An apparent own goal by fallen NSW Labor powerbroker Joe Tripodi in his government’s dying days was the “ultimate act of betrayal”, former premier Kristina Keneally says.
The long-running Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) cash-for-favours probe on Monday diverted its attention from alleged corruption in Liberal ranks as Mr Tripodi, Ms Keneally and ex-NSW Labor Treasurer Eric Roozendaal followed one another into the witness box.
The ICAC has heard claims Nathan Tinkler’s Buildev funded a smear campaign against sitting Newcastle MP Jodi McKay because she opposed a proposed coal-loader that would have been worth a fortune to the company.
Central to the alleged plot was the distribution of a pamphlet, headed ‘Stop Jodi’s Trucks’ which claimed a rival plan favoured by Ms McKay would clog suburban streets with 1000 trucks a day.
Mr Tripodi has admitted contributing to the leaflets but denies he was doing Buildev’s bidding to try to set up a career after politics.
He said any assistance he gave Buildev was because “I’m an obliging type of person.”
Giving evidence on Monday, Ms Keneally said she had a good idea what she might have said had she learned of Mr Tripodi’s manoeuvres.
“I’m not entirely sure the language I would have used should be repeated in this room,” she said.
“It is an ultimate act of betrayal for a member of the Australian Labor Party to campaign against or work against an endorsed member, an endorsed candidate.
“It just is unthinkable.”
She said she confronted another high-powered Labor figure, Mr Roozendaal, about the damaging leak of a treasury document to Ms McKay’s local paper but he “emphatically” denied having a hand in it.
“He was furious that he appeared to be implicated in that,” Ms Keneally said.
Mr Roozendaal himself has finally had his turn in the ICAC witness box after spending weeks in the public gallery.
Under questioning from counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson SC, he said Mr Tripodi had approached him as early as September 2010 about Buildev’s plans for a coal-loader at Mayfield, on the Newcastle foreshore.
“He was advocating, in a sense, for their proposal,” he said.
“I believe he thought it had some merit and it was worth investigating.”
He believed the Buildev proposal did not preclude the development of a container terminal at the same site, he said.
But Mr Tripodi never floated the possibility of another company being involved.
Mr Watson asked Mr Roozendaal whether it was good government policy to only consider a medium sized local company for a major infrastructure project.
“Well they were the only company that had the lease on that particular site,” Mr Roozendaal replied.
He denied destroying email records of his discussions about the Mayfield site, and is expected to be questioned further on the subject when he returns to the witness box on Tuesday.
Due to give evidence on Tuesday is Chris Hartcher, one of the former Liberal MPs forced onto the NSW Parliament crossbenches over corruption allegations.