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For the prince it is Czech, my friend!

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First published in Age May 19, 1992

For the prince it is Czech, my friend!

Senator Graham Richardson spoke to the press in the House of Parliament, Canberra on May 18, 1992.Credit:Peter Morris

Still protesting his innocence of any wrongdoing, Senator Graham Richardson yesterday made a terrible leap from marriage to martyrdom, sacrificing his career as a minister in the Cabinet for the greater good of the Keating government. In any case, he would like it to be seen as such: a man of respect and influence in the Labor Party, humiliated by unproven accusations and allegations of guilt through association through the media media and harassment by the ruthless opposition. This, however, is not seen by everyone else, despite the strong inter-factional support he has evoked among his work colleagues. But in the end, as Senator Richardson is well aware, it was not so much moral guilt that was taken into account as political vulnerability. To adapt an old mafia saying, it was nothing personal, just politics.

What put Graham Richardson in place was something that came naturally to someone of his descent in the tribal faction of Labor taken in New South Wales. He did a favor to his wife, who was also a relative by marriage, by signing a flattering recommendation on ministry forms and possibly assisting him in contacts for the development of his business in the Marshall Islands. Unfortunately, it was found that his cousin, Mr. Gregory Simons, has less than impeccable business experience. He is being detained in the Marshall Islands on charges of $ 2 million fraud involving a business migration scheme. Prior to that, Mr. Simons had failed in business, culminating in 1989 with his inability to repay $ 1.5 million in debt. Senator Richardson had never been his cousin’s guardian, but he was overwhelmed by the question of how much he knew — or should have known or tried to find out — about Mr. Simons’ financial affairs before he interceded, directly or indirectly, on his behalf.

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In his report to the Prime Minister, Senator Richardson stated his ignorance of the relevant details of Mr Simons’ case at the appropriate time. Unfortunately for the senator, his authority had already been tarnished to such an extent that he was convicted by the Senate for misleading in his explanation. Had the government controlled the Senate, the minister in the entourage might have been able to do so. But neither the opposition nor key members of the Australian Democrats were inclined to release him, regardless of what he said to the Prime Minister and whether Mr Keating accepted his explanations.

And so Senator Richardson has taken the right and necessary course to resign, ridding himself of the possible shame of dismissal and his party of the permanent damage that his tenure would have done. It is a severe blow to his political career (though not necessarily to his influence behind the scenes) and a serious loss for a government that cannot afford to lose such a successful minister from its bench. The case, however, is not isolated; he himself insisted that others in high positions be dismissed for decency or trial. Call it justice or call it politics, Rich had to go.

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