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Monday, 8 September 2014

ICAC set to send more rumbles through the conservative side of politics

ICAC set to send more rumbles through the conservative side of politics

ICAC set to send more rumbles through the conservative side of politics

Christopher Pyne was forced to respond to claims about a meeting he had in opposition with James Ashby.
AAP/Lukas Coch

The sticky paper of scandal and the politics of money are embroiling
players across the spectrum, with claims and revelations guaranteed to
further disillusion already cynical voters.

In the week that Julia Gillard is due to appear before the royal
commission into union corruption, federal Liberal minister Arthur
Sinodinos (now stood aside from his portfolio) will be back giving
evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The former PM is defending her reputation against allegations
relating to the advice she provided, as a young lawyer, on a union slush

Sinodinos, a year ago one of the bright hopes of the Abbott
government whose political future now hangs in the balance, was NSW
Liberal treasurer when donors and party figures were getting around a
law banning money from property developers.

On another front, Monday saw Education Minister Christopher Pyne
responding to claims about a meeting he had in opposition with James
Ashby, who later brought a court action against his boss Peter Slipper,
then Speaker, alleging sexual harassment.

Ashby claimed on Sunday’s 60 Minutes that Pyne had promised him a
lawyer and guaranteed he’d have a job, federally or with the Queensland
Liberals, while also warning that if the conversation got out he’d be
forced to call Ashby a “pathological liar”.

Pyne, amid a fair bit of dodging, indicated that alternative
employment and the desirability of good legal advice were canvassed in
the context of Ashby feeling uncomfortable in Slipper’s office. But he
said it hadn’t been his intention to offer either a lawyer or job
security. And in warning about a leak he wouldn’t have used that sort of

He wasn’t suggesting Ashby was a liar - indeed he was “a courageous young man”. “Sometimes people misinterpret conversations.”

Pyne’s bottom line remains he had “no specific knowledge of the
allegations” by Ashby and the first he knew that Ashby was suing Slipper
was when he read it in the paper.

Getting to the bottom of Pyne’s knowledge of the James Ashby affair
is like peeling a hard onion. A couple of layers came off this week –
whether there are more to go remains to be seen.

Meanwhile at ICAC - which has cut a swathe through the NSW Liberals -
the name of the Prime Minister’s right hand woman Peta Credlin exploded
into headlines on Monday.

Last week some emails were suppressed after representations from
Sinodinos' lawyer about whether they would fall under parliamentary
privilege. They involved Credlin who later said she had no objection to
them being made public.

The emails were correspondence between the former chief fund raiser
for the NSW Liberal party Paul Nicolaou and Credlin in 2011, about
Brickworks - a big donor to the Liberals via the Free Enterprise
Foundation and a company whose operations included development.

Credlin expressed interest in the opposition using in question time a
line from the company’s chief executive Lindsay Partridge opposing the
carbon tax, and she asked for his phone number to check out whether that
was okay.

There was nothing wrong in what Credlin wrote, but it allowed the
Labor opposition to allege cash for questions and once more put Tony
Abbott’s high profile chief of staff into the news.

More interesting is that Brickworks sent money for both federal and
state purposes to the Free Enterprise Foundation, an entity that
provides funds for the Liberal party. The effect of this was to get
around the state legislation that placed a ban on developers donating in

On the stand on Tuesday will be former NSW premier Barry O'Farrell,
who had to resign after giving wrong evidence to ICAC, and former deputy
prime minister Mark Vaile. There are further revelations about the
financing by Brickworks of a staffer in O'Farrell’s office.

Liberals wait anxiously to see how much more there is to come out about the funding roundabout. It won’t be pretty.

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