The illustrious career of Rex (Bucket) Jackson.
With the latest finger pointing at Obeid and his antics in front of Icac I wonder if some of you still remember Rex Jackson. There is a world of difference between the two!
Rex (bucket) Jackson was really the epitome of a charming effervescent man. He was also minister for Youth and Community services, of Corrective services and a little later minister for Transport in the NSW Labor Government during the mid seventies and early eighties after which he suffered his spectacular fall from grace.
His love of dogs is what is supposed to have led him to his downfall. He was a regular fixture at Dapto dogs and Wentworth Park. It must have been unfairly tempting when he started to make nice little earnings from allowing prisoners out before their time was up for a bit of handy cash. He wasn’t minister for Corrective services for nothing! One of the things he fought hard for was rehabilitation for prisoners. What could be more re-habilitating than giving prisoners a chance to start afresh, letting them out of prison before the sentence was fully served? Of course, a bit of cash in return would be appreciated. There were monthly waves of prisoners being led out on parole which gave rise to suspicion all wasn’t on the level!
Who can forget the video footage of Rex in a car casually accepting a bundle of notes which later on included him having a boot-full of cash at the back of his car?
He was born at Wagga Wagga, the son of a railway fettler. He knew poverty but despite or because of this he grew up an irascible optimist and larrikin with more than a streak of compassion and strong sense of reform for the needy and the underdog when running the tough portfolio of Youth and Community services. In other words, he was a good bloke, a decent man with strong words for those opposing him. That’s how he got the tag “Bucket Jackson.” He lost both his parents when in his teens as was then separated from his siblings. He was taken up by a family and soon he started work at week-ends at their shop selling lollies and ice cream.
His career included having won 16 out of 17 boxing matches as a professional light welterweight with one fight ending in a draw. At twenty six he won the seat of Bulli against 14 other candidates. When minister he fought to improve condition in jails and was successful in raising the budget for his department from 44 million to 78 million dollars within two years. He was acutely aware of the plight of deserted wives and fought hard to improve their lot and felt that child support was of a ‘Dickensian. ‘age
It was his dogs gambling addiction and hopeless debts that got him in the end. It was the sentencing judge who ‘looked at the quality of the man’ and sentenced him seven and a half years, showing some compassion. This was appealed against by the Crown and Rex was given an increased sentence of ten years with non parole of five years. He felt condition at jail were atrocious! Good behaviour got him out after serving three years and three months.
While incarcerated he was sharing time and space with some of those sent to jail when he was still minister of Corrective services. It would not have escaped Rex Jackson the irony of life and its unpredictable crooked path that sometimes ends up being followed. No more racing of dogs inside.
But, and this really summed up the humility and innate quality of the man. After doing his time in jail, he reared up and started a take away hamburger kiosk at the top of Stanwell Park, a popular spot for hang-gliding.
There can be no doubt that his dog gambling days were not his best but when looked at all the good things he achieved, the balance of the ledger would have to be very strong in his favour. You could never talk of Jackson and Obeid in the same breath. Could you?
Rex Jackson died on New Year’s Eve 2011.