THE SMH – AGAIN – HIGHLIGHTS MURKY LOBBYIST LINKS THE ICAC NEGLECTED IN ITS DISASTROUS RYDE WITCH-HUNT
Overdue mainstream media attention on a Sydney lobbyist’s potential conflicts of interest involving property developers, senior NSW politicians and his elected councillor role, could force authorities to investigate complaints that ICAC’s Ryde inquiry was improperly motivated.
Unlike the blockbusters on the way at ICAC right now, ICAC is dealing with almost trivial misdemeanours with its Ryde inquiry and the question is: If ICAC needed two recent funding increases to do it’s job properly, why is it recklessly wasting taxpayer dollars on an inquiry into Ryde which presented evidence, which at best, was unconvincing?
Within the Ryde community, it’s widely understood to have been an act of retribution against six Ryde councillors who fought in solidarity with local residents to stop a controversial and unpopular civic precinct redevelopment at Top Ryde.
The same councillors have since also been targeted by the NSW Electoral Funding Authority and the NSW Division of Local Government.
Almost two-and-a-half years after ICAC began covert inquiries into the six councillors, the report still has not been made public.
ICAC would have every reason to fear the ramifications of its report on Ryde, following an inquiry characterised by serious bungling of its key allegations and the multi-million dollar waste of taxpayer funds.
The findings of ICAC’s report, if it pursues the themes of its badly handled inquiry, could bring the anti-corruption body into disrepute and prompt a review of its powers.
Consider this interesting fact: NSW has only two elected councillors who also serve in the bizarre dual role of paid lobbyist. Yes, you did read that correctly!
And the state’s regulatory authorities – in particular the NSW Division of Local Government (DLG) and the Independent Commission Against Corruption – have not yet lifted a finger to address the perceived or apparent conflict this dual role creates. Even worse, ICAC’s given them both a tacit endorsement, by relying on their evidence during last year’s Ryde inquiry.
ICAC has already spent a truckload of taxpayer funds on Operation Halifax, an inquiry into, would you believe, lobbyists and the risk they pose. It couldn’t even get the job done properly after calling more than 50 witnesses and publishing 17 recommendations, none of of which tackled the issue of lobbyists serving as councillors.
Meanwhile, the DLG spends much of its time telling local government officials how to suck eggs with its evolving model codes of conduct, but it stops short on offering some form of advice on what to do with lobbyist/councillors and likely ICAC, it hasn’t even acknowledged the issue exists.
Thankfully, The Sydney Morning Herald‘s State Political Reporter, Sean Nicholls, in a piece titled ‘Gazcorp lobbyist ‘assisting’ campaign’ has now chosen to shine a long-overdue spotlight on the farcical situation.
The newspaper raises the potential conflict between Ryde Councillor Bill Pickering’s lobbying activities with property developer clients and his personal relations with NSW Government ministers, ahead of a new, heavily-publicised inquiry into Australian Water Holdings.
The SMH has previously delved into the relationship between Ryde Councillor and lobbyist Bill Pickering and Liberal right-wing figures but the newspaper, along with its stablemates in the mainstream media, has failed to examine what role the same right wing Liberal clique has had in establishing one of ICAC’s most shocking failures and abuses of public trust to date – the Ryde ICAC public inquiry.
PDF OF SMH P5 STORY HERE: http://issuu.com/icac_fail/docs/sydney_morning_herald__march__15___