Eddie Obeid. My First Story. 28/6/16
When I first got into Parliament in 1998 Eddie offered me a lift to Parliament. I accepted. It seemed harmless enough. He had a car with a driver and lived not far from me. Then he offered to give me some advice about how to get on in Parliament.
I said, ‘Fine, Go ahead’. There was no harm in listening.
He said, ‘Arthur you are in a very little party, but if you vote with the (then Labor) government, we will give you a little win just before the election and you will be re-elected’.
I said, ‘Well, Eddie, you might think we are a little party, but we have a lot of policies that are important and if you help those policies, I will vote for you and if you don’t I will vote against you. That is my job”.
He said, ‘No Arthur, you do not understand, we are the government’.
I said, ‘That does not really impress me, my job is to change the government’.
He gave me a lift the next 2 times and we had virtually the same conversation. He would say, ‘Arthur, you are not really understanding,’ (meaning I was not voting the way he wanted). ‘You are a very small party and we are the government and if you vote with us, just before the election we will give you a little win etc’.. So on the 3rd recitation of this I wondered what a ‘little win’ might be. I had got into politics campaigning against tobacco and I knew that what was needed to save a lot of lives was smoke-free air everywhere, especially in the pubs and clubs that were the bastions of smoking, and a big health campaign against tobacco. ‘So I said, ‘Well, what I came onto parliament for was to fix the tobacco problem, you could fix that at no cost. It is just a ban, and the health campaign would pay for itself in hospital costs almost immediately. That could be the ‘little win’ you talked about’.
He said, ‘That is a very big thing. We could never do that’. I said, ‘Well I guess its no deal then’. He turned up the radio and we sat without talking as Ray Hadley rabbited on.
I did not get a lift in the mornings, but I kept getting a lift with him for some time in the evenings when we finished late. He was quite friendly and I used to meet him in his office. But one day he said to me, ‘Arthur I give you a lift home and you do not vote for us.’ There was no answer to this. Could anyone think that a lift home should change a vote in Parliament? Eddie obviously did. I figured there were some people who did nothing for nothing. After that I took a taxi voucher. The taxpayer had to cop the extra price of an independent mind in Parliament.