Time up for bent ex-jails minister Rex Jackson

By David Marr
Updated November 6 2012 - 3:05am, first published January 1 2012 - 10:09am
Rex Jackson serves a customer.
Rex Jackson serves a customer.
Rex Jackson, ALP hard man and jails minister who himself served time, has died.
Rex Jackson, ALP hard man and jails minister who himself served time, has died.

Death has claimed Rex "Buckets" Jackson, so his story has to be told one last time.The former NSW Corrective Services minister served three years' jail for taking bribes.At least it was a learning experience. "The NSW prison system is a disgrace," he raged after his release. "There are people in charge who are animals."Jackson made a long climb from Illawarra kid, pug boxer, Labor member for Bulli and finally to minister in the government of Neville Wran.Somewhere in there was a soft heart, but his colleagues knew him as the toughest bully in Parliament - and a hopeless gambler.Six months after he became minister in charge of NSW jails, Jackson set up a scheme for the early release of prisoners.He alone picked the candidates.As they began streaming out of the state's prisons, Federal Police wiretapping underworld figure Fayez "Frank" Hakim heard a series of conversations in which Jackson sold the release of three marijuana growers from Broken Hill jail, on April 14, 1983.The wiretaps were legitimate. Police watched intermediaries deliver fat envelopes to Jackson's office and recorded him afterwards saying "we could do plenty between now and August".This material was laid before the authorities.But it proved difficult to get the Wran government to act.Jackson was broke, his fibro house in Helensburgh mortgaged to the hilt. He was bouncing cheques on his bookmakers.It would emerge he invested much of the proceeds of this crime on a horse, Trench Digger, in the last race at Rosehill. It lost.After five months of stonewalling, Jackson resigned after highly detailed questions were put to him by journalist Marian Wilkinson. The questions were based on the transcripts of the wiretaps, which had been available to the NSW Government all those months.Jackson went to prison in September 1987 for conspiring to accept bribes, but his conduct of the early release scheme was never investigated - despite protests from judges and police about many of the thousand or so men and women Jackson set free.Labor managed to corral the corruption issue to just one case, of the marijuana harvesters of Broken Hill.On his release from Berrima Jail in late 1990, Jackson ran a hot dog and ice cream van for a while at Bald Hill lookout. His wife had died. There were no kids. He was, as always, broke. "I'm leading a decent, clean life," he told nosey journalists. "I see no reason to have my privacy invaded."Jackson died on New Year's Eve at the age of 83.

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