Ex-MP ‘can’t believe’ Obeid meant it


Ex-MP ‘can’t believe’ Obeid meant it

  • By Sophie Tarr
  • AAP
  • May 20, 2013 1:10PM

FORMER Labor kingmaker Eddie Obeid gave incorrect evidence to the NSW corruption watchdog, his lawyer has admitted.

Mr Obeid last week told the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that in his 20 years in politics, former mining minister Ian Macdonald had never been inside his parliamentary office.

But on Monday, barrister Stuart Littlemore was forced to backtrack on Mr Obeid’s behalf, as former parliamentary colleagues testified the pair did indeed meet in Mr Obeid’s office dozens of times.

The ICAC is in the final stages of Operation Jasper, its investigation into whether Mr Macdonald rigged a 2008 tender process for coal exploration licences in the Bylong Valley, and whether Mr Obeid and his family gained tens of millions of dollars from the decisions Mr Macdonald made.

Former NSW upper house member Paul O’Grady told the corruption watchdog on Monday that during the years he occupied the parliamentary office next to Mr Obeid’s he saw Mr Macdonald “coming and going, back and forth all the time”.

He said he was “incredulous” when he read about Mr Obeid’s evidence in the paper.

“If this bloke said that, he’s got more front than Mark Foys,” Mr O’Grady told the inquiry, referring to a prominent former Sydney department store.

Outside the commission Mr O’Grady said the two former ministers “lived with each other, there was a goat track between (their offices)”.

Lynda Voltz, MLC, said she distinctly remembered seeing then-Labor minister Mr Macdonald enter the office in late 2009.

“I went in on one occasion – it must’ve been after the caucus meeting when Nathan Rees was rolled as premier,” Ms Voltz told the inquiry.

“When I went into the office to talk to Eddie, Ian Macdonald was in there as well.”

Former Labor MP Ian West said the former factional boss might have erred on the stand in the heat of the moment.

“He may’ve said that in some stress in the witness box,” Mr West said.

“I can’t believe that he meant it … It would be like Sir Donald Bradman saying that he’d never been in the Australian cricket team’s dressing room,” he said.

Mr Littlemore said Mr Obeid did not contest the testimony from his former Labor colleagues on Monday that Mr Macdonald visited his office during the years from 1991 to 1995 and in late 2009.

“Mr Obeid’s instructions are, yes, he was wrong … he was wrong in his recollection of that period,” Mr Littlemore told the inquiry.

But the barrister suggested in-office meetings did not take place during 2008.

The inquiry has heard it was about that time that Chinese businessman Alan Fang approached the Obeids about buying their farm at Bylong, and that he offered to pay several times the property’s worth.

It’s been alleged Mr Macdonald personally escorted Mr Fang into Mr Obeid’s Macquarie Street office. Mr Obeid has denied the allegation.

The ICAC report is due by late July.

Anyone found to have knowingly given false or misleading evidence to the commission can be jailed for up to five years.

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