ICAC NSW Labor inquiry LIVE: Sam Dastyari calls for commission into Federal corruption

BEFORE YOU SCROLL DOWN TO THE END FOR THE START OF PROCEEDINGS … AND WORK YOUR WAY BACK UP TO THE CLOSE OF PROCEEDINGS!

PLEASE consider this ICAC hearing is being conducted during the term of the NSW LNP …

AND with all the evidence gathered to date of ‘political donations and political influence’ particularly from the Chinese community, isn’t it time that such engagements with inducements were banned? That would eliminate any MP confusion?

NOTE … * 75% of Australia China Economic, Trade and Cultural Association  (ACETCA’s) donations over the last 6 years have gone to the Liberal Party *

IS this why political donations have not been banned Federally, and it would appear nor have they been eliminated in NSW?

-ACETCA had risen in prominence since the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China (ACPPRC); a body linked to Mr Huang, came under intense scrutiny

QUESTION why does this community maintain its prominence in Australia through political donations?

IF not for material gain?

AND to maintain a distinct culture separate from that of Australia?

IS this not further proof of why political donations should be banned? AND why political parties ought distance themselves from such Lobby Groups!

RELATED ARTICLE: NSW MPs ‘completely lost’ on potential foreign influence

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.com/2019/08/25/nsw-mps-completely-lost-on-potential-foreign-influence/?fbclid=IwAR0BqM2lNokcbBlevkpct7dcbT4QtL1x5SXZJDNb83AheR7S6Mv-yWqrDW8

ICAC NSW Labor inquiry LIVE: Sam Dastyari calls for commission into Federal corruption

By Lisa Visentin

Updated August 29, 2019

On that note, let’s call it a wrap

By Lisa Visentin

That’s it for the ICAC blog.

You can read the full coverage of the day’s events by Tom Rabe and Kate McClymont online, and in tomorrow’s print edition of the Sydney Morning Herald.

The inquiry will resume tomorrow, but for a truncated half-day hearing. The Heraldwill, of course, be following the proceedings and will bring you all the news as it breaks. 

As always, thank you for reading. 

5.23pm

Dastyari out

By Lisa Visentin

Dastyari has left the ICAC without a phone, but with a parting message for ICAC sceptics.

“If there was ever a case for a federal ICAC it’s certainly this,” he said

“The Labor Party can’t and shouldn’t be beyond reproach.”

He directed a second message towards the NSW branch of the party, saying “enough is enough” and called for a ban private donations.

Sam Dastyari arrives at the ICAC on Thursday on a Lime Bike. He departed the same way hours later, after half a day in the witness box.
Sam Dastyari arrives at the ICAC on Thursday on a Lime Bike. He departed the same way hours later, after half a day in the witness box. CREDIT:RENEE NOWYTARGER

“Maybe it’s time to have a serious look about a proper, full statewide ban on private donations because we’ve been through this rubbish enough.

“As someone who has seen the end of my own career as a result of it, I think it’s something that is well overdue.”

Dastyari also kept some final words for his erstwhile friend, Kaila Murnain. 

“As someone who I’ve cared about a lot over [the] years, I hope she’s ok,” he said.

And with the media clamouring around him – just the way he likes it – Dastyari strapped on his helmet, hopped onto a Lime Bike, and rode off into the distance down Castlereagh Street.

4.29pm

A phoneless Dastyari?

By Lisa Visentin

Dastyari may be without his phone tonight, after Counsel Assisting Scott Robertson requested the phone be surrendered to download his WhatsApp records.

Robertson said the WhatsApp messages – some of which Dastyari has voluntarily provided to the inquiry – had “plainly” revealed issues around the timing of key events.

He says the ICAC will need to commandeer the phone overnight to download the data.

Dastyari’s lawyer Bruce Hodgkinson has objected to the request on privacy grounds. 

“Mr Dastyari’s phone has a wide variety of material” including “very personal information”, Hodgkinson says.

The lawyers are now duelling it out in one of ICAC’s meeting rooms. 

The hearing has now concluded for the day, as has Dastyari’s evidence for now. He is not required tomorrow. 

But before leaving the witness box, Dastyari delivers a rather ebullient sign-off. 

