Leader of the Opposition



About this Item
SpeakersRefshauge Dr Andrew; Speaker; Brogden Mr John; Yeadon Mr Kim
BusinessCensure


    LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
Page: 6828


    Motion of Censure

    [Debate resumed.]

    Dr REFSHAUGE (Marrickville—Deputy Premier, Minister for Planning, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister for Housing) [3.21 p.m.]: The Leader of the Opposition was paid $110,000 by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Why was he paid that money? He was not paid it because he is a good bloke.

    Mrs Chikarovski: Start the clock.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! If members had listened to the motion moved by the Leader of the House upon which they have just voted, they would know that the motion gave the Deputy Premier unlimited time in which to conclude his speech.

    Dr REFSHAUGE: Why was the Leader of the Opposition paid that money? Was it because he was a member of Parliament? Was it because he was the shadow Minister for Planning? Was it because he was in a unique position to ask questions and access information? The House has already heard from the Minister responsible for Sydney Water of the unethical behaviour relating to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal [IPART] review of developer charges. Now let us look at Walsh Bay. The Walsh Bay redevelopment was one of the most significant contentious planning debates in years.

    One month after becoming the shadow Minister for Planning in May 1999, the member for Pittwater led the debate for the Opposition on the bill to facilitate the Walsh Bay redevelopment. When he led that debate he was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers, the financial auditors of the main Walsh Bay proponent. Did he tell his party room when they were making their decision on how to vote on the bill that he was a consultant working for PricewaterhouseCoopers? Did he tell the Parliament that he was paid by PricewaterhouseCoopers?

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will refrain from interjecting and, more importantly, he will use less unparliamentary language.

    Mr Hazzard: Point of order—

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order.

    Dr REFSHAUGE: One month after becoming the shadow planning Minister in May 1999, the member for Pittwater led the debate for the Opposition. Did he tell his party room that he had a conflict of interest? Did he tell his party room that he was being paid by PricewaterhouseCoopers when that company was, in fact, working for Walsh Bay Developments? Did he tell the Parliament that he was being paid by PricewaterhouseCoopers when he led for the Opposition on that important bill? Did he tell PricewaterhouseCoopers how the Opposition would vote? In addition to PricewaterhouseCoopers working for Walsh Bay Developments, it was also providing financial advice to the Department of Public Works and Services, Landcom St Hilliers and Sydney Water. There is a pattern emerging. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition under cross-examination from journalists said:
        From the very outset of commencing the consultancy I made it very clear that I would not participate in any activities where there was a conflict of interest.

    He went further:
        I was not going to deal at any time with a matter that provided for me a conflict of interest.

    The onus was always on him. It was his responsibility to avoid conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest. Did he have the commonsense just to say, "No, I will not take the money" or, "No, I will not ask questions about something when I am being paid by a company that has an interest in it"? Who was he serving as the shadow Minister? Was he serving the people of this State or was he serving other interests? Why did he seek legal advice on his disclosure requirements just after becoming Opposition Leader in April this year? Was he worried about that at that stage? The United Kingdom Parliament Select Committee on Standards and Privileges made this judgment about Neil Hamilton's cash for questions deal:
        The way in which these payments were received and concealed fell well below the standards expected of members of Parliament.
    I do not need to change a word. That describes perfectly the Leader of the Opposition, the man who yesterday said:
        I entered politics with every intention to do my best for the local community and hope to have a chance to lead my party and the State. Why would I put into jeopardy those opportunities and responsibilities by behaving in that manner?

    That is a very good question. It has not got an answer. What reports did he write?

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will have two opportunities, of 15 minutes and 10 minutes, in which to refute the allegations of the Deputy Premier. If he interjects he will put himself in a difficult position because he is on three calls to order.

    Dr REFSHAUGE: The Leader of the Opposition wants us to believe that he is engaged by lawyers who do not want him to sign a contract. The Leader of the Opposition wants us to believe that he is engaged by accountants who want to pay him $110,000 with no contract. What reports did he write for this money? What issues did he research? What clients did he meet? What company forums did he address? What representations did he make and on what issues?

    Mr Hazzard: Point of order: In terms of relevance and misleading the House, the Deputy Premier knows—

    Mr Gibson: What's your point of order, goose?

