Ian Macdonald vows to fight on – I’m no rotten apple, he says

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Ian Macdonald vows to fight on – I’m no rotten apple, he says

EXCLUSIVE by Bruce McDougall
The Daily Telegraph
February 21, 201312:00AM

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Ian Macdonald on his farm outside Orange, NSW / Pic: Brad Hunter Source: The Daily Telegraph

EMBATTLED former minister Ian Macdonald has strongly denied he is planning to flee Australia, declaring yesterday: “We are not hiding.”

Speaking for the first time since his torrid grilling at the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the former Labor heavyweight revealed he had sold his two farms outside Orange in the state’s central west and planned to buy a “modest” home in Sydney.

Mr Macdonald, 63, said rumours he owned an apartment in Hong Kong and planned to move there were false and he had not been to Hong Kong since a brief holiday about 16 months ago.

“I have not left the country since early November 2011, and I have never stayed in Hong Kong for longer than a week,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

Mr Macdonald also fiercely denied claims he was a wealthy man, saying his family’s combined assets could be measured in “hundreds of thousands” of dollars rather than millions.

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“If I had millions in the bank then they (ICAC) would have put it all on the table,” he said.

Between gruelling sessions of cross-examination in the ICAC corruption inquiry Mr Macdonald and wife Anita have been tending their orchard of apples, pears and cherries on the family farm at Orange.

Set amid rolling hills and tree-lined fields in fruit and wine country, the farm’s calm is in stark contrast to the turbulence Mr Macdonald faced at ICAC. At the property named AndoyaSkye, which he has owned since 2006, the silence and tranquillity is broken only by a flock of galahs taking flight or by the odd passing car.

The former minerals and primary industries minister, who once commanded a salary of $250,000, is “downsizing” and moving to Sydney to be closer to his daughters.

Ian Macdonald’s farm

Source: The Daily Telegraph

“When we were both working we could afford a place in Sydney and the farm,” he said.

Mr Macdonald has spent his time between ICAC hearings repairing water troughs for his breeding cattle, looking after the orchard and helping his wife in a shop selling fruit and organic preserves in Orange.

He is listed as a director and Anita as an individual secretary of a Hong Kong-registered company Resource Image Pty Ltd but he said the business – set up in early 2011 to trade with China in coal, sugar and milk powder – was not operating because of his commitments to the ICAC inquiry.

The company was registered in Hong Kong, he said, to take advantage of currency issues and had been investigated by ICAC, with no concerns raised.

Mr Macdonald, constrained by lawyers in what he can say while ICAC is conducting hearings, said he planned to “have my say” after the inquiry.

Although he believes he has been “named and shamed” by much circumstantial and unchallenged evidence, Mr Macdonald said he was not worrying about anything.

It is understood ICAC investigators have combed forensically through 14 bank accounts he held but he was confident nothing irregular was found. Mr Macdonald said he had received support from former political colleagues – but he did not name them.

While he lamented the disasters that hurt the former NSW Labor government’s final years in power, he looked back fondly on his own career: “Up to 2010 I was the No.1 minister for positive publicity.”

When The Daily Telegraph visited the Macdonald farm yesterday he was happily trimming apple trees after earlier driving his Volvo SUV to the garage for an “adjustment”.

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