“I hope everyone’s enjoyed themselves here,” he quips.

3.36pm

Where was the pickup?

By Lisa Visentin

Confusion abounds over the chronology of events on the evening of September 16, 2016.

Specifically, whether Dastyari picked up Murnain from NSW Parliament (as per Murnain’s evidence) or from the corner of King and Elizabeth Streets in Sydney’s CBD (as per Dastyari’s evidence today).

Ian Neil SC (Murnain’s lawyer) is suggesting to Dastyari that he had two meetings with Murnain. The first one occurred when he picked her up outside NSW Parliament, and the second occasion occurred later that evening when he picked her up on the CBD corner.

Dastyari rejects this: “My recollection is we met once that evening.”

Neil persists, suggesting Dastyari “conflated” the two meetings into the one.

“I don’t believe so, because that’s not my recollection. My recollection is having one meeting with Kaila Murnain on that night,” Dastyari says. 

However, in his evidence on August 22 Dastyari refers to picking Murnain up from NSW Parliament.

“I picked her up from Parliament and drove her back to her office, and that’s when she, she kind of expressed a whole lot of concerns about everything with the party,” Dastyari told Counsel Assisting Scott Robertson on August 22.

2.54pm

‘Save your arse’ Dastyari advises Murnain

By Lisa Visentin

Dastyari told ICAC investigators last week he advised Murnain to “cover your arse” and make sure she told everything to the party’s lawyer, Ian Robertson.

The inquiry has been shown excerpts of Dastyari’s compulsory testimony to Counsel Assisting Scott Robertson on August 22 (before the public inquiry kicked off this week).

Murnain’s lawyer directs Dastyari to a section of the August 22 transcript where he discusses his response to Murnain’s concerns regarding the donations and disclosures.

Robertson: As best you can now recall, do you recall what advice or suggestions you gave Ms Murnain regarding those concerns?

Dastyari: Look, my advice to her would have been, cover your arse, like protect your arse and make sure you tell Ian Robertson and make sure you get the lawyers in and don’t worry about the expense of the party of getting really good lawyers.

2.29pm

Murnain’s lawyer cross-examines Dastyari

By Lisa Visentin

Lunch is over and Dastyari is back in the box.

He is being grilled by Murnain’s lawyer, Ian Neil SC.

Neil is putting to Dastyari that his memory has been “seriously diminished” by the passage of time (3 years), and the personal circumstances in his life at the time (ie the unravelling of his political career).

Dastyari responds: “I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘seriously’. They certainly have diminished over the passage of time.”

The inquiry hears Dastyari was first contacted by ICAC investigators last week. In a phone call, an investigator told him he was required to give compulsory evidence, which he did on August 22.

2.14pm

Dastyari’s connection to Huang

Before the hearing resumes, it’s worth recalling the broader context to Dastyari’s fateful meeting with Murnain on the evening on September 16, 2016.

Chinese political donor Huang Xiangmo in Sydney last year.
Chinese political donor Huang Xiangmo in Sydney last year.CREDIT:JAMES BRICKWOOD

At the time, Dasytari, then a NSW Senator, was in a world of pain over his own links to Huang.

Herald investigative reporter Kate McClymont has compiled this background.

On 16 September 2016 a very distressed Kaila Murnain revealed to Sam Dastyari that she’d just been informed there could be a major problem over a $100,000 cash donation from Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo.

Dastyari had just endured the week from hell over his own connections to Huang and another Chinese donor.

He’d been forced to step down from Labor’s frontbench after giving a trainwreck of a press conference about why Chinese donors were picking up his personal bills.

He also claimed to have “misspoken” or to have been “misquoted” when he was reported by Chinese media to have supported Beijing’s stance on the South China Sea in a media conference while standing right next to Mr Huang.

Only two days before Dastyari and Murnain met, the departing US ambassador to Australia, John Berry, was widely reported saying foreign ­donations were illegal in America, and that the US had been alarmed about the ability of the Chinese government to influence domestic politics in Australia.

“We cannot conceive of a case where a foreign donation from any government, friend or foe, would be considered legitimate in terms of that democracy,” he said.

