What is the difference between being thumped, bumped and bumped off? Unbelievably, despite spending a whole day spent down at the current ICAC hearing in Sydney – into Michael McGurk’s allegations of corrupt conduct – I’m still unsure. Wealthy property developer Ron Medich was in the witness box yesterday, giving evidence about a tape made of a conversation he had with McGurk in February last year. McGurk’s barrister, Tim Game SC, said to Mr Medich:
“Everything you said to him about your dealings with people, you were worried that people were a bit concerned that you would bump them off particularly if they had been (not transcribable.)”
Mr Medich’s barrister, Ian Faulkner SC objected to this line of questioning, “There’s no reference to bump them off.” Mr Game: “I’m sorry, bump them. Sorry. Mr Medich, you were the one that said, ‘If they don’t put it through with us (not transcribable) so well I well bump, bloody bump them or something like that particularly if they’ve been paid or whatever.’ You said that didn’t you?” Mr Medich answered, “Yeah, well, something along those lines. He then clarifies,  “I explained to you, I explained yesterday that people think if I’m a fire bomber and doing these type of things, I might thump them or something if they don’t get the job done that I’m paying them for. That’s what I inferred.” The barrister gamely forges ahead. “Who were they, the people you were referring to? They, who were they?” Well, it could’ve been my consultants, Graham Richardson, anybody, Medich answers. “Bumping off, bumping your own consultants?” he is asked. Medich answers “Yep. I mean it’s not even the word I used, bump in it. I’m surprised that the, I suppose that he said that.” Unfortunately, the other party to this conversation,  Michael McGurk, cannot give his version of it as he was bumped off with a shotgun outside his Cremorne house seven months later. That crime has not been solved, as it appears that the list of people who didn’t like him is longer than Shane Warne’s phone bill. Yesterday the ICAC Commissioner David Ipp strongly criticized Mr Medich, saying that he created “public mischief” when he falsely claimed (on the tape) he was bribing senior people in the NSW Department of Planning. It was important for these allegations to be investigated, he said, although the subsequent inquiry found no evidence of any corruption in any of McGurk’s allegations. Luckily, former Federal Labor Minister and now registered lobbyist Graham Richardson, who has heard the tape, was able to turn up and talk about it. During the course of the cross-examination, he also explained the duties of his job - when he is lobbying over a proposed development, he never goes to see a government Minister, he said.
“I always went to the Department the last few years because it’s been fairly obvious that Ministers have gotten pretty wary of the whole development game in my view because of the publicity that it attracts. And they only sign off what the Department recommends so you may as well go to the Department and forget the Ministers.”
“Most of the meetings I suppose are about pace. The pace of development here is incredibly slow in New South Wales much slower than anywhere else in Australia and that frustrates those who are investing money and you try and quicken the pace.”
Now isn’t that a free kick for the Greens and their campaign to stop political donations from property developers? Lee Rhiannon should just get that transcript, run a picture of Ron Medich lunching with Richo, and put that ad out on the internet. She’d raise a million bucks in a week. Although former NSW Premier Nathan Rees announced a ban on donations from developers to the NSW ALP at the end of last year, details of it’s implementation aren’t known. Outside the court, Richo was his usual confident self:
“But I think what really we should be looking at is how we got here in the first place. An enormous amount of public money, millions of dollars has been wasted,” he blustered.
For those who are unsure what all this means, a quick look at episode six of the BBC’s brilliant political satire, The Thick of It, should help. In it, the hapless Minister for Social Affairs and Citizenship, Hugh Abbot, is appearing before a government committee, denying that he has previously lied to it.
“My (previous) statement was unintentionally not a truthful statement,” he says.
The chair asks him, “Are you lying to me now about not lying to me before?”
“No, I am not a liar. I categorically did not knowingly not tell the truth even though unknowingly I might not have done.”