Senate debates

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Australian Water Holdings

3:06 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

If this government, this minister and this Prime Minister took the ministerial standards seriously, then they would ensure that this minister not only answered questions today but also gave a proper and full explanation to the Senate, and through it the Australian people, in response to the serious allegations which have been raised and which were touched on in his statement, which he gave some time ago, but which have not been added to since. In fact, the silence of Senator Sinodinos in the face of these allegations really speaks volumes—that he is willing to engage in an avoidance of all questions. In this he is aided and abetted and led by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents the Prime Minister in the Senate, to ensure that questions not be answered.

We know from what has been printed publicly that there are a great many allegations—extraordinarily serious allegations of corruption in the public arena. I invite those opposite to consider the statement of counsel assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption yesterday and I suggest that the facts which are outlined in that statement indicate that, while the Assistant Treasurer was a director and later a chairman, Australian Water Holdings was engaged in deeply repugnant activities. Some of them include the gouging of huge amounts from taxpayers by overcharging, the use of that money to pay highly inflated remuneration—including, allegedly, $200,000 a year, plus bonuses, to the Assistant Treasurer for a couple of weeks work—and not to mention the issue of large donations to the New South Wales Liberal Party and the attempt to secure a lucrative contract with the New South Wales government through deeply corrupt means. All of this corruption is swirling inside AWH while the Assistant Treasurer was a director of the company. He was a director between late 2008 and late 2011, and this was when the worst of the alleged improper conduct, which we heard about yesterday in the corruption commission, was underway.

The revelations before the corruption commission are disgusting. Again I say: corruption is evil whenever it occurs and whoever is involved. I say this: Senator Sinodinos must give the Senate a full account of his involvement in Australian Water Holdings, including all the details about what he stood to gain if the company succeeded in securing the contract. I say to the Senate that the carefully worded statement to this Senate on 28 February by this minister is inadequate at best and at worst it deliberately obfuscates. It is vague about his knowledge of the Obeid family's involvement; it fails to disclose the enormous financial benefit he stood to receive—a $20 million payday, revealed at ICAC yesterday—which was not discussed at all. His only explanation is that he knew nothing. He was a director; he was a chairman of the company; he was getting a couple of hundred thousand for a couple of weeks work; he was sitting on a share deal that would have made him a multimillionaire. But he did not know anything about what was going on in the company. This is simply not believable and he should come in and make a statement to clear this up. (Time expired)


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