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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
Herald reporter nails Premier Iemma with question on improper influence?
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: nsw govt

As the heat and damage continues to mount all this fortnight the front page of the Sydney Daily Telegraph had the weight early as above in this story:

It's time to be frank, Sartor | The Daily Telegraph

Interestingly the ABC radio are reporting a legal threat by Premier Iemma against any media suggesting corrupt decision making of Ministers as a consequence of donations. That is a libel suit:

 Iemma threatens journos amid donations tension ABC

And Sartor is in pain too:

Donations row: Sartor snaps at 'scumbags' - ABC News (Australian ...

But Andrew Clennell is of rival Sydney Morning Herald is also in the hunt for a Walkley with this story in full below which was on their webpage until earlier this evening, and is still searchable online, but off their main page now it seems. Is this the result of legal pressure?

We feel it needs to be copied and reposted, just to be sure it remains in the public domain. For though Quentin Dempster argues on ABC TV tonight there is no evidence yet of proximity between donations and decisions, we submit that is not the only test of correct governance.

 Rather we say another is that but for the position of power, would the request for support for say a fundraising dinner, or a donation direct, have been given? If not then that's use of the ministerial position for a personal party political benefit. In short a protection racket - the implied threat is you will donate or else take the consequences. It starts to look and feel like "the joke" as corrupt conduct has been known as previously.

That's the allegation in Clennell's story and Iemma hasn't answered it, except in fact to admit he has "participated" in fundraising. Iemma is a lawyer. He knows or should know from 1st year contracts at law school about "undue influence" and "unconscionable conduct" thus invalidating a legal agreement. What about in the extra ministerial activities of a senior politician: Even if it can be argued as not the intention to leverage the portfolio for donations, then what about the effect? Does every interest group except the minister think there is no pressure to donate?

Clennell is asking the right question, as per the strong front page story in the Daily Telegraph by Joe Hildebrand pictured above about Minister Sartor. Sartor can say until he is blue in the face there was no connection between donations to the Party and his planning decision but what of the effect on the giver(s)? Did they expect a quid pro quo? And what about the other story of canvassing for a fundrasing dinner to developers who needed Minister Sartor's discretionary support? That's the same undue influence question directed at Premier Iemma with no convincing answer to date.

We have no hesitation in saying those developers had no freedom to refuse the minister's clammy embrace if they wanted to do business, and the Greens are right to call it "inappropriate". Protection racket would be another term.



Mr Iemma ... dodged the question.

Mr Iemma ... dodged the question.
Photo: Bob Pearce

Andrew Clennell, State Political Editor
February 27, 2008 - 12:17PM

NSW Premier Morris Iemma today refused to answer whether he has ever personally telephoned interest groups in his portfolio responsibility areas as a minister or premier to ask them to attend fundraisers, as the storm over political donations to the Labor party grows.

Mr Iemma's evasion of the question follows Sydney Morning Herald revelations, which have been referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption by the Greens, that during a phone call Planning Minister Frank Sartor asked the chief executive of Stockland Group, Matthew Quinn, to book a table for a fundraiser.

Stockland at the time had several applications before the minister.

Yesterday in Parliament Mr Sartor refused to deny the allegations.

He has previously said he has "no specific recollection" of the conversation.

Mr Quinn has not commented on the alleged conversation.

Mr Iemma was asked today: "Either as a minister or as the premier have you ever telephoned any interest group within your portfolio responsibility and asked them whether they were attending a fundraiser?"

He said: "I've participated in fundraisers in the past, I've participated and attended fundraisers as the premier, as the former prime minister has, as have other ministers, shadow ministers and indeed the leader of the opposition is attending one on Friday and never [have I had] any improper association, conduct as a result of attending fundraisers or being involved in fundraisers."

Journalist: "When you were a minister or the premier have you ever telephoned an interest group within your portfolio responsibility and asked them whether they were attending a fundraiser?

Mr Iemma: "It's the same question you just asked me and I just provided you with a response."

Mr Iemma also defended Mr Sartor and appeared to pre-empt the ICAC finding concerning Mr Sartor, saying he was a man of "integrity".

He told the journalist:"If you're alleging corruption on the part of the minister for planning, do so, lay the allegation, face the consequences of the libel suit that comes.

"If you're alleging he's acted corruptly, in a matter that is before him, lay it and face the consequences of the libel action."

Posted by editor at 8:03 PM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008 8:55 PM EADT

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