Four Corners is preparing a major investigation of the political donations scandal, concentrating on the NSW pub industry and the extraordinary ramifications of the cash for development rort on Wollongong City Council.

Some of Sydney’s top publicans are reaching for their lawyers as the ABC team unleashes questions about the role of the annual hoteliers’ lunch held at state parliament hosted by Blacktown MP Paul Gibson.

Gibson was the publicans’ choice for a spot in Premier Morris Iemma’s Cabinet following the March 2007 election victory. And indeed he was in the Cabinet for a few days until revelations surfaced of his alleged assault on Sandra Nori, a Labor colleague and former wife of Senator John Faulkner.

The police investigation cleared Gibson after Nori declined to offer any complaining evidence, but Iemma refused to restore him to the ministry.

Since then, Gibson has been a loose cannon, joining protesters outside parliament on February 26 to oppose the privatisation of the power industry and being accused of leaking assault allegations involving Blue Mountains MP Phil Koperberg who has now stood down as environment minister citing poor health. Gibson denied he was the source of the anti-Koperberg stories.

The money that poured into Gibson’s political donations account from the pubs is now the focus of Four Corners researchers. No doubt they will be receiving help from a raft of Gibson haters in the Iemma ministry, the registered clubs organisation Clubs NSW and the ALP’s right-wing machine in Sussex Street.

The ABC investigation led by producer Sarah Ferguson couldn’t have been better timed.

Former NSW Police Inspector John Green today took up his new position at the Australian Hotels Association (NSW) headquarters in Sydney’s Haymarket.

On a lucrative salary package of more than $200,000, Green has left the gamekeepers to join the poachers, figuratively speaking, to become the association’s new director of liquor policy.

In his police role, Green was one of the architects of the so-called “linking project” which is now in its third year of operation.

Originally welcomed as a breakthrough in collecting statistics on improper service of alcohol at pub “hot spots”, the scheme is now loathed by publicans.

Under the project, drink driving offenders and drunks arrested after violent or other anti-social offences are asked where they had their last drink or where they had been drinking.

When they named such-and-such a pub, its name was recorded on a database. While the police guaranteed not to use the information as evidence in any criminal proceedings, it was made available to councils and they had access to it when considering development applications for extensions and/or renovations to hotels.

The pub industry claimed linking project data was unfair, unproven and unsound and complained that it was often used in a highly prejudicial way against its members.

For example, some arrested drunks are reluctant to give the name of their own club as their watering hole and simply name the nearest pub.

Green whose wife, reportedly, is a serving police officer, will be tasked to work with the authorities to defend AHA members from any excesses arising from the linking project, to ameliorate any draconian measures in the state’s proposed new Liquor Act and to collaborate with federal agencies to implement Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s crackdown on binge drinking.

Welcome to the private sector, inspector.

Peter Fray

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