Saturday, 6 September 2014

Playing hide and seek with NSW ICAC Operation Spicer exhibits

An interesting incident which occurred during evidence given by former NSW Greiner Coalition Government minister, Robert Webster on 4 September 2014:

MR WATSON: I’m sorry to interrupt but there’s been something drawn to
my attention. I understand there’s some complaint made about material
which is Exhibit Z83 and Z84 they’ve been removed from the screen.
Perhaps it’s better for present purposes, Commissioner, if you make a
suppression order in respect of the material which had previously been put
onto the unrestricted website and marked as - - -
THE COMMISSIONER: Well can you give me a page number?
MR WATSON: No, well at the moment I can’t and I know it’s not the
whole of the volumes but I’m just doing this as some sort of general
protection. We’ve been threatened - - -
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: (not transcribable)
MR WATSON: Well I don't know anything about this but I’m trying to
protect them but I’ve got some people who’ve got a better idea then go for
their lives.
THE COMMISSIONER: Anyway the solution presently is, I don’t want to
interrupt this for too long, the solution presently is that Z83 and Z84 are
restricted from publication in their entirety until that order is varied.
MR WATSON: And I’ll have a look at this correspondence and - - -
THE COMMISSIONER: All right, thank you.
MR DUGGAN: It might be something (not transcribable)
MR WATSON: I think it’s not coming from Senator Sinodinos it was
coming from the Liberal Party.
MR DUGGAN: I thank Counsel Assisting for raising this issue and we can
talk about it after (not transcribable)
MR WATSON: Yes. I’m sorry, I - - -

Both restricted exhibits are from The Free Enterprise Foundation folders and one these folders contained some correspondence from the Liberal Party of Australia Millennium Forum whose official patrons in 2010-11 were Tony Abbott MP and Barry O’Farrell.

The Sydney Morning Herald 5 September 2014:

Media organisations have joined forces at a corruption inquiry to fight a suppression order over a controversial chain of emails involving a "very well known person" and a Liberal identity.
The emails, headed "Re Carbon Tax", were suppressed at the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Thursday after questions were raised about whether publishing the documents would breach parliamentary privilege.
Robert Newlinds, SC, the barrister for NSW Liberal Senator and former party president Arthur Sinodinos, wrote to the ICAC to alert the commission to the potential breach.
"The letter we wrote simply said that we were somewhat perturbed that there may be a breach by counsel assisting [Geoffrey Watson, SC] and the commission of the federal Parliamentary Privileges Act," Mr Newlinds told the hearing on Thursday afternoon.
"I don't really want to say out loud what the topic is because the private individual is a very well known person.
"I  just don't want this to get out. Can we at least have a suppression order about the debate."
The hearing was closed to the public while the matter was discussed.
On Friday, media organisations including Fairfax Media  (the publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review), the ABC, News Ltd and Channel 9, briefed barrister Sandy Dawson to challenge a suppression order over the emails.
Several journalists had read the emails before they were suppressed.
The emails were tendered as part of a public exhibit on Thursday morning during the ICAC's inquiry into Liberal Party fundraising.....

The risible aspect of all this, is that notoriously biased Liberal Party MP and Speaker in the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop, is being asked by ICAC to rule on whether the exhibits can be made public.

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