In his inner sanctum, where the state was run


In his inner sanctum, where the state was run

Date March 15, 2013 44 reading now

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Kate McClymont

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Met with Eddie Obeid: Ricky Stuart, John Symond and Kristina Keneally.

Room 1122 in the Parliament House of NSW may look unremarkable, but it was from this room that Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid effectively ran the state.

Three years of diary entries – from 2007 to 2009 – reflect an astonishing parade of politicians, developers, departmental chiefs, union bosses, business figures and colourful Sydney characters who were shown into the inner sanctum of room 1122.

The diaries were tendered at the conclusion of the recent Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into allegations that Mr Obeid and his family received $30 million from an allegedly corrupt government coal tender.

Inner sanctum: NSW Parliament House. Photo: James Alcock

According to the diaries, mortgage king ”Aussie” John Symond was keen to talk to Mr Obeid, a humble backbencher, about his jetty. Prominent developer Harry Triguboff wanted to chew the fat with Mr Obeid over the lack of buses servicing a Meriton development in Waterloo. On another occasion he wanted to talk about the penthouse in his development in Liverpool Street.


Also mentioned are furniture mogul Nick Scali and Jose de la Vega, who won government tenders to develop the Finger Wharf and Walsh Bay Wharf. Both men are Mr Obeid’s former business partners in developing the Stables ski lodge at Perisher.

Federal minister Tony Burke, who skiied at Perisher courtesy of Mr Obeid, is also mentioned, as is colourful former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson.

Wielded great social and political capital: Eddie Obeid. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Mark Arbib continued meeting Mr Obeid after he moved from his position as NSW state secretary of the party to become a senator in 2008.

Labor party chieftain Karl Bitar, who now works at Crown Casino with Mr Arbib, features regularly in Mr Obeid’s diaries, often travelling to the Obeid headquarters in Birkenhead Point for meetings.

The present general secretary of the state Labor Party branch, Sam Dastyari, is also mentioned frequently in the diaries, as is his predecessor, Matt Thistlethwaite, now a senator.

According to the diaries, Latteria was popular for Mr Obeid’s breakfast meetings, while during the day Sydney Hospital’s cafe or the nearby Wentworth Hotel were favoured destinations.

Another popular eatery was Tuscany restaurant in Leichhardt, made famous by Mr Obeid’s frequent dining companion, Ian Macdonald.

A 2011 ICAC inquiry heard that it was at Tuscany that Mr Macdonald was provided with a prostitute, Tiffanie, in return for business introductions to millionaire developer Ron Medich, who has since been charged with murder.

Tuscany’s owner, Frank Moio, who was described at the ICAC inquiry as a ”colourful character”, also features prominently in Mr Obeid’s diaries.

Of the many politicians beating a path to Mr Obeid’s door, the most frequent – according to the diary entries – were Ian Macdonald, Michael Costa, Joe Tripodi, Eric Roozendaal, John Della Bosca, John Robertson, Barbara Perry, Noreen Hay, Tony Kelly, Virginia Judge, Kristina Keneally, Matt Brown and Michael Daley. Also mentioned often in the diaries are Fred Nile and Richard Torbay.

Mr Torbay is a former member of the Labor Party, who has been chosen by the National Party to contest the federal seat of New England, at present held by Tony Windsor.

There are also a number of departmental heads who met Mr Obeid regularly. One of the most frequently mentioned throughout Mr Obeid’s diaries is Warwick Watkins.

In 2011 ICAC recommended the Director of Public Prosecutions consider laying criminal charges against Mr Watkins, the former head of the Land and Property Management Authority, after he and former planning minister Tony Kelly were found to have acted corruptly over a backdated letter.

Other bureaucrats regularly meeting with Mr Obeid were Maritime boss Steve Dunn and Mark Duffy, the then deputy director of the Department of Trade and Investment.

Union bosses Jim Metcher, Mal Tulloch, Bill Ludwig, Andrew Ferguson and Bernie Riordan also feature in the Obeid diaries.

Mr Obeid’s passion for rugby league and in particular Souths, where he was once a director, shines through with games listed in the diaries along with meetings with Souths owner Peter Holmes a Court, former Souths boss George Piggins, and first grade coaches Des Hasler and Ricky Stuart.

The diaries also show constant lunches, dinner and meetings with members of the Lebanese community, including developers Joe and George Khattar, construction and excavating tycoon George Ghossayn, Tony Mouawad and John Choueifate, of Channel Seven’s Today Tonight.

Constant companions of Mr Obeid’s, according to the diaries, are Wally Wehbe and Eddy Chahine, who were the Obeid family’s business partners in a residential development in Blackwall Point, at Abbotsford.

But one of the big mysteries in the diaries is the identity of ”Sam”. Mr Obeid had regular meetings with ”Sam” at the Intercontinental, in room 1122, at the Sydney Hospital cafe and at Birkenhead Point.

The diaries make reference by name to party boss Sam Dastyari, Sam H (understood to be Sam Haddad of the Department of Planning and Infrastructure) as well as to Mr Obeid’s son-in-law Sam Achie, who is the financial controller of the Obeid corporation.

Correction: The original version of this story said Richard Torbay was a former Labor MP.

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