The term “colourful Sydney racing identity” used to be employed by Sydney’s media to suggest that the character of someone at the fringes of Sydney’s social, business, and at times, political life was less than wholesome. Now “Sydney property developer”, or “last resort lender” carries a similar connotation, especially after the murder of Michael McGurk.
It was the talk of Double Bay coffee bars and lounges over the weekend, as folk started arriving for their caffeine hits and more news updates (from freebie papers provided by the proprietors). Mobiles burbled, conversations were hushed and thumbs busily texted as the revelations in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald were digested and regurgitated across the suburbs and city.
The desperation the Sydney media has for its own version of Melbourne’s Underbelly knows no end as they try to outscoop each other over the murder of small-time Sydney standover merchant McGurk.
The Nine Network has just started shooting Underbelly 3 in Sydney and it’s linked to some of the areas that are being exposed in the McGurk life story: hotels in and around the Cross and colourful night club owners. The network might find that this series, like series one, could run into trouble with legal and police cases next year.
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We’ve seen four days of breathless “exclusives” in the Fairfax media, followed up by a badly scooped News Ltd media and ABC. The Sydney Daily Telegraph seems to have been resting on its Minister’s Affair scoop from a week ago and has been badly beaten by the better connected and more resourceful SMH reporters, led by veteran Kate McClymont and business writer Vanada Carson and others.
News Ltd and the ABC seem to have no contacts among Sydney’s monied élites in the wealthy eastern suburbs and lower North Shore where McGurk worked his “charm”, lived and died.
This is where the Sydney fringe money and private investor set lives, eats and plays. The last resort lenders, the property wannabees, their hangers on, money launderers, druggies: the whole unsavoury underbelly of the eastern suburbs and parts of the lower North Shore.
Big names in the mainstream of Sydney business, such as Bob Ell, whose Leda Holdings is a big property group, Ron Medich, another substantial property group: both men have been linked in the media to McGurk and his financing activities through a company called Bentley Smythe. Nothing has been proven, but we’ve had a glimpse of another strata of business life away from the ASX and the social pages of the Fairfax and News Ltd media each week.
The reporting, has now seen claims made of a “secret” tape that “could” incriminate Labor politicians in corruption allegations. That claim came from a Sydney Morning Herald journalist and from Jim Byrnes, Alan Bond’s former bankruptcy adviser, jail bird, debt collector and man-about-town.
SMH reporter Kate McClymont well knows Mr Byrnes’ loquacity and ability to inject himself into a headline, for his benefit, and his reticence when he is at the centre of the story or allegations about his business tactics. Malcolm Turnbull, Joe Hockey, Barry O’Farrell and all the dogs barking “NSW Labour Government corruption claim inquiry probe” should be very careful. These kinds of calls have a habit of backfiring.
Can anyone remember the last time when Mr Byrnes got a story right? He injected himself into the farcical BrisConnections story a couple of months ago, garnered some headlines, then faded from view.
And now “Richo” has popped up. Graham Richardson, former ALP Federal Minister, powerbroker, and eastern suburbs identity has a lobbying firm and he emerged on the Nine Network’s 6pm News in Sydney last night to reveal what was on this mystery tape, which has elevated the murder from a grubby sideshow for Sydney, into the latest political pressure point for the embattled ALP Government.
Richo told Nine News that McGurk was using the tape to “blackmail” Medich (who is also a contributor to the ALP’s funding coffers according to the stories in the Fairfax and News Ltd media). This tape is not audible in parts, according to Richo, who was a lobbyist for McGurk, according to the SMH. Richo also alleged that the police were told about the tape in a statement three months ago.
Richo said he was approached by someone else on behalf of McGurk. That someone else was a Sydney businessman, bookmaker and ALP contributor, Richard Vereker, who told the SMH he was to be interviewed today by police.
It’s a very Sydney story, but also one that contains the threat of capturing everyone involved in some sort of ongoing “tar baby” link to the nastier and seedy undergrowth of the Emerald City.