Outgoing LNP senator Barry O'Sullivan won’t even get a final lap of honour.
Outgoing LNP senator Barry O'Sullivan won’t even get a final lap of honour.

Shot down without a blaze of glory

AND so ends the vain and glorious political career of one Barry James O'Sullivan.

The LNP's bovver-boy-in-chief's preciously brief insurgency on to the floor the Australian Senate has been snuffed out, however not in the way he might have imagined.

There was no going down fighting off the socialist Labor horde in the trenches amid some splendid finale.

Nor were there any great climactic flourishes of colourful language to come booming from that jowly mouth as he cursed the comrades to the bitter end.

Instead, Big Barry O's fate was decided amid a sea of cream-coloured cardigans and the sound of clinking tea cups on the floor of the recent LNP state conference.

He wasn't even afforded a final lap of honour around Queensland at the next federal election by being slotted into an unwinnable lower-order position on the LNP Senate ticket like the indomitable Ian MacDonald.

In the end, the LNP's preselection process proved brutally efficient and the ignominy was profound.

To Barry O's credit, there was at least some fleeting lament over his demise.

There was conjecture over what it means for arch-conservative causes. Some bewailed the plight for the LNP's rural representation.

He's even been venerated in certain circles for his effort to enliven the silent masses against same-sex marriage even though the idea of a costly plebiscite ultimately led to the Marriage Act (finally) being amended.

Big Barry certainly bedevilled Australia's big banks when he backed a royal commission. But perhaps our banks aren't all that big for our Barry, since he used to do some of his financial dealings overseas, as the Panama Papers proved.

Barry O'Sullivan in the Senate chamber
Barry O'Sullivan in the Senate chamber

However the ousted senator will be remembered not so much for his time stalking the halls of Federal Parliament but for the tumult that ensued in earlier times while he was the LNP's erstwhile treasurer.

Fortunately, some of Barry O's most memorable moments have been retained for posterity through several clandestine recordings of his conversations.

In fact, for a time there secret tapes and Barry O's baritone barking became synonymous with each other.

Who could forget his famed two-hour grilling of former LNP Cairns candidate and car-wash proprietor Paul Freebody, for example?

"You might know car washes," the former detective told Freebody. "But I know about bringing matters to proof and negating the evidence."

At one stage Big Barry told Freebody that he was like "lifting a dead body" and ordered him to hold his hands in the air and repeat phrases like a naughty school boy.

"We need to work to make the problem go away, not put our knees together, shut our eyes, rock back and forward humming some f ... ing nursery rhyme you learnt in grade 1," he said.

The future senator ended the interview by declaring he was too hungry to continue.

"Have a look at me," he professed. "You know I haven't missed too many feeds."

Colourful, they insisted. Just Barry being Barry. But given it came after Barry was front and centre in the dirt files scandal, which delved into the medical inflictions and sexual proclivities of Labor MPs, a few other choice words come to mind.

The grilling prompted others to detail their experiences before the ruddy-faced party official with a penchant for profanity.

John Bjelke-Petersen insisted he also copped one of Big Barry's brow-beatings and was told his family name meant nothing.

Barry O'Sullivan on his property just outside Toowoomba
Barry O'Sullivan on his property just outside Toowoomba

And then there were claims that Barry O and another party official had wager on a federal election result where the winner would be shouted a trip to Bali with two virgins. The wager was denied. There was no canoodling in Lombok.

Yet secret recordings were not done with Barry.

He popped up again in the series of surreptitious tapings by former MP Bruce Flegg when the party was trying to replace him with Campbell Newman.

"It's 7 o'clock in the morning," Barry can be heard lamenting in one of the tapes while the pair met at a Kenmore cafe.

"We should be rolling over and patting someone on the arse."

"Yeah, I know," Flegg responded. "Geez, don't start me on that. It seems like a really good idea to me."

Arse slapping aside, Newman didn't see the funny side. At that stage Barry had been preselected to replace Barnaby Joyce, who was decamping to NSW to chalk up his own episode of grand ignominy years later.

The then premier delayed State Parliament's formalities to send Barry to the Senate.

And some hoped the silver lining of the Flegg Tapes scandal may be that Barry didn't get to strut his stuff on the national stage.

Yet Barry was cleared and Parliament's processes eventually undertaken.

And what followed was just weird.

LNP members had little to say about Barry while Labor ditched the usual niceties and let loose.

"The Federal Senate is not a backdrop for the TV series Men Behaving Badly," Labor's Jo-Ann Miller opined in her memorable contribution.

"Queenslanders expect and Queenslanders deserve more than a big, boorish, bad-mouthed bovver boy as their representative in the Senate."

Four years later, it appears the majority of the LNP now agrees.



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