High time for Eddie Obeid to come clean

Does former NSW ALP powerbroker Eddie Obeid have a breaking point? During the year-long anti-corruption investigations Obeid has studiously protected his former colleagues. But will his protective silence last?
Obeid has the dirt to take down his ALP accomplices in the Carr to Keneally Governments which ruled NSW between 1995 and 2011.
Obeid has already suffered the destructive impact of three previous ICAC investigations – Operations Indus, Acacia and Jasper – commencing in November 2012. As a result, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is considering whether to bring criminal charges against him over coalmine deals.
Earlier this week, on October 28, the ICAC began three new inquiries into Obeid – Operations, Cyrus, Meeka and Cabot. They involve other business projects connected with the Obeid family during Labor’s era when “The Sheik” was a Cabinet minister, founder-leader of the Terrigals sub-faction and the party’s chief influence-peddler and money-raiser.

Hidden interests

In his opening address counsel assisting the ICAC, Ian Temby QC, himself a former ICAC commissioner, said: “We come now to Operation Cyrus.
“The detail is of some significance but the story put shortly is that the Obeid family had interests in two retail leases at Circular Quay.
“Mr Obeid made representations about Circular Quay leases to successive relevant Ministers, Messrs Carl Scully, Michael Costa, Eric Roozendaal and Joe Tripodi.
“He did so without disclosing his family’s hidden interests in the retail leases and decisions were ultimately made which were highly favourable to them and other retail lessees in the precinct.
“Each of the Ministers will say he did not know of the Obeid family interests in Circular Quay. We anticipate they will say with varying degrees of fervour that this is information which should have been disclosed to them.”
Tripodi’s evidence will be critical. His former deputy chief of staff, Lynne Marie Ashpole, has already testified (on October 31) that Tripodi, the former Member of Fairfield and Obeid’s faithful lieutenant in the Terrigals, acknowledged Obeid’s links with the lucrative leases in 2006.
Junior counsel assisting Ben Katekar asked Ms Ashpole, who has also worked for Craig Knowles and federal Labor minister Craig Emerson: “And Mr Tripodi was an economist by training?”
Ashpole: That’s right.
Katekar: And that manifested itself in a logical and rational approach to policy development?
Ashpole: That’s correct.
Katekar: And Mr Tripodi to you espoused the virtues of competition when it came to the allocation of State assets?
Ashpole: He did.
Katekar: And that wasn’t surprising to you given his training?
Ashpole: No, that’s right.
Katekar: And consistent with that Mr Tripodi expressed to you that he was in favour of an expression of interest process for retail leases at Circular Quay when they were renewed?
Ashpole: That’s correct.
Katekar: During your discussions over this issue did Mr Tripodi mention to you that Mr Eddie Obeid owned one or two leases down at Circular Quay?
Ashpole: That’s right, or had an interest in those leases.
Katekar: And he also told you in that context that Mr Obeid was not all that happy with the expression of interest process for those leases?
Ashpole: His, my memory of his exact words that Mr Obeid wasn’t very happy with him for wanting to have an expression of interest process.
Katekar: I see, so Mr Tripodi told you that Mr Obeid had told Mr Tripodi that Mr Obeid was unhappy with Mr Tripodi for wanting an expression of interest process for those leases?
Ashpole: That’s correct.

Pressure mounting

In the event, the leases were re-issued to the existing tenants and the tender process was cancelled abruptly.
Ms Ashpole’s evidence puts the heat on Tripodi. He can say Ms Ashpole’s memory is unreliable or she has made it up. This will be difficult to sustain since she holds a law degree and a master’s degree in public policy.
Either way, the pressure is mounting on Obeid. As Temby told the inquiry, his former Cabinet colleagues are entering the ICAC witness box with sparse recollections of their past association with Obeid, either in Cabinet, Caucus, factional politicking or more confidential meetings.
While they will plead memory loss, Obeid will be left to hang out to dry. But what if Obeid decides to end his self-imposed silence and starts to spill the beans?
He has nothing to lose anymore. He’s out of parliament, he’s been expelled from the ALP, his reputation is in ruins and the legal authorities, including the ATO, are pursuing his family.
If Eddie is going down, he might decide to take others with him.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *