December 9, 2010
NICK GREINER, the former premier who set up the Independent Commission Against Corruption only to become its biggest scalp, has defended the watchdog against claims it is wasting its time and taxpayers’ money on petty matters.
Government MPs, including the chairman of the parliamentary oversight committee on the ICAC, Richard Amery, have criticised the commission’s investigation of the Drummoyne MP Angela D’Amore, who it found acted corruptly in claiming $4500 in entitlements for two staff.
The ICAC has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider charges of misconduct in public office against Ms D’Amore for authorising claims she knew were false. She is considering an appeal.
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Mr Amery described holding public hearings into the matter as ”a significant waste of resources” at a time when the commission was seeking a $5 million increase in its $20 million budget.
”What serious or systematic cases of corruption were left on the shelf to investigate what I call a low-scale event?” he asked.
However, Mr Greiner told the Herald it was impractical to look at restricting what the ICAC investigates. ”I think it’s a bit easy to say that they shouldn’t investigate small things. It’s about trying to change culture and attitude. It’s not whether this is a venal or mortal sin.”
Mr Greiner drew a parallel between the commission’s need to publicly pursue relatively minor matters with the ”zero tolerance” approach to crime in New York under the city’s former mayor, Rudy Giuliani.
”If you want to change the culture in State Rail, there’s no point waiting around until you get someone who is making $5 million from some rort.”
In 1992, as premier, Mr Greiner was found to have acted corruptly within the definition of the ICAC Act by the then commissioner Ian Temby over the appointment of the former Liberal MP Terry Metherell to a senior public service job.
Mr Greiner resigned as premier over the affair, but later had the finding of corrupt conduct overturned in the Court of Appeal.
In a statement after the ICAC’s findings in her matter, Ms D’Amore said she was seeking legal advice on an appeal to quash the findings”.
Ms D’Amore has been sacked as a parliamentary secretary to the ministers for police and the environment over the findings. Her party membership has also been suspended.
She has confirmed she will not resign from Parliament but will not stand for preselection in Drummoyne at next year’s state election.
Labor had delayed preselection for Drummoyne until the ICAC handed down its findings on Ms D’Amore and is now expected to call for nominations within days.
If he nominates, the mayor of Canada Bay, Angelo Tsirekas, is favoured to become Labor’s candidate for the seat, which is held by 7.6 per cent.