Two Senators Will Go This Federal Election. Only One Will Be Missed.
The 2019 federal election will end of the careers of two National Party Senators. Both are men in their 60s. That is where the similarity ends.
Senator Barry O’Sullivan will probably best be remembered for his slurs against women. Search “O’Sullivan Misogyny” and in 0.44 seconds Google returns 142,000 results.
But his difficulties went well beyond that.
O’Sullivan’s career is over because he has been dumped by his own party pre-selectors.
It's a humiliating rejection. The one time Queensland detective was one of the richest men in federal Parliament and was once a powerful figure in conservative politics.
He was treasurer of the Queensland LNP and a party kingmaker. He chaired the committee that decided who could run for the Coalition north of the Tweed.
But his methods have raised more than a few eyebrows. He boasted of convincing former Prime Minister Tony Abbott to establish a special drought relief fund.
On the quiet -- as reported last year by 10 News First -- his own family engineering firm then tendered successfully for lucrative contracts from the same fund.
The same engineering firm, now run by his son, has also done well out of the Toowoomba Second Range crossing and other Commonwealth-funded schemes like a post-disaster damage repair fund.
Despite his clear family and personal interests, O’Sullivan sat on the Joint Parliamentary Committee for Public Works and the Senate Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport.
In those roles, he would grill the public servants who ran the programs from which his family companies were profiting.
And he was brazen. At one Senate hearing, he thanked one agency head for their “professional and prompt” payment.
One of Australia’s most senior Constitutional Law experts believed O’Sullivan was “very probably” ineligible to be in Parliament at all.
That’s because the Constitution forbids federal politicians from having any pecuniary agreement with the public service of the Commonwealth.
In the end, his own party dumped him.
He won’t be missed.
The other National Senator leaving the stage is made of different stuff.
John “Wacka” Williams came into Parliament with personal experience of being done over by a bank.
For years, he accumulated detailed evidence of the arrogant, life-destroying policies of a whole range of banks and financial institutions, starting with Storm Financial.
As a political operator, “Wacka” was quite happy to be under-estimated. He listed his pre-Parliamentary qualifications as “truckie, shearer, farmer.”
With his sun-leathered skin, broad country accent and physique made chunky by years of hard work, he was written off initially as another boofhead from the bush. “Barnaby without the brain”, in the withering assessment of one wit.
But people who got to know him saw a lot to admire. His personal demeanour was friendly and humble. His mood was determined. His small staff were totally loyal. They knew they had a good one.
More than any other backbencher, “Wacka” Williams did the spadework that led to the Royal Commission into Banking and Finance. It was Williams’ long demand for a far-reaching inquiry that ultimately left Malcolm Turnbull with little option but to call one.
The result revealed alleged criminality and unjust practices in the great financial institutions of the land. The arrogant in their towers have been humbled, their institutions’ misbehaviour exposed.
Australia will ultimately be stronger and hopefully more ethical for what Williams has done.
“Wacka” Williams intended to retire at this election even before his diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease. He will return home to Inverell in northern NSW, relish some time with his wife Nancy, and take his big new “retirement” 4WD on some long drives through the country he loves so much.
So farewell Wacka Williams. And thank you.
As for Barry O’Sullivan, perhaps the door will hit him on the way out.