Anger About Graham Richardson Dominates Opening of NSW Alp Conference

Little more than an hour into Labor’s annual conference factional rancour and insult trading has erupted on the issue of former NSW Labor general secretary, Minister, numbers man and practitioner of “whatever it takes politics”, Graham Richardson’s key address at the conference overshadowing the morning proceedings.

Only about half an hour after the 2017 NSW Labor conference was opened with a welcome to country ceremony factional sniping dominated conference speeches between the party’s left and its dominant right wing, focused pointedly on Mr Richardson’s speech tomorrow, which this week attracted widespread controversy.

Soon-to-be federal Senator Tim Ayres, the Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, from the party’s left described Mr Richardson as a “cold war” warrior.

“The decision to have Graham Richardson to deliver the address needs to be thought about carefully,” Mr Ayres said.

He certainly did do “whatever it took”, Mr Ayres said.

“We shouldn’t glory in some elements of our history,” Mr Ayres said. “If there is a single sign of backsliding [in Labor] culture, we will fight you every way”.

But current NSW Senator Sam Dastyari, who, like Mr Richardson, is from the Right and also a former general secretary of the NSW branch, leapt to Mr Richardson’s defence:

“What a load of sanctimonious bullshit,” Mr Dastyari said of Mr Ayres’ speech. “I didn’t want to do this today.”

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“I’m not a perfect guy like Tim Ayres is. Congratulations on being pre-selected by a faction for a Senate position that is not yet vacant.”

(Mr Ayres is widely expected to replace sitting NSW Senator Doug Cameron who will not recontest the next election. His preselection is all but assured).

In an often lighthearted speech Mr Dastyari claimed that Mr Ayres, who represents workers’ conditions, arrived at the conference by Uber, a company whose treatment of its drivers has been criticised by some.

But he said leaks about party finances to the media threatened to undermine its discipline.

“What a load of sanctimonious bullshit”

Mr Dastyari said of Mr Ayres’ speech

(Mr Ayres had earlier denied the Left faction was responsible for leaks).

George Simon, also of the left and Mr Ayres’ deputy at the AMWU, said the party’s leadership, from the right faction had celebrated its failure to win the last election; an achievement it described as “Fortress NSW”.

“Members deserve better,” he said. “The general secretary is out bragging about [losing the last federal election].”

Bob Nanva, a close ally of Mr Dastyari’s, of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, denounced Mr Simon’s speech as “shallow” and “phoney”.

Mr Richardson, a former Minister, who was earlier general secretary of the NSW party in his ’20s, was a highly controversial figure especially among the party’s left. His name has provoked boos on Saturday morning from some corners.

He resigned from federal parliament in 1994 suddenly. He denied a connection, but it transpired that two Richardson friends were being investigated in Queensland in connection with a prostitution racket.

While NSW ALP general secretary in 1977, Mr Richardson’s then wife Cheryl was put on the payroll of Balmain Welding, owned by deputy mayor of Leichhardt Danny Casey, who was investigated by the Woodward Royal Commission into drug trafficking. No evidence was found to link Mr Casey to drug trafficking.

In 2002, the late stockbroker Rene Rivkin admitted to Swiss investigators that he, along with businessman Trevor Kennedy and Mr Richardson, were the beneficial owners behind a 38 per cent stake in printing business Offset Alpine, held through Swiss bank accounts.

Offset Alpine’s Sydney printing plant mysteriously burnt down on Christmas Eve 1993, causing the company’s share price to soar due to it being insured at three times its purchase price.

Mr Richardson will address the conference tomorrow.

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