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ICAC: The nothing-to-show-for-it show-trial of Eric Roozendaal

NSWICACThe New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing that started yesterday into various aspects of the previous – initially solid then totally self-indulgently self-destructive – government there is a powerful reminder that the Victorian government has done the right thing by restricting public hearings in its planned equivalent, IBAC.

Millions of taxpayer dollars in Queen’s Counsel fees and ICAC staff time will be spent on issues like whether one former MP Eddie Obeid gave a current MP and former NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal a gift on a car that cost $38,800 for which Eric appears to have paid $34,000. Obeid also paid an extra $6000 to a friend for sourcing the car, a car we note one could have bought just by showing up to any car dealer. It sounds like that extra payment had nothing at all to do with Roozendaal and may have related to other dealings.

CORRUPTION OR MINOR SIN OF OMISSION?
If any of that’s true, it appears the MP’s ought to have disclosed this gift-giving and gift-receiving on their pecuniary interest forms at the time. Failing to do that was a mistake but corruption it does not make.

One MP giving another a gift because of their long-standing personal friendship is not corruption, by any reasonable measure of it.

ICAC will say – indeed its high-priced lawyer Geoffrey Watson QC has already said – this is a grand and perfidious scheme by one MP to buy favours from another. The Sydney Morning Herald splashed with exactly that this morning, rating this small matter of only slightly less note than the awarding of a Victoria Cross. Let’s wait and see whether there’s any evidence to support this conspiracy theory. Most NSW political observers will know that – usually at least – Obeid was in no need to splash money around to buy goodwill, he had plenty of goodwill as it was.

Perhaps it’s only those south of the border who don’t appreciate this kind of shoot-them-in-the-head-in-public-first then adjudicate kind of justice.

If a bribe was paid to any decision-maker in government then why can’t the NSW Police investigate it, refer evidence to prosecutors and there be a trial? Instead, there’s a show-trial to make it look like a bribe was paid, whether it was or not. Like a meal in one of the many Chinese restaurants near Sussex Street, it can be satisfying at the time but still leave one feeling empty afterwards.

STALIN WOULD BE PROUD
You don’t have to smoking whatever David Hicks’ human rights lawyers were on in the ’60s to appreciate that Stalin-style show-trials don’t do anyone any good. NSW ICAC and agencies like it sit very uncomfortably indeed with the system of justice and its doctrines we inherited from England.

In this case, there is no credible suggestion of any bribe or criminality. So instead they have an ICAC hearing in full public view to name, shame and shake the crap out of a few witness trees and see what falls out. Usually the only result is damaged reputations and wealthier lawyers.

In New South Wales, the ICAC machinery can be randomly wheeled out to character-assassinate any person in public life in front of appreciative scribes and frocked-up TV reporters in a way where the process is the result.

Being dragged before the Anti-Corruption Commission makes one look dodgy. To the limited extent there is public sector corruption in New South Wales, ICAC has done little to combat it. That’s not the point of it, it seems. Watson, paid about $5 a word uttered at the commission, made much about the fact that Roozendaal hadn’t collected the registration papers for the car, even though he was Minister for Roads. It was perhaps because he was the Minister for Roads that he may have had bigger things on his mind. The car was legally registered in all respects, it appears. Watson’s cheap shots constitute a verbal drive-by shooting, a carefully aimed sound-bite shot at the former Treasurer’s head.

Some say the Roozendaal car is just an appetiser ahead of the main course which relates to Ian McDonald, coal mines and happy endings. Certainly the media will be hoping for more substantial things to report than a gift between mates that is almost certainly not improper, let alone illegal.

LEARNING FROM MISTAKES OF THE PAST
In yesterday’s SMH, they report that Sydney retail real estate is becoming more like Melbourne’s, full of little bars and cafes with hipsters, their moustaches, fur-coats and water-colours. A frightening prospect indeed.

Should Sydney really want to be more like Melbourne, they should really look to the Anti-Corruption model devised by Premier Baillieu, who had the chance to study Queensland, NSW, WA and international anti-corruption agencies. As a result, IBAC won’t have show-trials, at least not often.

Of course, that wasn’t what Baillieu promised before the last election when governing seemed like a faraway dream.

