NSW Minister Mihailuk was sacked after raising concerns about corruption

NSW Labor’s corrupt past is proving difficult to keep buried with the sacking of Opposition Minister Tania Mihailuk this morning after a parliamentary speech earlier this week that raised ties between party rival Khal Asfour, the convicted criminal. Eddie Obeid and Labor identity Bechara Khouri, with whom Asfour, then Bankstown mayor – met in 2016.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns’ decision – revealed to 2 GB shockjock Ben Fordham – raises questions about Labor’s commitment to integrity and its ability to avoid repeating the dark years of its last tenure, which saw levels astounding of corrupt conduct involving Obeid and another former minister, Ian Macdonald, and continuing prosecutions against former ministerial colleagues Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly, as well as ties to a Chinese billionaire who persisted for many years at the ‘opposition.

Mihailuk was accused of using parliamentary privilege to attack Asfour, who will drive NSW Labor’s upper house ticket in the March 2023 election, following a seat brawl caused by a redeployment that abolished the Lakemba headquarters. Mihailuk is located in the nearby Bankstown office.

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It was only last month that Mihailuk herself was targeted by internal enemies with claims of her being “abusive” and “intimidating” to staff being leaked to News Corp. Minns was at Mihailuk’s side at the time. She now says that Mihailuk did not respond to her request not to use parliamentary privileges to raise corruption allegations on colleagues.

Asfour – who firmly rejects Mihailuk’s claims and urged her to repeat them outside Parliament – is currently the mayor of Canterbury-Bankstown, a council formed by the merger of the Canterbury and Bankstown councils.

The Canterbury Council was a cesspool of property developer-led corruption discovered by NSW’s ICAC in its “Operation Dasha,” which ensnared former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire. The ICAC found that three former officials were involved in “serious corruption conduct” and referred possible charges against them to the director of prosecution, as well as possible charges against others, including Maguire.

The spotlight of integrity has been firmly on the NSW Coalition in recent years, not just with Maguire, the resignation of Gladys Berejiklian (the subject of an ongoing investigation by the ICAC) and the recent John Barilaro scandal, but with the ICAC’s finding of serious corrupt conduct by former Liberal MP John Sidoti in connection with real estate development at Five Dock.

By comparison, Labor’s Chris Minns was able to project a fresh image untainted by the years of corruption and chaos Labor was last in office. But the allegations about Asfour reflect the danger for all parties to tap into former local councilors as state candidates.

Such was the state of corruption and unreliability in Sydney’s local property development approval processes that the state government in 2017 removed all significant planning decisions from the scrutiny of local city councils, replacing expert local planning committees.

Even local councilors with integrity and commitment to the public interest have found it difficult to avoid getting involved in corruption investigations, particularly when they are in Labor or Liberal parties and may be targeted by state parliamentarians, party enemies, lobbyists party or “repairers” who push the interests of real estate developers.

The problem with Labor is that, given its experience, not even the slightest benefit of the doubt can be given when it comes to corruption. It has to be seen as completely transformed from the bad old days of the 2000s. It’s hard to see how Mihailuk’s firing fulfills this requirement.

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