New Government Ministers: O'Brien & Koutsantonis
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (15:39): I want to talk also about what some sections of the media refer to as the 'appointment of young Turks to refresh and reinvigorate a fading and lacklustre Rann cabinet'. The first “young Turk” was evidently Mr O'Brien who, at 59 years of age, must BE the oldest young Turk in Christendom who will be collecting his Seniors Card this year. I am not sure how he is classified as a “young Turk” to reinvigorate and refresh a fading cabinet.
The second “Young Turk” (as described by some sections of the media) is factional hack and wholly-owned subsidiary of Labor Unity, the Hon. Mr Finnigan's friend the member for West Torrens, Tom Koutsantonis. I have often referred to him as the welsher, as members will be aware, and I think it is ironic that he has been appointed the Minister for Gambling. In my view it is un-Australian to have a Minister for Gambling who welshes on a bet he has with anyone, let alone a member of parliament. It is now time for the Minister for Gambling to clear his debts and pay up, because it will become widely known that the Minister for Gambling does not uphold the bets he undertakes with others.
The Hon. Mr Koutsantonis, as a person of Greek heritage, would also probably be offended to being referred to by the media as a “Young Turk”. However, I guess that is an issue for him to take up with those sections of the media.
There is no doubting that members and media commentators are aware of the intense hatred that exists between the Premier and Mr Koutsantonis. This is not a recent thing; it has been known for many years. I think the headline in the paper this morning—quoting the Premier as having said that Mr Koutsantonis would be appointed to cabinet over his (the Premier's) dead body—is fair testimony to the hatred that exists between the two of them. Certainly, those who know Mr Koutsantonis and Mr Rann know the intensity of that feeling.
Mr Rann's feelings are based largely on the fact that he knows that for many years Mr Koutsantonis was probably the most prominent 'leaker' from the Labor caucus to members of the media on all and a variety of things. He was certainly prominent as he saw, in his view, Mr Rann losing the 2002 election—
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins): The honourable member should use correct titles.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: The member for West Torrens, in looking at organising the replacement for the Leader of the Opposition Rann (as he was then) in the period leading up to 2002.
What has changed? Last year it was widely reported—in particular by Matt Abraham and Dave Bevan, who have very good contacts not only with the Premier but also with senior representatives of the Labor caucus, particularly the Right—that during last year's reshuffle, when there was to be one potential vacancy, the Labor Right offered up only one nominee: the member for West Torrens, Mr Tom Koutsantonis. Mr Rann said, 'No way', the political equivalent of 'Not over my dead body.'
Of course the difference this year is that there were two vacancies manufactured, so in the end the member for West Torrens became the political equivalent of a set of steak knives—that is, Mr Rann got the nominee that he wanted, Mr O'Brien, the member for Napier, and the political equivalent of a set of steak knives was thrown in at no extra cost. He had to put up with the member for West Torrens, Mr Koutsantonis, who at last got his much desired new position.
The Hon. R.D. Lawson: Undeserved.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Undeserved and much desired. The feeling and enmity that exists within the Labor caucus about this is still very intense. Certainly, the division between the Left and the Right remains, and around parliament members of caucus from the Left are talking openly about the trifecta of political jokes that occurred in the last week.
The first two were the fact that Pauline Hanson and Warwick Capper were running for parliament in the upcoming Queensland election, while the third leg of the trifecta was the fact that Premier Rann had just appointed Mr Koutsantonis, the member for West Torrens, to his cabinet. That is the intensity of the feeling between the Left and the Right and from members of the Left caucus towards the appointment of Mr Koutsantonis to the cabinet.