Thursday 21st of August 2014

chinese walls ....

chinese walls ....

from mike carlton ….

Shed no tears for Arthur Sinodinos. It was greed and folly that brought him down, a lethal cocktail for politicians at his level, and all his own work.

We can safely assume it was not his expertise in sewage reticulation that hoisted him into the boardroom at Australian Water Holdings, AWH. He was there for one purpose: to leverage the influence he had amassed in his years as John Howard's hatchet man and then Liberal Party grandee in NSW. He would be a direct pipeline to and from the very top of the new O'Farrell Coalition government.

As AWH chairman, Sinodinos was paid $200,000 a year for about 100 hours' work. That's $2000 an hour, a nice li'l earner, Arfur. But the bonanza was to come if the company landed a fat contract to water the new housing estates exploding in Sydney's north-west. The Independent Commission Against Corruption was told he would then hoover up as much as $20 million, a glittering fortune for the son of a working-class Greek immigrant family.

That was the greed, the snout in the trough. The folly came with his choice of associates, witting or unwitting. The touts behind AWH, Messrs Nick Di Girolamo and John Rippon, were paying themselves seven-figure salaries, billed back to Sydney Water, the public utility. Water users ie: you and me - were also funding limousines, entertainment and horse racing expenses and - wait for it - hefty political donations to the Liberals. Though he was simultaneously the AWH chairman and Liberal Party state treasurer, Sinodinos would have you believe he had no idea of the money sloshing around under his nose.

And there was a cuckoo in the AWH nest in the lumpy form of Eddie Obeid jnr, who had ''worked'' for the company for three years; although doing what remains opaque. An Obeid nephew, Dennis Jabour, was also on the payroll. By this time in Sydney - say 2011 - the mere appearance of an Obeid on the horizon should have set the alarm bells ringing. You'd run a mile. But Sinodinos claims he was unaware the Obeids held 30 per cent of the company's shares.

At best, this suggests an insouciant approach to his role as AWH chairman or naivety on an epic scale. In effect, John Howard's former consigliere had become the Obeids' conduit to the Liberals. If that water deal had been done, Fast Eddie would have trousered hundreds of millions of dollars.

There is no suggestion that Sinodinos did anything illegal or corrupt. But he was wheeling and dealing in that dark underbelly of NSW public life that politicians of all sides strive to keep hidden from the mug voters. Eventually the beast consumed him.

When he finally pulled the pin on Wednesday, Howard and Abbott sang his praises, and Soapy Brandis was on his hind legs in the Senate braying about a great Australian.

Tosh. As Assistant Treasurer, Sinodinos' sole contribution to the Abbott government was to rip away Labor's consumer protection for small investors, a handy present for his mates in the big four banking cartel. We are well off without him.