Crikey has recently been giving NSW Fisheries Minister Eddie Obeid a decent pasting in our sealed section material thanks to a Macquarie Street insider who is not impressed with this performance.

Isn’t the NSW Right of the ALP an honourable institution? You’ve got Paul Keating putting the heavies on media outlets to lay off his factional mate Eddie Obeid and this morning the Fin Review is reporting Laurie Brereton’s Supreme Court injunction to save the bacon of his uninspiring sister Deirdre Grusovin. A political watcher in NSW has provided this account of Eddie Obeid’s ministerial incompetence:

“Eddie Obeid’s recent performance in NSW Parliament once again shows his Ministerial incompetence at not knowing what had to be the biggest issue in his portfolio for weeks — a huge fish kill up on the central coast. He couldn’t answer the most basic of questions in the Upper House, then lied about claiming not to know about it to the Greens. But we know he’s concentrating on other matters.

Just one for your Eddie Obeid file and another feather in the cap of “Australia’s most incompetent minister.” Last week in parliament, the relevant shadow minister asked Eddie whether he was aware of a massive fish kill in Lake Cathie on the central NSW coast and the putrefaction of the lake as a result.

Despite this emergency having to rate as one the most pressing issues in his portfolio, Eddie told parliament he was “not aware of the issue”.

The following day, the Greens turned up two people who had phoned or e-mailed Eddie’s office, alerting Eddie or his staff to the fish crisis. “Why had the minister not been aware of the issue when his office had been told at least twice?”, Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon asked.

Eddie launched into a tirade of abuse at Lee and had ALP independent (and Shooters’ Party MLC and Laura Tingle’s dad) John Tingle follow up with a question so he could cover for his lack of knowledge from the day before. Reading from a prepared brief, Eddie outlined what his department was doing to investigate the fish kill.

It turned out his department had responded quickly and was doing all it could to discover the reasons for the fish kill. Public meetings with local fishermen had been organised, fish samples had been sent off for analysis and the Council was undertaking water tests.

All this was going on without the Minister’s knowledge, begging the obvious question: who is running that department, because it sure isn’t Eddie? He was completely unaware of all the developments – having revealed to Parliament he had no idea of the issue.

Not that a lack of interest in his portfolio is anything new and Parliament knew why. Eddie is completely distracted trying to keep track of his numerous business interests, which have been the subject of recent parliamentary scrutiny for his failure to properly disclose his interests in them.

But as Premier Bob Carr said later in the day of Eddie: It’s great to have an entrepreneur in cabinet.”

The delinquent Eddie Obeid

Sealed section Oct 14

NSW Fisheries and Mineral Resources Minister, “Fast Eddie” Obeid often goes into Question Time without first becoming familiar with the script with which he’s provided by his minders.

As Minister for both Mineral Resources and Fisheries, a large proportion of his duties relate to rural New South Wales. But he doesn’t even try to sound as if he’s familiar with rural place names, even when his own backbench ALP colleagues dish up Dorothy Dixers at Question Time.

Some examples: Eddie renames Deniliquin “Delinquent”

Obeid answered a Dorothy Dixer about public meetings held by NSW Fisheries in the Lower Murray River region about recreational fishing rules. He said: “The meetings were held last week in Wagga Wagga, Leeton, Albury, Delinquent and Buronga”.

Legislative Council, 12 June, 2002. (Hansard helped him out by recording Obeid has having said “Delinquin”).

Eddie renames Wooli “Woolly”

In answer to a Dorothy Dixer about plans for the Solitary Islands Marine Park on the NSW North Coast, Obeid referred to “community consultation” and highlighted, from his prepared text, the contribution of the Wooli Chamber of Commerce.

However, he pronounced Wooli “Woolly”. (The correct pronunciation is Wool-eye). Wooli is a fishing village between Grafton and Coffs Harbour. Its residents were so concerned about proposed Marine Park zones and the threat to the village’s fishing-based economy, that most residents attended a protest meeting about the zones.

Marine Parks are jointly administered by the Fisheries and Environment Ministers. So, even though the village had achieved a high profile within his Fisheries Department during the debate about proposed Marine Park zones, and even though the Dorothy Dixer was prepared by Obeid’s staff so as to specifically mention Wooli (because it’s in the marginal ALP seat of Clarence), Eddie still had no idea how to pronounce the village’s name. (The Member for Clarence is Obeid’s Ministerial mate, Harry Woods. Harry Woods’ son-in-law happens to be Obeid’s chief-of-staff, Aaron Gadiel).

Obeid said in Question Time: “To their credit, many groups, such as the Woolly Chamber of Commerce, were actively involved in the process”. Legislative Council * 8 May 2002 It’s embarrassing and demeans parliament, the people of the towns for whom these are important issues and the work that his department is doing to prop him up. He’s clearly not engaged in the job he’s been given and spends more time on his various and numerous other business interests which are not related to his parliamentary responsibilities. How can he be managing his portfolio when he’s not even vaguely familiar with the pronunciation of the towns which often rely on the fishing industry?

