ICAC

Revelations at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) hearing at the end of August that an Aldi shopping bag filled with $100,000 was delivered to Labor’s Sydney headquarters in March 2015 are further proof that a federal ICAC, with a lot more power than its state counterpart, is urgently needed.

Supreme Court Justice David Hammerschlag dismissed former NSW minister Eddie Obeid’s civil case against the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on September 27.

Obeid had claimed he had suffered financial and reputational harm as a result of ICAC’s inquiry into a coal deal in 2012 and that he had been denied procedural fairness at the hearing which found he acted corruptly.

He faces a sentence hearing in October after a jury found him guilty of wilful misconduct in public office in 2007 over retail leases at Sydney’s Circular Quay.

When donations to political parties from property developers in NSW were prohibited by then-NSW Labor premier Nathan Rees in November 2009 the decision was not well received by significant groupings in the state Labor and Liberal parties.

The ban followed an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry into Wollongong City Council which, in 2008, found that local developers had received favourable treatment from elected councillors and staff.

Recent scandals have placed a spotlight on Australia’s electoral system. However, the discussion about possible electoral reforms has largely failed to go beyond touch-ups to an increasingly obsolete set-up.

Moreover, some changes would ultimately help tighten the grip that the two major pro-corporate parties have on power — precisely at a time when more Australians are turning their backs on them.

Recent revelations have demonstrated what many of us already know: both the Liberals and Labor are backed by big business.

If the need for an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in NSW was obvious when it was established in 1989, a report released in 2010 showed why it is absolutely indispensible.

This was an ICAC study of registered lobbyists that found there were 272 individual lobbyists listed in NSW. They included 22 former state or federal MPs and 112 staffers and advisers — about half of all lobbyists.

The charmed run before the courts enjoyed by John Gay, former chairperson of Tasmanian timber company Gunns, may soon be over.

Gunns became insolvent in 2012, owing investors more than $1 billion. The company had been in serious financial trouble since February 2010, when a director’s report detailing its falling revenue was made public.

Two months before the report was released, Gay used his inside knowledge of the company’s financial position to sell Gunns shares worth more than $3 million. He avoided what was thought at the time to be a loss of $800,000.

Premier Mike Baird’s apology to the people of NSW, delivered after the resignation of two Newcastle Liberal MPs, is about as sincere as Treasurer Joe Hockey’s mea culpa to the poor.

Baird’s statement that the Liberal Party would not contest the byelections caused by the resignations — “we strongly believe we have forfeited our right to represent those electorates” — is also a political ploy. The only reason the Liberals are not standing is to avoid the humiliating loss they knew was coming.

Two ministers and five backbenchers have been suspended from the Liberal Party in NSW as a consequence of Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigations over the past couple of months.

The latest ICAC hearings, which resumed on August 4, are centred on illegal donations from property developers in Newcastle and the Central Coast.

When Labor Premier Nathan Rees banned these donations in November 2009, it was not well received by significant groupings in the Liberal and Labor parties.

In recent weeks, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has managed to add a number of prominent Liberal Party politicians and apparatchiks to those of the Labor Party who are accused of complicity in corrupt practices.

The commission is set to suspend its current inquiry on May 16 and resume again in August. This will allow ICAC officers to conduct further investigations into the affairs of the former Liberal police minister Mike Gallacher, who resigned in early May in the wake of ICAC allegations against him.

One of the most important initiatives that can be taken to revitalise manufacturing in NSW is to implement policies that will encourage the rapid development of renewable energy products. The one thing we should not be doing is developing new coalmines.

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