Premiers clash over Obeid rise


Premiers clash over Obeid rise

Date March 11, 2013 218 reading now

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Sean Nicholls, Leesha McKenny

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Clash: Morris Iemma, left, and Bob Carr. Photo: James Alcock, Dominic Lorrimer

Former Labor premiers Bob Carr and Morris Iemma have gone to war over who was responsible for the rise of Eddie Obeid amid warnings that corruption hearings involving the notorious powerbroker will have dire consequences for the party at the federal election.

Senator Carr, now the Foreign Affairs Minister, has accused Mr Iemma, his successor as premier, of a serious error by allowing Mr Obeid ”special status” in his government.

”I’m sure that Morris Iemma, a very decent – decent and honest figure – would reflect that it was a cardinal mistake to allow Obeid that special status and privilege,” Senator Carr says in comments that will go to air on Monday night on the ABC program Four Corners.

Accused of corruption: Eddie Obeid. Photo: Jon Reid

”And people who then ran the state ALP machine were making a terrible mistake to confer some special status on him. For what reason? What could he deliver? What qualities could he bring?”


Mr Iemma rejected Mr Carr’s assessment, insisting he had no special access. ”He had a status all right: cabinet minister, conferred on him by Bob Carr,” Mr Iemma said of Mr Obeid.

”I don’t know what special status he’s referring to. He was a cabinet minister in Bob’s government. He was a backbencher in my government.”

Mr Obeid’s influence over the former Labor government has been outlined recently at hearings of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The commission has been examining allegations that Mr Obeid’s family conspired to make millions of dollars by rigging a 2008 tender process for coal exploration licences issued by his former colleague and then mining minister Ian Macdonald.

Mr Iemma has given evidence that Mr Obeid was a leader of a powerful subgroup of the dominant Right faction of the NSW party, called the Terrigals, a position that allowed him significant influence over government decision making.

When asked about Mr Obeid, Senator Carr has been at pains to say that he sacked him from cabinet in 2003, comments he repeats in his interview with Four Corners.

But Mr Iemma said that, if anything, Mr Obeid’s influence grew under Mr Carr after he

removed him as minister for fisheries and mineral resources. ”I have a distinct recollection of Bob standing up in caucus and saying he wanted Obeid to focus on being a ‘good caucus manager’,” he said.

Mr Iemma said Mr Obeid’s position in the party did not change after Mr Carr’s retirement as premier in 2005. ”Eddie ran the largest group in the Right under Bob, me, Nathan Rees and Kristina Keneally,” he said.

After initially declining to elaborate on his interview with Four Corners, Senator Carr issued a written statement on Sunday night: ”I’m proud to have expelled Eddie Obeid from my cabinet,” he said. “Everyone knows he had no access or influence with me or my office while I was premier.”

At a news conference earlier, Senator Carr refused to answer questions about Labor’s defeat in the West Australian election on Saturday, or say whether the ICAC inquiry would hurt Labor’s chances at the federal election. But party elder John Faulkner told Four Corners Labor’s standing in NSW had been ”very significantly damaged by the revelations at ICAC and it would be very surprising if that didn’t have an impact federally”

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