Monday, September 7, 2009

Another Coffin Nail For The NSW Government

The execution murder of Michael McGurk last week was horrific in a number of ways. It is horrifying enough that such things as what appears to be a contract killing take place at all, but it is infinitely more horrifying that it was done in front of his young son. Regardless of what any individual may or may not have been involved in, surely his children or other family members should be spared such a thing. And yet, just like something you might see on the television, a man was shot dead in his own driveway in front of a ten year old boy.

In the wake of that event, allegations have surfaced that Mr. McGurk was in possession of a tape recording which supposedly links senior New South Wales Government members with claims of bribery and corruption. It is claimed that police are now in possession of the tape, and while the opposition is planning to set up a parliamentary inquiry, the Premier is referring the matter to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. It is one thing to identify Mr. McGurk as an individual who may have had some controversial dealings, but it is another step altogether to link his activities to allegations of government corruption.

While the police investigation will take its course, there is clearly a public interest in the question of whether or not there is any substance to the corruption allegations. A hand full of people claim to have direct knowledge of the contents of the tape recording. One of them is Graham Richardson, the former Federal Labor Minister who is famous for admitting in his autobiography that politicians, including himself, tell lies when it is expedient. That alone is something which makes him more honest than some, but still leaves doubts about his claims that the tape contains nothing of consequence as much of it is inaudible.

Of course, if there is any dirt there, Mr. McGurk is likely to have been in a position to have collected it. Described variously as a property developer, a lender of last resort, and a “bagman”, he was a frequenter of Labor Party fundraisers and a conduit for donations to the Party. If there is anything on the tape which can be verified and tied to serving members of the government the potential for political damage is enormous. The claim that the allegations could be enough to bring down the government may be no exaggeration.

At a time when many people have been desperately seeking a means to remove the government and precipitate an early election, this is a startling development. While there is generally no means to dismiss the government, short of the government dismissing itself, the one exception is in the case that the government is found to be conducting illegal activity. Even if there is ultimately not enough evidence to find government ministers guilty of wrongdoing, the mere fact that the accusation has been made, and the murky circumstances in which it has been made, is enough to provide yet another nail in the coffin of the government of New South Wales.

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