As VEXNEWS exclusively reported yesterday, the Greens party leader in Tasmania Nick McKim made securing a prominent position for his girlfriend his highest priority in negotiations with the Labor Premier David Bartlett.
CAN MY GIRLFRIEND TAG ALONG?
It appeared to pay in the wee hours of Tuesday morning when the Tasmanian Premier issued a media release announcing his offer of the position of Cabinet Secretary to Nick McKim’s lover, Cassy O’Connor.
While not being a ministry, this position pays roughly the same as a state minister and affords the office-holder an opportunity to be involved in every Cabinet submission. It’s quite a central role.
The offer is in addition to the ministerial position already offered to McKim, which some suspect will relate to the Environment.
McKim personally ensured O’Connor played a central role in negotiations with the Premier.
MORE EXPERIENCED THAN O’CONNOR PASSED OVER
Some in the Greens party are believed to have favoured Tim Morris who has considerably more parliamentary experience than O’Connor who was first elected in 2008.
But it looks like McKim has rolled over them all to secure the prizes of office for himself and his lady. For a politician pledging higher standards this does seem to be a cheekier demand than any we’ve previously seen by any Liberal or Labor figure.
McKim pledged to the people of Tasmania that he’d be very careful to avoid conflict of interests when dealing with his de facto partner Cassy O’Connor after he’d first revealed they were an item. Specifically they both promised not to vote in the party room because of the obvious conflict of interest to their party room and to their love interest:
“The Greens party room has unanimously resolved that neither Mr McKim nor Ms O’Connor will vote in any ballots on leadership or portfolio positions for which the other is a candidate, the Greens declared.
McKim – through his leadership position – has been able to drive a truck through that limitation by taking O’Connor with him to negotiations with Tasmanian Premier and privately encouraging Bartlett to make public offers to O’Connor that put the rest of the party room in a very awkward position of having to publicly repudiate one of their small group.
It’s not the first time McKim has had to face conflict of interest allegations involving previous partners as the ABC reported:
The Tasmanian Greens leader, Nick McKim, says his party will no longer give work and taxpayer funds to companies that involve his partner.
A parliamentary committee has ruled that Mr McKim should have declared a conflict of interest before his party last year employed a company part-owned by Mr McKim’s partner, Jane Binning.
At the height of the pulp mill debate last year, the Greens paid Zoot Films to produce television advertisements opposing the Tamar Valley project. Ms Binning owns Zoot Films with Andrew Wilson.
Peg Putt was Greens leader at the time and told the committee the work was given to Mr Wilson, not Ms Binning. She says she did not think Ms Binning would profit from the contract.
The committee found Ms Putt’s insistence Ms Binning not do the work, suggested she was aware of a possible conflict of interest. It said Mr McKim should have declared a conflict of interest.
McKim’s desire to ensure his girlfriend doesn’t miss out on a position in government is understandable and a human reaction. But it highlights the difficulty in their situation. If Premier Bartlett’s offer is accepted those difficulties will present themselves at a Cabinet table, possibly a first in Australian history.
Political observers in Tasmania say there are many questions arising from this unique mess, what if they break up acrimoniously? What if they insist on voting in the Greens party room on issues involving each other after all? What if they disagree with each other at the Cabinet table? What if she ends up being a more capable contributor to Cabinet than her lover and the Premier wants to swap them around?
These are awkward issues. Very few spouses can work together without it complicating their relationship. Now the soap opera of the Tasmanian Greens looks set to become the reality of governing in Tasmania. Disaster looms.