“We have been surprised, quite frankly, at the extent of the ­involvement of the Chinese government in Australian politics,” Mr Berry had said at the time.

Dastyari left politics at the end of 2017 following further revelations about his relationship with Mr Huang, including that while a senator Dastyari had tipped off Huang that Australian security services were tapping the Chinese developer’s phone.

1.18pm

Lunch break

By Lisa Visentin

The ICAC is on a lunch break until 2pm  – because lawyers gotta eat too!

Dastyari will be back in the witness box when the hearing resumes. 

12.55pm

Dastyari contradicts Murnain about September meeting

By Lisa Visentin

Dastyari has disputed Murnain’s claim that the pair met out the back of NSW Parliament on the evening of September 16, 2016.

Instead, he claims they met in Sydney’s CBD, where he picked her up in his car around 7.54pm and they drove around the city for up to an hour and a half. 

“I believe there was only one meeting between Kaila and I that evening,” Dastyari says.

“I believe I met her at the corner of King and Elizabeth .

Sam Dastyari arrives on a lime bike to give evidence at the ICAC inquiry into alleged illegal donations to the Labor Party.
Sam Dastyari arrives on a lime bike to give evidence at the ICAC inquiry into alleged illegal donations to the Labor Party.CREDIT:RENEE NOWYTARGER

He further adds: “I believe I stopped at a set of lights or intersection and Kaila Murnain came into my car.”

Murnain was “quite distressed” as she told him about her meeting with Ernest Wong, he says.

He says he got the impression that her meeting with Wong “hadn’t been pleasant” and “the ALP [fundraising] accounts for Chinese Friends of Labor weren’t reflective of what had taken place”.

“I recall that Ms Muranin specifically singled out Huang Xiangmo as someone she was concerned about.”

Dastyari says he got the impression Murnain didn’t fully understand “what had gone on” with the accounts. 

He confirms Murnain’s account that he advised her to seek advice from the party’s lawyers, Holding Redlich.

“I very strongly, forcefully gave the advice ‘you need to go see the lawyers’,” Dastyari says. 

He says he was “left with the impression” she would follow his advice and contact the law firm. 

After his conversation with Murnain, Dastyari says he did not follow up the issue with her or anyone else in the party.

12.09pm

Dastyari enters the witness box

By Lisa Visentin

Sam Dastyari has entered the witness box, and is now giving his version of the disintegration in his friendship with Murnain. 

“Kaila and I drifted apart earlier in the year on a personal level,” Dastyari says.

He says he’s “moved on with politics and moved on with my life”.

Sam Dastyari arrives at ICAC on a lime bike
Sam Dastyari arrives at ICAC on a lime bikeCREDIT:RENEE NOWYTARGER


(Murnain has finished giving evidence for now, but she’ll be back in the box next week.)

Dasytari says the last time he contacted her was around August 3 or 4, when he sent her a letter via WhatsApp. 

He says he accidentally dialled her number through WhatsApp last week, but claims he hung up before she could answer. 


11.59am

Murnain signs ‘misleading’ form to the Electoral Commission

By Lisa Visentin

Murnain has agreed she signed a “misleading” form to the electoral commission, after they wrote to the party in December 2016 asking them to explain the donations received by the party in April 2015.

In the letter, the Electoral Commission asked a series of questions, including requesting the party “provide the names of persons who handed the donations to the ALP on the 9th April 2015.”

Labor’s letter in response, signed by Murnain and dated December 19, 2016, nominated party official Kenrick Chea.

(Cheah gave evidence earlier this week that Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo carried $100,000 in donations into the office in an Aldi bag and handed it to then-boss Jamie Clements).

Counsel Assisting Scott Robertson asks Murnain if she knew at that time that it wasn’t Mr Cheah who brought the money into the office, “but rather someone else”?

“I was told some time after the money came in that Jamie [Clements] had accepted the funds in 2015,” Murnain says.

She says she delegated the job of drafting the responses to the electorate commission to Labor’s governance director, Julie Sibraa, and asked her to check them with the lawyers Holding Redlich.

Murnain admits some of the answers to the EC were “not correct”, but says she had recused herself from the process.

