Eddie Obeid’s failure to reveal secret family interests in lucrative harbourside businesses he lobbied ministers over is deplorable, former NSW treasurer Michael Costa has told a corruption inquiry.
Mr Costa on Monday told the Independent Commission Against Corruption that Mr Obeid had subjected him to “low intensity lobbying”.
The one-time Labor powerbroker had argued retail lease holders at Circular Quay were treated unfairly and the government had made unfulfilled promises, Mr Costa said.
The inquiry earlier heard Mr Obeid’s family owned a cafe and two restaurants at the quay, controlled through a company owned by a family trust.
Relative and associate John Aboud acted as the face of the company.
The Circular Quay leases, which earned the Obeids about $2.5 million annually, were due to go to public tender on expiry in 2005.
But the lessees were against this and engaged a lawyer and a property specialist.
Mr Obeid also lobbied several ministers on their behalf, it’s been alleged.
Mr Costa was ports minister from January to August in 2005 and was a member of Mr Obeid’s powerful Terrigal faction.
“(Obeid) told you that the people down at the quay were being treated unfairly – did he ask you to do anything specific about that?” counsel assisting the inquiry Ian Temby asked Mr Costa.
“He never asked me to do anything specific,” he replied.
“I would describe this as, in terms of lobbying, low intensity.”
Then he took a swipe at his former faction leader.
“If Eddie Obeid had leases or a financial interest in any leases at Circular Quay, he had an obligation, both a political and an ethical obligation, to advise anyone that he was lobbying,” Mr Costa said.
“In addition there was a responsibility to have it on his pecuniary interests.
“Not doing that is, I think, deplorable.”
Former senior bureaucrat Steve Dunn was questioned on Monday morning and denied Mr Obeid made known his family’s ownership of the enterprises.
“Anyone who was in that situation should have declared their interest,” Mr Dunn said.
He acknowledged he had a `specific interest’ in the leases after speaking to Mr Obeid.
But he refuted Mr Temby’s assertion this interest was because he was seeking to favour Mr Obeid.
“These were matters which were of interest to Mr Obeid,” he said.
“I do not believe I was doing anything for him that I would not have done for another person making similar representations.”
Another former ports minister, Carl Scully, is due to give evidence on Tuesday.
The inquiry is expected to continue for two weeks.