The Obeid files

Sealed section Oct 16

Cross-bench Members of the NSW Upper House were heavily lobbied by Fisheries and Mineral Resources Minister, Eddie Obeid, in the lead up to the recent parliamentary debate about Mr Obeid’s problems in keeping his pecuniary interests register in order.

Fast Eddie’s business difficulties are now the focus of a Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics Committee inquiry.

Because his Labor mates don’t have a majority in the State’s Upper House, if it came to a motion to expel him, Fast Eddie would have to rely on cross-bench Members to save him.

He works hard at keeping them on side.

For example, the Shooters Party MP (and ALP independent), John Tingle, father of Laura Tingle, scored an invitation to be at the top table at the wedding of Fast Eddie’s daughter earlier this year.

And, the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Arthur Chesterfield-Evans — the man charged with the responsibility of “keeping the bastards honest” in NSW — sometimes hitches a ride home with Eddie Obeid at the end of late night parliamentary sittings.

Fast Eddie lives at Hunters Hill in his wife’s house, because as a multi millionaire he obviously wouldn’t own anything, and Dr Chesterfield-Evans lives at nearby Woolwich. This saves Chesterfield-Evans having to dash to the ferry at Circular Quay and gives Eddie plenty of time to convince Chesterfield-Evans that the dozens of breaches of his pecuniary interest register have never been “willful”.

Eddie will put his cozy relationship with the independent members of the Upper House to the test today (Wednesday) when he receives his first grilling in front of the Ethics and Privileges Committee.

It will be interesting to see how committee member, Upper House MLC and Christian Democrat supremo Fred Nile treats the worst Minister in Australia.

Fred’s Christian principles have never been concerned by the flagrant breaches of pecuniary interests.

Despite Eddie having repeatedly misled the house, parliament, and, presumably, God about his income and assets, he’s received Fred’s support to date.

Eddie Obeid inquiry shut down – with thanks to Fred Nile

Sealed section October 17

The NSW Wales Labor Party yesterday closed down an Upper House Inquiry into the pecuniary interests of the worst Minister in Australia.

Using the vote of Upper House MLC Fred Nile, the ALP shut down proceedings as NSW Fisheries and Resources Minister “Fast” Eddie Obeid struggled to explain why the inquiry shouldn’t find that the numerous inaccuracies across his pecuniary interest register should not be described as “willful.”

Under oath, Eddie blamed his accountants for the errors, although he never managed to explain how this excused him because he’d signed the statements before they were submitted to the Upper House.

He was also unable to explain why he’d suddenly “discovered” and reported so many of the mistakes in recent weeks despite being under pressure for years in the Upper House over inconsistencies.

Disgracefully, Christian Democrat MLC Fred Nile aided and abetted Obeid, tossing up Dorothy Dixers to provide cover and then voting with the ALP to shut down proceedings

Nile argued that Eddie’s multitude of mistakes were excusable because Obeid had disclosed most of the dozens of companies and business interests in which he has interests at some stage over his nine-year parliamentary career. Disclosure, as required by parliamentary rules every year, wasn’t necessary, he seemed to be saying.

It obviously hasn’t occurred to Nile that Eddie may have wanted to hide some of his business activities, such as his dealings with Al Constantinidis of Keating piggery fame, as his parliamentary career blossomed and he became a minister.

Eddie Obeid – a hopeless joke in his own words

Oct 17 second sealed section

Following are some of the random words of NSW Fisheries and Resources Minister Eddie Obeid, which he made under oath at Wednesday’s Privileges and Ethics Committee before the ALP used its numbers to close down proceedings.

Here are some of the contradictory gems that immediately fall out of the Hansard records showing just what a liability this bloke is to the ALP in the leadup to the March 2003 election. No wonder they moved to close events down so quickly with the help of the UnChristian Democrat Fred Nile.

On his involvement with the day-to-day management of his numerous businesses: “Since I became a Minister I can assure the members of this committee that I have had no active participation in any business. In other words, I have no involvement in the operations of the companies which are listed.”

But shortly after this statement, he added: “I give the same instructions (to the accountants) each year; that is, to do the searches and give me a list of those companies in which I am involved” before quickly changing this to the companies “I have an interest in.”

On the extent of his business interests and the job of his accountants to file his pecuniary interest declarations: “As I said, there were so many companies there that it would be amiss (sic) of me trying to pull all that together. You request the account who is handling the affairs of those companies. You ask him to make a list. You get the list. I do not sit down spending my time trying to correct his, because I am not armed with the information, nor the searches, nor whatever effort he has put in.”

After alleging his accountants were behind the more than 100 errors in his pecuniary interest register: “I do not want to apportion blame on any accountant I have had in the past. That is not what this is all about. I believe that the person responsible in that period was very thorough and meticulous and did his job well.”

CRIKEY: The Opposition must be overjoyed to have the Mr Dodgy of Australian politics so firmly on the record on so many of his numerous business affairs and J.Bro’s team will have spent the day sifting through his commentary. This should run and run right up to election day.

Peter Fray

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