    Mr Hazzard: Are you going to do something about that interjection? You are not going to do anything? Then I can have a fair go. If you are not going to respond to interjections from Government members, I will have my say. What the Deputy Premier is saying now is a total fabrication and a lie because the Deputy Premier knows that what has been tabled this morning refers to a verbal contract. The Deputy Premier should get his facts right. If he is going to play these silly games he should get it right.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! No point of order is involved. The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat.

    Dr REFSHAUGE: The Leader of the Opposition said in a media conference yesterday:
        They—

    that is PricewaterhouseCoopers—
        severed the arrangement.

    That is the financial arrangement. He further said:
        They made a financial decision.

    That raises the question: Would he still be receiving that money now as Leader of the Opposition if PricewaterhouseCoopers had not severed that arrangement? Why was it all right in December 2001 but not all right now? He must explain what he did for the money. It is more money than many people earn in a year. What did he do to earn $110,000 from PricewaterhouseCoopers?

    Mr BROGDEN (Pittwater—Leader of the Opposition) [3.30 p.m.]: How predictable that with only two weeks of sitting left and four months before an election this grubby Government has decided to descend into the gutter and moved to censure the Leader of the Opposition.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! I remind Government members that they are on three calls to order.

    Mr BROGDEN: How predictable and boring. This vote will be determined along party lines. How transparent is that to the people of New South Wales? Today I delivered to the Clerk more details about my financial interests than any other member of Parliament has been asked to provide. I certainly provided more than another member of Parliament to whom I will refer in a moment. Among the documents I tabled today is a letter from Mr John Churchill that states:
        I was the Managing Partner of Dunhill Madden Butler in 1997 and subsequently the Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers legal until my retirement in November 2001.

        In my role as Managing Partner and Chairman I was responsible together with my then partner Stephen Loosely—
    who, I remind the House, is a former Australian Labor Party General Secretary and former Labor senator—
        for the engagement and coordination of John Brogden's retainer with the firm.

        John Brogden provided general advice on public policy issues.

        It was clearly understood both at the commencement of John Brogden's retainer with the firm and throughout the relationship that the respective obligations of solicitors and a member of parliament would ensure that the work and advice undertaken by John Brogden would be such that no conflict of interest would arise.

        I never requested John Brogden to ask questions or raise matters on behalf of the firm or its clients in parliament.

        I find any suggestion that there may have been a conflict of interest arising out of John Brogden's retainer with the firm to be without foundation and offensive to both the firm and myself personally.

    The allegations made by the Government today, particularly with respect to Walsh Bay, suggest that in some way I had an involvement with the Walsh Bay Development Corporation through my consultancy via Northmist Pty Ltd with PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal. It is simply untrue; I had absolutely no idea until the matter was raised with me that there was a relationship between PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal and the Walsh Bay Development Corporation. In speaking in this House and advising the party room and the shadow Cabinet as a shadow Minister, I had absolutely no understanding of that relationship. There is such a thing as Chinese walls in law firms.

    I will make the point clearly—I do so because the Government cannot get it right, particularly the Minister for Energy—that there is a separation between the company PricewaterhouseCoopers and PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal. They are separate entities and I had no arrangement at any stage with PricewaterhouseCoopers. The matters raised by the Minister for Energy are completely spurious. They have no foundation and he has been sold a pup by the Deputy Premier's office in pursuing these matters in the House today.

    Mrs Lo Po': Why didn't you declare it?

    Mr BROGDEN: As required by the Parliament, I have declared my pecuniary interests. I have advice signed by Mr Henric Nicholas, QC, that concludes:
        It is my firm opinion that the disclosure made in paragraph 3, section B in each case-

    which relates to 1998-99—
        in the terms already referred to constitutes full compliance by Mr Brogden with the requirements of clause 9(2)(c) of the regulation.

    I tabled that yesterday and the Government has not challenged it. I have read that the Government is seeking its own legal advice. The fact that it has not produced the advice means that the advice must clearly say that I did not breach the requirements of the pecuniary interests register. I have sought the advice of a Queen's Counsel and I have taken the Clerk's advice in lodging my application. It is clear from the QC's advice and the advice I received from the Clerk prior to lodgment that at all times I have lodged my pecuniary interests statement in the correct manner.

