The long-running saga of New South Wales Corruption Inc continues to implicate former Labor and Liberal-National MPs — and over a long period of time.
Former ministers in the last Labor government, Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, along with Obeid’s son Moses, were sentenced to prison in October over misconduct in public office.
Obeid Sr was given a minimum three years and 10 months sentence and Moses at least three years. Macdonald will serve at least five years and three months. They are planning to appeal.
The men were found guilty of conspiring over a coal exploration licence. Macdonald, then the resources minister (2007 to 2009) granted the Obeids a licence at Mount Penny in the Bylong Valley. Two years ago, Obeid was sentenced to three years' jail for misconduct in public office over cafe leases at Circular Quay.
Geoffrey Watson, who assisted the 2013 NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Mount Penny inquiry, described the corruption then as “unexceeded since the days of the Rum Corps” — the military cabal which, in 1792, began carving up the British colony of NSW among themselves.
Obeid and Macdonald were referred to by NSW Labor as, “He who must be obeyed” and “Sir Lunchalot”, respectively. It formed part of the normalisation of the corrupt relationship between the government, run from Obeid’s office, and mining corporations.
The Australian Tax Office and the NSW Crime Commission are looking into how to recover Obeid's ill-gotten $30 million.
ICAC is currently hearing evidence that former Premier Gladys Berejiklian used her position in public office to help her secret ex-boyfriend, MP for Wagga Wagga Darryl Maguire.
Berejilkian famously declared last year that pork barreling is not a crime. She’s right, unfortunately.
It may be that the public has had enough.
Former Premier Mike Baird told ICAC he was “incredulous” that Berejiklian, as treasurer, did not declare her relationship with Maguire. She chaired the Cabinet expenditure review committee in December 2016 that allocated $5.5 million to the Australian Clay Target Association to upgrade its headquarters in Maguires' electorate.
Berejiklian then arranged the proposal be given priority, again without declaring a personal interest.
Recently retired deputy premier John Barilaro told ICAC on October 25 that Berejiklian’s handling of the gun club funding proposal was “unusual”. He agreed that Berejiklian should have declared her relationship with Maguire, claiming that the matter would have been handled differently if she had done that.
Berejiklian is also being investigated over a conflict of interest stemming from a grant to upgrade the Riverina Conservatorium of Music, also in Maguire’s electorate.
She is the third Liberal premier to resign over allegations of corruption, after Barry O’Farrell (2011–2014) and Nick Greiner (1988–1992) were forced to. Twelve other Liberal and National MPs have resigned due to corruption, or were found to be corrupt by NSW ICAC, in the past decade.
The political system thrives on cultivating close relationships with corporations and using insider information to gain further financial advantages for MPs and corporations alike.
The sell-off of public assets for a song to big business mates is another hallmark of NSW politics.
Berejiklian and her Coalition predecessors have encouraged the massive transfer of public funds to their corporate donors. Since 2011, they have privatised $82 billion of public assets including hospitals, TAFE, roads, public transport, electricity networks, rail corridors, public land and public housing.
Under her watch the bus network was privatised and public rail handed to the privately-owned Metro, a step towards the privatisation of Sydney Trains.
New Premier Dominic Perrottet is now becoming embroiled in his own scandal — a deal with the Catholic Church to deliver control of Sydney’s public cemeteries, worth more than $5 billion.
We need stronger laws, at both the state and federal levels, to uncover and punish government corruption. This means defending the state anti-corruption bodies from being gutted and setting up a federal ICAC with the power to hold public inquiries and investigate politicians, senior public servants and corporate executives.
For these, however, we need mobilised communities ready to fight. Green Left has for 30 years sought to connect people in struggle against corruption in all its forms. If you like our work, become a supporter and make a donation.