about both men. Mr Obeid was clearly a very determined and difficult man, apparently capable of combining aggression with charm, fear and favour and favour mixed; those desperate attempts were ultimately successful.
Mr Carr's focus appears to have been pragmatic, forcing himself to deal with a difficult problem in the now. There is no recognition of the longer term threat. It's a tactical, not a strategic response. And that was one of the problems, to my mind, with NSW Labor. Power and politics was a reactive game played in the now on a very particular stage with most of the play taking place backstage.
Maybe I am being unfair. I do not pretend to understand the complexities of it all. To someone from outside NSW in particular, the whole thing must seem very difficult, difficult to understand. One thing I query from Mr Carr's period is the lack of scrutiny by the main stream media. I need to define scrutiny.
Mr Carr served as Premier from April 1995 to August 2005, the longest service as Premier in NSW's history. In many ways he had a charmed run. Reporters liked him. My personal frustration and especially in the last period of Mr Carr's premiership lay in the absence of detailed analytical reporting. I may be naïve, but I regard that as important.
Opposition leaders Kerry Chikarovski and then John Brogden struggled to get any media oxygen. What happened to John stands out in my mind as an example of just what happens in the Sydney goldfish bowl. We talk about NSW politics, but that politics is actually generally dominated by events in Sydney. That is where the largest number of votes are, that is where the main media outlets are.
On 29 July 2005, John apparently made comments at a Sydney function about Mr Carr's wife Helena. If reported correctly, they were stupid and hurtful comments. They were not typical of the man. A media witch hunt broke out. Mr Brogden apologised, but the attacks continued.
On 29 August 2005, Mr Brogden resigned as leader of the opposition. The following day, he attempted suicide. He was found only because his family became concerned and contacted police.
On the evening of 30 August 2005, the Sydney Morning Herald contacted Barry O'Farrell, now Premier, to ask him about leadership speculation against Mr Brogden. O'Farrell replied: "Excuse me if I say I don't care about the leadership at the moment, but I am following an ambulance with John Brogden inside. He has attempted self-harm. It sort of puts things in perspective, doesn't it?"
It turns out that Mr Brogden was suffering from depression, an occupational hazard in politics where you are often alone, playing a role, always on show. This has become worse in recent years as changing social attitudes and heightened media scrutiny has shrunk the private space that politicians try to create for themselves.
Some of Australia's greatest political figures have been very imperfect human beings. They have drunk too much, had sexual encounters of various types, have tried to balance all the emotional complexities of the normal human life with the emotionally demanding and sometimes very stylised political game.
In Mr Brodgden's case, a brief fit of mea culpa gripped everyone. It did not last. There have been many cases since.
John himself went on to rebuild is life in a way I greatly admire. He had the personal strength and family support required to do this. Looking at what he has achieved makes me wonder just what he might have done if he had become NSW Premier.
To return to my main theme, my charge against the main stream media is simply this. Your focus on the personal, the immediate, is damaging our political system. You drive out a John Brogden, yet fail to identify an Eddie Obeid.
This may sound unfair. I don't believe that it is. The point is that real transparency requires objective analysis of not just immediate events but but of underlying processes and policies.
I accept that does not meet immediate deadlines, nor create nice stories. I accept you have a problem, And yet, the events now unfolding through the ICAC inquiry would not have happened if you had been doing your job.
Interesting piece by Alex Mitchell on the ABC's The Drum, Bob Carr's selective memory on Eddie Obeid, that provides a little more background on the rise of Mr Obied relevant to this post and also the comments. The discussion has been helpful to me in clarifying issues in my own mind.