Choosing an Ombudsman: Revelations from the 1987 NSW Cabinet Papers

The choice for New South Wales’ Ombudsman in 1987 came down to a senior Departmental head and a solicitor with a familiar name in Labor circles; the latter promising a less contested relationship between the government and the Ombudsman’s Office after years of strife between the two.

Cabinet papers for the NSW Government, recently released under the “30 year rule” still applicable in NSW, offer an insight into the appointment of David Landa as NSW’s third Ombudsman.

While the selection panel narrowed the eventual choice to Landa, a prominent solicitor with strong Labor connections, and Trevor Haines, the then Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, an impressive shortlist was interviewed, with gender and (relative) youth no bar to inclusion.

However, reducing the eventual choice to Landa and Haines seemingly reflected a desire to create a more harmonious relationship between government and watchdog than existed during the term of George Masterman, QC, who held the post between 1981 and 1987. Continue reading “Choosing an Ombudsman: Revelations from the 1987 NSW Cabinet Papers”

Search and Seizure and Parliamentary Privilege

The Parliamentary Privilege questions enlivened by the series of raids on Senator Stephen Conroy’s office, the home of an adviser and the server maintained by the Department of Parliamentary Services, arising from the Australian Federal Police’s investigation into the leak of NBN documents brings to a head a series of questions raised across a number of legislatures in Australia, the UK and the US in the past twenty years.

On the matter being raised in the Senate yesterday, a background paper from the Clerk of the Senate, Dr Rosemary Laing was tabled. It indicates that she is not satisfied with the processes used by the Senate until now to deal with disputes over privilege between Senators and law enforcement. Continue reading “Search and Seizure and Parliamentary Privilege”

NSW Political Donations Reform – Background and Resources (Updated)

In May 2014, in response to the mounting revelations at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of breaches and circumvention of NSW’s electoral disclosure laws, particularly in respect of donations by prohibited donors, Premier Mike Baird announced a Panel of Experts to review the system of political donations. Continue reading “NSW Political Donations Reform – Background and Resources (Updated)”

Revealed: Links to Liberal Party funder’s mystery donor

A mysterious $200, 000 donation to the Free Enterprise Foundation (FEF), an associated entity of the Liberal Party facing scrutiny by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), can be traced to links with Australian businessman, philanthropist and television pioneer, Reg Grundy. Continue reading “Revealed: Links to Liberal Party funder’s mystery donor”

Labor Failed to Declare Donation from Torbay’s $100K Donor

According to returns filed with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), the NSW Branch of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) never declared a $19,000 donation from the investment outfit at the centre of controversy over a $100,000 donation to the former NSW Independent MP and federal Nationals candidate, Richard Torbay. Continue reading “Labor Failed to Declare Donation from Torbay’s $100K Donor”

Crime Commission: Last Bout for the Crime Fighter?

Are we about to witness the end of the fast times and heady days of the NSW Crime Commission? Is its “can do” culture going to be tagged as “should not”? Next week, it will take on perhaps its greatest threat in its 25 years of operation: itself.

When the two AFP officers crossed the underground car park on 2 June 2008 to apprehend Mark Standen, the Crime Commission’s head of investigations, they surely could not have fully appreciated what the arrest would unleash. Continue reading “Crime Commission: Last Bout for the Crime Fighter?”

True, Whole True and Nothing But True History of the Kelly Gang

… and now he carried the proof, the trophy, the rank untidy nest of paper beneath his arm. These stained “manuscripts” were disgusting to his touch and his very skin shrank from their conceit and ignorance ….

(From Peter Carey’s “True History of the Kelly Gang”, p. 390)

While ever Tony Kelly – presently assisting ICAC in its inquiry –  was regarded as a decent, dutiful, if somewhat dull Minister, the idea of associating himself with the legend of Ned Kelly might have been thought a quirky flight of fancy.  Continue reading “True, Whole True and Nothing But True History of the Kelly Gang”

Currawong: “Holiday Village of the Damned”?

This morning, Tony Kelly, former Labor Minister, becomes the first office holder in six years to have his conduct as a Minister publicly examined by ICAC. It follows an eight year Ministerial career across a range of primary industries, lands, planning and justice responsibilities, where he was generally regarded.

It is not easy to divorce this inquiry from Kelly’s sudden resignation on June 6 as a Member of the Upper House, where after the election he was the Leader of the Opposition in that Chamber, and the leader of the (numerically diminished) Right faction. His resignation and subsequent events and disclosures have suggested an attempt to cauterise any political damage.

However, any such attempt at a pre-emptive strike against the fallout from this investigation is hardly likely to provide much protection. The matters that are the subject of the inquiry go too deep into the long standing controversy around a property, Currawong, long owned, until recently, by the NSW labour movement. They involve matters that flow from the 2007 sale by Unions NSW, then headed by the now Leader of the Opposition, John Robertson.

Continue reading “Currawong: “Holiday Village of the Damned”?”

Ebbs and Flows: The Battle for Currawong

[A contest] between those who wanted the complex replaced by a luxury new age resort, and those who mounted a self-consciously nostalgic argument in favour of the cabins’ retro-chic heritage values, recognising the extent to which the notion of a cheap holiday was under siege.

Richard White, historian

Continue reading “Ebbs and Flows: The Battle for Currawong”

Selling Currawong: An Unhappy Union?

A short history of the financial dealings of the Eco Villages and Unions NSW

In 2006, John Robertson, Secretary of Unions NSW, made a call for expressions of interest in the sale of Currawaong.

On 13 February 2007 an agreement was reached between Unions NSW and Eco Villages P/L for the sale of Currawong Beach Cottages. The agreed price was $15 million. A deposit of $1 million was made by Eco Villages. The Contract took the form of “Put and Call” options.
Continue reading “Selling Currawong: An Unhappy Union?”