“I would answer the question very differently now. I didn’t help draft this letter, I signed the letter and sent it off after it was delegated out to others. But yes, it should be a different answer.”

The Commissioner asked Murnain if she deliberately delegated the task of responding to the Electoral Commission to party staffers who did “not have the full story”. 

Murnain agrees they did not have the information she had, but claims she was “trying to follow the appropriate processes in the office at the time.”

11.34am

Murnain tested over chronology of September 2016 meetings

By Lisa Visentin

Counsel Assisting the inquiry Scott Robertson is now questioning whether Murnain has correctly recalled the order of meetings she held on September 16, 2016.

The inquiry has just been shown evidence of WhatsApp messages from Dastyari’s phone which appear to contradict Murnain’s recollection. 

Murnain told the hearing yesterday she met with Ernest Wong around 6.45pm out the back of NSW Parliament, where he told her Huang had illegally donated to the party. She said she then called Sam Dastyari, who advised her to call the party’s lawyers.

After speaking with Dastyari in his car, Murnain said she walked to the MLC Centre to meet Holding Redlich partner Ian Robertson. She texted Mr Robertson at 7.18pm to say she had arrived and was “at the top of the escalator”.

However, a message from Dastyari’s phone, time-stamped at 7.41pm, shows him saying: “Yo, I’ll come to you.”

Murnain queries whether it could be explained by “a time difference in our phones”.

“That’s the only thing I can think of,” she says

Asked whether she met with Dastyari both before and after meeting with Mr Robertson, or if she had in fact only met with him afterwards, she said: “I don’t know the answer to that.”

“My memory is I met with Sam prior to meeting with Ian Robertson,” Murnain said.  But she says it’s also possible “I met up with him afterwards”.

Under further questioning she added: “It is possible I’ve mixed the order up.”

10.49am

‘I was scared’

By Lisa Visentin

Murnain is having a tough time in the witness box now, but agrees to continue giving evidence despite being visibly upset.

She says she did not report the conversation with Ernest Wong to anyone else on the advice of lawyer Ian Robertson, and because she was “scared”.

“I was following the advice religiously. I was scared,” Murnain says.

“Ernest hadn’t given me a name when he gave me this information as to who we needed to look out for.”

She elaborates that she was scared for the party’s future, and was “doing my best” to follow the advice.

“I was scared for the office and the reputation of the party,” she says.

“I obviously recognise now that is something I shouldn’t have done. I should have made different decisions.”

10.37am

Murnain breaks down over friendship with Dastyari

By Lisa Visentin

Through tears, Murnain has told the inquiry about the breakdown in her friendship with Sam Dastyari.

“I’m no longer a very close friend of Sam’s,” Murnain says, adding that in 2016 the pair were close.

She says the pair’s friendship fell apart during the federal election when people “were putting  a lot of pressure on me to resign as general secretary”.

“Sam had the same view,” she says.

She adds the pair “haven’t spoken frequently since the state election” due to “differing views about the future of the party.”

She says Dastyari tried calling her through WhatsApp a few weeks ago, but she didn’t pick up. 10.23am

Murnain back in the witness box

By Lisa Visentin

Murnain has resumed her spot in the witness box.

The line of questioning begins with the news today that Murnain was suspended as general secretary by the party last night.

She says she read about her suspension in the media this morning.

NSW Labor boss Kaila Murnain at the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Wednesday.
NSW Labor boss Kaila Murnain at the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Wednesday.CREDIT:AAP

She adds that she received a letter from the party advising her of her suspension and “briefly read it this morning”. 10.16am

The end of the road for the Boss Lady

By Lisa Visentin

Kaila Murnain was known in Labor circles as the Boss Lady. She was the first female general secretary in NSW Labor’s history.

At the time of the 2015 Chinese Friends of Labor dinner, Murnain was assistant general secretary, working under then boss Jamie Clements. 

But by September 2016, when she claims Ernest Wong told her Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo had illegally donated to the party, she was in the top job. 

Ben Cubby@bencubby

Here’s Thursday’s front page

View image on Twitter

1010:39 PM – Aug 28, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacySee Ben Cubby’s other Tweets

Murnain took the party reigns as general secretary in January 2016.

