During the latest Eddie Obeid hearings at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) four former Labor ministers testified they had no idea Obeid had financial interests in Circular Quay restaurants, lucrative water leases and a health service firm.
The Four Wise Men – two former Treasurers Michael Costa and Eric Roozendaal, Police Minister Carl Scully and Finance Minister Joe Tripodi – indignantly told the anti-corruption inquiry that Obeid had “deceived” and “misled” them.
What about other ministers and MPs from the Carr, Iemma, Rees and Keneally era which ruled NSW for 16 years? Were they kept in the dark as well?
I worked on the NSW Press Gallery between 2001 and 2007 and covered NSW politics for much longer, and talk of Obeid’s extensive business interests circulated freely.
I am astonished that none of his ministerial colleagues didn’t pick up the same stories and use the enormous resources of the Government to establish the truth of them.
At a much earlier ICAC hearing, Obeid testified that disgraced Minerals Resources Minister Ian Macdonald had “never been in my office in 20 years of me being in politics”.
Coming and going
When this evidence was published two former Upper House Labor MPs, Paul O’Grady and Ian West, and one serving MLC, Lynda Voltz, contacted the commission and subsequently gave evidence that they had seen Macdonald going to Obeid’s parliamentary office on numerous occasions.
“Coming and going, back and forth, all the time,” O’Grady said.
Their testimony forced Obeid to return to the witness box to alter his earlier evidence.
But during the latest inquiry not a single ALP MP has volunteered to contradict the evidence that Obeid successfully hid his extensive business interests from Cabinet and Caucus.
They saw no evil, heard no evil and smelled no evil.
They are either 1) stupider than I thought; 2) gutless; 3) still in the thrall of Obeid; 4) men and women of outstanding principle who have carried out their legal and public duties to the letter and have nothing to add.
FOOTNOTE: Section 11 of the ICAC Act provides that certain persons, including a Minister of the Crown, are under a duty to report to the Commission any matter that the person suspects on reasonable grounds concerns or may concern corrupt conduct. Section 11(3A) provides that a Minister may report the matter to the Commission or to the head of any agency responsible to the Minister.