Monday, September 28, 2020

The unpredictability of a corruption inquiry


The unpredictability of a corruption inquiry

A computer hard drive, belonging to a disgraced ex-NSW minister, hidden under the desk of a government staffer? Put there after he asked her to arrange for it to be “lost in the post”? Huh? The bar for ‘sensational evidence’ at corruption inquiries is quite high, and I’m pretty sure these developments at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Wednesday cleared the benchmark. Just a day earlier, we had been discussing whether the hearings into former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire might sustain our interest (let alone readers’ interest) for the four weeks the hearings are estimated to run. The commission is investigating whether Mr Maguire misused his parliamentary office for his own financial interests between 2012 and 2018. But Mr Maguire resigned in July 2018, the Liberals losing their long-held grip on the seat to independent Joe McGirr in a byelection, so the impact on the current government is negligible. Yet there’s nothing more predictable than the unpredictability of a corruption inquiry, so once we started thinking we could possibly redeploy reporter Lucy Cormack towards other things,

Rebecca Cartwright, the secretary for the NSW government whip, and former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire (inset).

Rebecca Cartwright, the secretary for the NSW government whip, and former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire (inset).CREDIT:NICK MOIR, JANIE BARRETT

She told the commission she had last spoken to Mr Maguire in July 2018, who told her he was angry and not going to be a Liberal MP anymore. “He said there would be a hard drive coming to me ... I phoned him and asked him how he wanted it sent to him, and he said [words to the effect of] post it, but it gets lost in the post.” It was certainly an extraordinary day’s evidence. 

While the scandal has no direct effect on the operation of the Berejiklian government, the headline-grabbing allegations from the ICAC come on the back of both the icare scandal and the so-called “koala wars” of recent weeks, so it’s undoubtedly an unnecessary distraction as the Premier and her cabinet

continue to relax COVID-19 restrictions and implement more measures to kick-start the economy in its wake.The spectre of the pandemic is hanging over the nation heavily, especially as we move towards the 2020 federal budget. On Friday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg revealed a record deficit of $85.3 billion for the 2019-20 financial year, following the massive spending to help the country struggling through coronavirus. The previous record was $54.5 billion in 2009-10, following stimulus measures from the Rudd government to help Australia weather the global financial crisis. It’s a daunting debt, especially for a government that 12 months ago was boasting about being “back in the black”