The resignation of NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has exposed the culture of corruption and political favours inside the Liberal Party.
O’Farrell told an Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) hearing he couldn’t remember receiving a $3000 bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange. His lie was caught out after his hand written thank you note for the “wonderful wine” was produced at the hearing.
At the centre of the scandal is Liberal Party fundraiser and businessman Nick Di Girolamo. Di Girolamo was head of Australian Water Holdings (AWH), which billed hundreds of thousands in limousines, a corporate box at ANZ stadium, donations to the Liberal Party and huge salaries for its board to the NSW government.
O’Farrell put forward Di Girolamo for a well-paid position on a government board just two weeks after receiving the $3000 gift. That job didn’t proceed but the next year Di Girolamo landed a three-year $100,000 position as a director of the State Water Corporation.
New Liberal Premier Mike Baird has tried to distance himself from the corrupt dealings, but it was Baird who made the appointment of Di Girolamo to the State Water Corporation.
AWH lobbied the NSW Liberal government in the hope of winning a $1 billion contract. Disgraced Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos was put on the AWH board to “open doors” with Liberal politicians. Di Girolamo even went over Finance Minister Greg Pearce’s head to get a direct meeting with O’Farrell that Pearce described as oddly “cosy”.
Predictably, senior Liberal Party figures have responded by discussing how they can muzzle ICAC, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Former Liberal Minister Bruce Baird told the ABC, “We may need to bring it back a bit”. O’Farrell is not the first casualty in the NSW Liberal government over corruption claims. Former Energy and Resources Minister Chris Hartcher and two other Central Coast MPs, Darren Webber and Christopher Spence, are under investigation for corruptly receiving payments in exchange for business favours.
The former NSW Labor government was shot through with corruption too, as the ICAC investigations into Eddie Obeid and former mining minister Ian Macdonald revealed.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg of insider deals and influence peddling in politics. The top politicians in both major parties all move in the same circles as businessmen, lobbyists and the super rich. This means favours and influence peddling, often bordering on outright corruption, are built into the political system.
The Liberals are determined to do everything they can to aid big business and make workers pay. No sooner had new Premier Mike Baird taken over than he called for the GST to be broadened, and declared privatisation the answer to underfunded hospitals.
Baird’s entry into politics was backed by John Howard. He is reputedly close to Tony Abbott, who described him as an “outstanding individual”. The Liberal Party exists to run government in the interests of their rich big business mates. Now we have finally had a glimpse of how they really operate.
By James Supple