Emma Husar. Sam Dastyari. David Feeney. Andrew Landeryou. Kathy Jackson. Cesar Melhem. Richard Pratt.
What do these people have in common? Answer: they were, or are, in Bill Shorten’s inner circle.
The Labor Party leader has always combined business, politics and friendship, in the loose sense of the word. Although his TV-camera persona is laboured and calculating, in person Shorten can be fascinating, funny and fun.
Over a blessed career Shorten has used his confident charm to seduce men and women, politically. Some became important benefactors. Others provided support in his faction, union and the Labor caucus. Shorten loves nothing more than a new acolyte.
To become A Friend of Bill is to enter a glamorous world (for a politician) of money, power and fame. Modesty isn’t Shorten’s thing.
Unfortunately for them, Shorten’s friends have a history of ethical challenges.
The original friend
Richard Pratt was the great, original Friend of Bill – the one who helped make Shorten a national figure at 39. The billionaire flew Shorten around the world, and opened up his homes and his wallet, all the while participating in a criminal cartel to make Australians pay more for cardboard boxes. Pratt died in 2009.
Then there was Cesar Melhem, an official at the Australian Workers Union. Shorten handed the AWU Victorian branch to Melhem in 2006. He donated money to Shorten’s first election campaign, in 2007.
In turn Shorten helped him don a parliamentary parachute, although a seat in the Victorian upper house wasn’t enough to stop the workplace regulator suing him in May over alleged union kickbacks uncovered by the trade union royal commission. Melhem denies doing anything wrong.
David Feeney and Andrew Landeryou go back to Shorten’s Young Labor days. Both were factional warriors in the Victorian Right, Feeney best man at Shorten’s first wedding.
Best friend in the party
Senator Feeney and his law-partner wife built a lucrative property portfolio in Melbourne, which he “forgot” to fully declare. Feeney told the Labor Party in 2007, 2013 and 2016 that he had renounced his entitlement to British citizenship, which turned out not to be true. He’s no longer in politics.
Feeney’s best pal was Kathy Jackson, who ran part of the Shorten-supporting Health Services Union.
Jackson has said she would party with Feeney and Shorten’s wives in Melbourne, before Shorten divorced Deborah Beale for the governor-general’s daughter and Jackson was charged with spending some $470,000 of union money on herself. She has pleaded not guilty. Her trial is due next year.
Landeryou despised Jackson. She said that Landeryou and Shorten were tight, an assertion that gained credence when Shorten supported the appointment of Landeryou’s wife to the Senate over the objections of senior party figures. Once a political blogger, Landeryou’s nickname was Slanderyou.
‘I’ve done every drug under the sun’
Before then-senator Sam Dastyari may have tipped off a Chinese businessman about official surveillance, he ran Shorten’s campaign to become Labor Party leader in 2013.
Now, Dastyari is fronting a TV show about disgraced public figures. “I’ve done every drug under the sun,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.
Labor MP Emma Husar is the latest Friend of Bill to fall. The single mother socialised with Chloe Shorten, may have dated one of Shorten’s staff, and could rely on the Opposition Leader to lobby newspapers over coverage she didn’t like.
Shamed for her treatment of staff, Husar is now considering what to do with the rest of her life.
Maybe she can go on Dastyari’s show.