    The Government wants to know the details of the relationship. Today I tabled 76 pages and a covering letter that clearly identify the relationship. The Minister may not be aware but, as I have indicated, no letter of engagement was signed; a verbal agreement was entered into regarding a monthly retainer that could be cancelled by either party on one month's notice. That is a standard arrangement. Did the Minister for Health ask patients for a contract when he was practising as a doctor and working as a member of Parliament? No, he did not. It is a standard relationship, declared properly and legally and, according to the forms of this House, it was advised as such, and that was confirmed by Mr Henric Nicholas, QC.

    I have a letter dated 10 April 2002—the same date on which the legal advice was provided. I am aware of the rubbish the Minister for Planning is peddling today about Walsh Bay. It has been circulating through the corridors for some time and it has been fuelled in the press gallery by the Premier's gutter staff. The letter, which is from Mr John Churchill and is addressed to me, states:
        I refer to our recent telephone conversation regarding your consultancy with my former firm PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal. I confirm that your work with PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal during my time was co-ordinated by myself and Stephen Loosely. I never requested your services as a consultant in respect of any matter involving Walsh Bay and this is also Stephen Loosely recollection as communicated by him to me.
    I seek leave to table that letter.

    Leave granted.

    Mr BROGDEN: It is incumbent upon the Government to prove what it is yet to prove: that there is any conflict of interest. It has failed to do so; it is throwing mud, but it is not sticking. The Premier can be absent from this debate and he can leave his left-wing lap dog, the Minister for Planning—the effective leader of the left wing—to do his dirty work, along with the Minister for Energy and the member for Liverpool. I have been attacked by the left wing of the Labor Party. As I indicated in the letter to the Clerk, the advice received from PricewaterhouseCoopers was that I provided general public affairs advice upon request. I move:
        That the motion be amended by leaving out all words after the word "censures" with a view to inserting instead the following words:
        "the Premier for his failure to stand down the Minister for Fisheries after serious allegations that he sought a $1 million bribe for the Australian Labor Party and for his failure to uphold parliamentary standards of propriety and integrity with other Ministers and members of his Government."

    Government members are trying to throw mud this way when one of their own is facing the Independent Commission Against Corruption on one of the most serious accusations this State has heard: that he asked for a $1 million bribe. The Sydney Morning Herald of Friday 8 November ran the headline, "Million on the table at Oasis lunch". Two witnesses have already indicated to the ICAC that Mr Arthur Coorey came to them at a lunch, where he had been with Eddie Obeid, who had asked for a $1 million bribe to smooth the Oasis project. Under pressure, the Labor Party tries to turn the attack and avoid the fact that after eight years in government it had in Cabinet a rotten, corrupt Minister whose history on matters of arson would suggest that he should be on New South Wales Fire Brigades' watch list.

    The claim against Eddie Obeid is that there are 154 separate failed declarations on his pecuniary interests register. And where does it end? It ends in the ICAC. Two witnesses have indicated to an ICAC investigation that Mr Arthur Coorey came to them at a lunch and said, "I have just been with Eddie, and he said $1 million dollars will smooth it all over." What a coincidence! It is just like the good old days of the Labor Party. They cannot help themselves. The old Wran problem of 1983 has come back to haunt them again. It is all too cute. For the 2002 season Labor has crippled one of the best rugby league teams in this State through its corruption and through the involvement of Eddie Obeid in seeking a $1 million bribe. The ICAC will bear out the truth. An article in today's Sydney Morning Herald reads:
        The former Bulldogs Leagues Club chief, Gary McIntyre, has confirmed he discussed a $1 million political donation to the ALP with fellow director Arthur Coorey, but said it occurred in a discussion on how the hotel industry had achieved such favourable treatment from the Carr Government.
    What the Government has sought to do over some time is pretend that this is all about poker machines, when it has always been about land and about forcing a decision. Half of the members of the front bench have been involved in briefings—including the Minister for Transport, the Attorney General, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, the Minister for Agriculture and, of course, the Minister for Public Works and Services. We all recall that he went very red and was very quiet when the questioning started.