After Murnain’s evidence yesterday, NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay called on the party to suspend her.

Labor’s senior officials promptly called an emergency meeting for 8pm, and by 8:30 Murnain had been suspended from “her employment until further notice.”

In a statement released last night, the party said Pat Garcia had been appointed as acting secretary. Until his swift promotion, Garcia had been assistant secretary.

9.30am

What happened yesterday?

By Lisa Visentin

Yesterday, the inquiry heard a surfeit of sensational evidence. So it’s worth recapping the highlights.

First of all, let’s look at the evidence Kaila Murnain, who was one of two assistant general secretaries at the time of the 2015 dinner.

She said she first discovered the party had accepted an illegal donation from Mr Huang after she was called to the back of NSW Parliament by then-MP Ernest Wong on September 16, 2016.

Kaila Murnain outside ICAC in Sydney yesterday.
Kaila Murnain outside ICAC in Sydney yesterday.CREDIT:AAP IMAGE/JOEL CARRETT
Kaila Murnain leaves the ICAC on Wednesday.

Murnain took the party reigns as general secretary in January 2016.

After Murnain’s evidence yesterday, NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay called on the party to suspend her.

Labor’s senior officials promptly called an emergency meeting for 8pm, and by 8:30 Murnain had been suspended from “her employment until further notice.”

In a statement released last night, the party said Pat Garcia had been appointed as acting secretary. Until his swift promotion, Garcia had been assistant secretary. Less9.30am

What happened yesterday?

By Lisa Visentin

Yesterday, the inquiry heard a surfeit of sensational evidence. So it’s worth recapping the highlights.

First of all, let’s look at the evidence Kaila Murnain, who was one of two assistant general secretaries at the time of the 2015 dinner.

She said she first discovered the party had accepted an illegal donation from Mr Huang after she was called to the back of NSW Parliament by then-MP Ernest Wong on September 16, 2016.

Kaila Murnain outside ICAC in Sydney yesterday.
Kaila Murnain outside ICAC in Sydney yesterday.CREDIT:AAP IMAGE/JOEL CARRETT

After talking to Wong, she called Sam Dastyari who drove and picked her up from Parliament. She said she was crying as she told him about the donation. He advised her to tell the party’s lawyers – Holding Redlich.

RELATED ARTICLE

Kaila Murnain leaves the ICAC on Wednesday.
LABOR IN TURMOIL

NSW Labor boss suspended after illegal donation claim

She called Ian Robertson, a partner with Holding Redlich, who she says told her to keep quiet about the information, and not to record their meeting.

The inquiry also heard evidence yesterday from Steve Tong, one of the 12 alleged donors.

He said he had never donated money to the Labor Party and did not attend the 2015 dinner.

He also claimed his bosses at property company Wu International used his name to make a $5000 donation without his knowledge.

9.14am

What is the inquiry about?

By Lisa Visentin

The inquiry centres around a Chinese Friends of Labor dinner, held in March 2015, where the Labor Party supposedly raised $100,000 in donations from 12 donors.

However, the ICAC is investigating whether in fact these donors were “straw donors” used to circumvent the state’s donation laws.

The inquiry kicked off this week with the explosive allegations that Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo, a property developer, delivered $100,000 cash in an Aldi plastic bag to former party boss Jamie Clements at ALP headquarters in Sydney.8.58am

Good morning!

By Lisa Visentin

Good morning! We are coming to you live from the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which is examining allegations the NSW Labor Party broke political donation laws.

It’s been an extraordinary few days of evidence, with bombshell after bombshell dropped from the witness box.

This morning we can expect to see Kaila Murnain, the now ex-general secretary, return to the witness box.

After giving evidence yesterday, Ms Murnain was suspended from the role in an emergency meeting of party officials last night.

Sam Dastyari and former NSW Labor MP Ernest Wong are also scheduled to appear.

Stay with us as we bring you rolling coverage of the day’s events.


SOURCE: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/icac-nsw-labor-inquiry-live-sam-dastyari-to-front-commission-over-donations-scandal-20190829-p52lv3.html

CAAN FACEBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/Community-Action-Alliance-for-NSW-744190798994541/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

WEBSITE:

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.wordpress.com/