Politicians who’ve created agencies – like the Rob Hulls created monster the Victorian Ombudsman and Nick Greiner’s NSW ICAC whose first significant scalp was Nick Greiner – that do little but produce scathing, viciously negative reports or hearing that very rarely lead to actual prosecutions or even civil action are fools that have done little to fight corruption and have done a great deal to make politics far more unpleasant than it should be.

Transparency International says Australia is one of the least corrupt nations on Earth. Pointless show-trials than do little other than smear haven’t improved that perception, they merely make public life more miserable than even the combined efforts of Labor politicians calling Tony Abbott a misogynist and Liberal politicians claiming PM Gillard is – or was – an embezzler have managed to achieve.

Baillieu has got it right, his new-found lack of enthusiasm for creating an unaccountable ICAC-style monster is to be commended. Despite occasional public posturing to the contrary, most in the Labor Opposition cannot and do not disagree.

Discussion

Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Posted by Moi | November 2, 2012, 14:31
  2. ICAC are doing this based only on more silly reporting by McClymont.

    Posted by Marilyn | November 2, 2012, 20:09
  3. Billions of fraudulent and corrupt dollars are dealt with every year by private business.

    If you are a rich prick or the head of a fortune 500 company, then a million here or a billion there is fine, no investigation or prosecution.

    If you are paid by the “public” then hundreds of thousands of the “public’s” money will be spent finding out if you gave $50 to a friend at the pub but failed to tell anyone.

    One rule for the rich upper class, one for public servants, one for everyone else.

    Posted by Rich Get Richer | November 2, 2012, 23:31
  4. The systemic corruption which pervades all areas of Australian public life is more sophisticated than the Queensland style brown paper bag bribery covered by the Transparency International.
    Instead of brown paper bags, bribery dollars are doled out by giving undeserved jobs, untendered contracts, land releases/approvals/peppercorn rents, political donations, 8 million dollar termination payouts to corrupt prosecutors etc etc.
    The only way to save the so called democracy in the countries dominated by two business owned political parties is to ban corporate and union donations, as they do in many other countries..

    http://www.democracywatch.com.au/countries.html

    Of course there will never be any reform of our electoral laws, because the people lost control of our country a long time ago.

    Posted by chris | November 3, 2012, 7:06
  5. The systemic corruption which pervades all areas of Australian public life is more sophisticated than the Queensland style brown paper bag bribery covered by the Transparency International.
    Instead of brown paper bags, bribery dollars and public money paid in return are doled out by giving undeserved jobs, untendered contracts, land releases/approvals/peppercorn rents, political donations, 8 million dollar termination payouts to corrupt prosecutors etc etc.
    The only way to save the so called democracy in the countries dominated by two business owned political parties is to ban corporate and union donations, as they do in many other countries..

    democracywatch.com.au/countries.html

    Of course there will never be any reform of our electoral laws, because the people lost control of our country a long time ago.

    Posted by chris | November 3, 2012, 7:18
  6. I thought Eric would drive an Israel Uzi car

    Posted by Heinz Guderian | November 6, 2012, 20:39
  7. I bet it will be a one way air ticket to Israel next week.

    Posted by Leni Riefenstahl | November 9, 2012, 1:22
  8. might want to back pedal on this article given today’s revelations.

    Posted by Mango Madness | November 12, 2012, 17:50
  9. Two more NSW ALP scumbags MP are now in the poo over insider information on land in the hunter district with coals under it.

    Another case of looking after the workers once again – but only the MP workers. I wonder if these two are Roman Catholics as well. Shame, shame, shame.

    We all should strive to destroy the corrupt unions and the Church of Rome.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | November 12, 2012, 20:23
  10. First Sheezel in the Victoria Liberal and now Roozendaal in NSW Labor. Is sleaziness genetic with these people?

    Posted by Heinz Guderian | November 12, 2012, 20:49
  11. Yeah, ICAC is pointless when it publicly reveals a multimillion dollar ALP coal rort and shows exactly how the worst govt in NSW history really operated.

    Partisan thinking and premature mouthing. Not unusual here.

    Posted by jasbo | November 13, 2012, 14:37

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