    They will all rue the day. In one day, at the request of this House, I have provided more information than Eddie Obeid offered to the upper House privilege and ethics committee. He obfuscated; he refused to provide information. The fact is that the Obeid matter is wide and deep, and it goes to the core of corruption in this Government. The Labor Party is the party of corruption in New South Wales, and it always has been. The Government's grubby attempt today to censure me—with three to four sitting days left this year and four months until the election—is entirely predictable. But in four months time the people of New South Wales will make a decision based on who can better run our schools, who can make our streets safer, and who can provide better health care and transport services in this State. These grubby attempts by the Government will be forgotten because they are unproved and they are lies, lies, lies from Labor.

    Mr YEADON (Granville—Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney) [3.45 p.m.]: It gives me no satisfaction at all to tell this House that the Leader of the Opposition is a hypocrite and a liar. For months he has presented himself to this Parliament as the defender of the pecuniary interests register. He has derided his political opponents at every opportunity over this issue. But we now know that he himself is no cleanskin: he has hidden from the Parliament and the people of New South Wales $110,000 worth of consultancy payments.

    The key issue is the one posed by the Deputy Premier. The Leader of the Opposition is unable to give any explanation as to why he received that $110,000. For the past 15 minutes we have listened to the Leader of the Opposition denying that he asked questions for cash. But he did not tell us what he got the $110,000 for. He was not able to tell us that he had written one report, that he had done any research, that he had had any meetings and whom he had attended them with, or about their invoices or payments. Not once during that 15 minutes did he tell us what he got the $100,000 for.

    [Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! I ask the Minister not to respond to the interjections of the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai; he becomes rather excited. The Minister should disregard his interjections.

    Mr YEADON: I will try to keep his blood pressure down. The key issue here is that the Leader of the Opposition has not been able to tell this Parliament why he received the $110,000— supposedly a public relations consultancy. Public? That has to be the biggest misnomer I have ever heard; it is the best-kept secret I have ever heard. How can someone advocate on behalf of an organisation as a public relations consultant when nobody knows about it? The most scurrilous act we have seen here this afternoon is that the Leader of the Opposition is now hiding behind the Clerk of the Parliament. He says that the advice he received from the Clerk indicated that his listings were all in order.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! For the third time I remind members that they are all on three calls to order.

    Mr YEADON: I inform the Leader of the Opposition that the Clerk has a different story. A statement has made it clear that the Leader of the Opposition asked for advice—something almost all members of Parliament do at some stage in their career in this place—but the Clerk is not responsible for determining the accuracy of any member's pecuniary interests register. At the end of the day, it is not the Clerk's job; it is the member's job. It is the member who is responsible for his or her own pecuniary interests form—and the Leader of the Opposition has failed to do it.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! I ask the Serjeant-at-Arms to remove the honourable member for Lismore.

    [The honourable member for Lismore left the Chamber, accompanied by the Serjeant-at-Arms.]

    Mr YEADON: This honourable member, who has aspirations of being the Premier of New South Wales, deliberately hid the source of $110,000 of income. Make no mistake, he earned that money. He might have had a virtual contract like he said—a wink, a nod or a handshake—but the $25,000 a year was not virtual. It was actual: it arrived on the dot, on time all the time. So the money is nice and solid but the contract is nice and loose. How convenient! We know he earned that $110,000, but he does not seem to be able to inform this Parliament what he received the $110,000 for. There has been no mention of it on his pecuniary interests register. It was not on the register in 1998, it was not on the register in 1999, but it was not on the register in 2000. It was only in 2001 that the pecuniary interests register reported it.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai will seek the call from where he is standing to take a point of order.

    Mr O'Farrell: It was not a point of order, I was looking at the clock.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.

    Mr O'Farrell: I am speaking. It is my turn to stand to speak. The clock had stopped, and you won't recognise me.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.

    Mr O'Farrell: That is precisely what is going on in this place. It is a disgrace. It stretches to the Attorney General's office. On what basis do you sit me down? You are making a serious debacle in this Chamber.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! I ask the Sergeant-at-Arms—

    Mr O'Farrell: You think very carefully about that!

    [Debate interrupted.]