NSW Liberal MP Charlie Lynn has asked the Independent Commission Against Corruption to open an inquiry into a political donation to Labor MP for Cabramatta, Nick Lalich, who is also the Mayor of Fairfield City Council.

As a “double dipper”, Lalich receives an MP’s salary of $126,500-a-year plus an electorate allowance of $39,000 and an annual mayor’s salary of $70,000.

Combined with parliament’s logistical support allowance — for computers, office equipment, etc. — as well as a Sydney allowance, Lalich is surviving comfortably on about a quarter of a million dollars a year.

Lynn told MPs in the Upper House about Lalich’s links with Fred Pisciuneri of Fred’s Fruit Market in south-west Sydney.

  1. On 8 December, 2008, construction work began on Pisciuneri’s site without Fairfield City Council’s development consent.
  2. Two verbal warnings were given by council officers.
  3. On 17 December, work continued on the site and the developer was fined, final warnings were issued and illegal work ordered to stop.
  4. On 17 February, the development was referred to the council’s Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (IHAP). Objections were dismissed and the four-member panel green-lighted the project.
  5. When the project received full council approval at its meeting on 24 February, two Labor councillors, Laurence White and Frank Carbone, declared an interest in the application, left the chamber and did not vote.
  6. Mayor Lalich declared “a non-pecuniary and non-significant interest” and stayed in the chamber to vote for the approval of the application.
  7. On 7 October, 2008, Lalich, who had just become ALP candidate to replace Reba Meagher in the Cabramatta electorate, was principal beneficiary of a fundraiser organised by prominent Italian businessman Nick Scali at the Le Montagne restaurant in Leichhardt. Twenty handpicked guests each paid $1000 to be there. Guests included Fred Pisciuneri, who paid for himself and for another Fairfield developer, Vince Morizzi.
  8. Because he attended the fund-raising lunch, Lalich missed a council meeting called to discuss the council’s code of conduct, including the way to handle political donations.
  9. Fairfield City Council’s Code of Conduct (clause 5.3) requires councillors to take all reasonable steps to identify circumstances where political contributions may give rise to a reasonable perception of influence in relation to their vote or support.
  10. Lalich stayed in the chair and voted for the Pisciuneri development even though his campaign to win the seat of Cabramatta had benefited to the tune of $2000 from the developer.

Will the ICAC or the NSW Local Government Department’s Pecuniary Interest and Disciplinary Tribunal take action against Lalich — or “white cap” as he is known in Cabramatta’s Vietnamese community — for his creative understanding of his disclosure requirements?

Let’s hope this civic-minded man is cleared so that he can continue to serve with the same devotion as the local Fairfield MP Joe Tripodi and the former Cabramatta MP, the “Grim Reba”, who now lives fulltime in Coogee.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey