Fancy a new title? Nile follows in Obeid's footsteps
Illustration: Rocco Fazzari
In the past attempt to rename the upper house of NSW Parliament, the former Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid had business cards printed bearing the title ''State Senator''.
According to the story retold by his old party colleagues, the former premier Bob Carr was not impressed. The bid was lost but Mr Obeid kept his cards, which he readily distributed. At community gatherings he was often referred to as ''senator''.
Now another push is being led by the upper house MP Fred Nile, of the Christian Democratic Party. But this time, it is gaining traction within the Coalition government.
Those within government who do the wheeling and dealing with crossbench MPs, whose votes are relied on to pass contentious legislation, see the proposal as harmless and something they might concede.
And while the Reverend Nile denies he does deals with the government, there is a view that it owes him for his support in passing the controversial bills that allow the sale of electricity generators and the accommodation of Jamie Packer's casino interests.
Just as his colleagues in the Legislative Assembly prefer to be known as MPs rather than MLAs, Mr Nile believes members of the Legislative Council would be better served with the title ''senator''.
Mr Nile, who has had a tilt at Federal Parliament, may yet come to share the title held by his Canberra colleagues. If nothing else, it will save him having to explain that being an MLC has nothing to do with being an insurance salesman.
That particular frustration is shared by some of his upper house offsiders, including the Greens MLC David Shoebridge.
''When you tell someone you are an MLC, they think you are selling insurance,'' Mr Shoebridge said.
Mr Nile said the change would bring Australia into line with the US where ''state senators'' abound. ''The main reason is that everybody is totally confused as to what an MLC is,'' he said.
''The clerks themselves are using the term state senate, so we ought to give them the legal authority to use that term.
''I hope we get support for it. I know some of the assembly people get a bit aggro if there is anything that gives any attention to the upper house.''
Bob Carr's former press secretary Walter Secord, now a member of the upper house, is taking the lead from his former boss in rejecting any move to change its label.
Mr Secord, who is the shadow special minister of state, said Labor would oppose Mr Nile's private member's bill to rename the upper house.
''We believe that there are other more pressing issues on the state political agenda, such as the massive multibillion[-dollar] cuts to education and health and the massive cost blowouts to a number of public transport projects to debate rather than renaming ourselves.''
The Greens MLC John Kaye said: ''It would be truly tragic if Fred Nile had traded off the rights of working people, safety of bushwalkers in national parks and public ownership of electricity generation and ports, to only end up achieving a fancier-sounding title for himself and his fellow upper house MPs.
''For the O'Farrell government, renaming the upper house would be a low-cost giveaway to appease Fred Nile and lock in his vote. The public might be more critical of an institution upgrading its title as two of its former members are sweating under the spotlight at ICAC.''