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Post-Obeid Labor sets MP income rule

Posted by on 21/12/2018

NSW Labor will try to make a desperately needed break with the Eddie Obeid era through a new set of rules designed to root out politicians ”motivated by personal gain”.

The Opposition Leader, John Robertson, will launch on Sunday a six-point manifesto, ”A New Standard”, forcing Labor MPs to reveal their taxable income for the first time.

State politicians, including O’Farrell government MPs, are required to reveal only their sources of income, not the amount. During his political career, Mr Obeid would routinely claim his parliamentary salary as his only source of income. The Independent Commission Against Corruption has since revealed a web of family trusts that paid out to Mr Obeid and his wife, Judith.

Under Mr Robertson’s plan, Labor MPs will be made to divulge the pecuniary interests of spouses and dependent children or any family member holding a contract with the state government, from March 31.

He said: ”I want to see an end to the days where politicians hide shares or property in their partner’s name to avoid public scrutiny. These changes will make it harder for MPs to conceal conflicts of interest and hide unexplained wealth.”

The new rules, which include a ban on MPs having second jobs, split the shadow cabinet last week and put the first genuine question mark over Mr Robertson’s leadership.

Fairfax Media understands Mr Robertson had the support of Luke Foley, Penny Sharpe, Walt Secord and Barbara Perry, but faced fierce resistance from the shadow treasurer, Michael Daley, and other members of the right, Steve Whan, Tania Mihailuk and Sophie Cotsis.

Adam Searle, Labor’s deputy leader in the upper house, was particularly appalled, as he will be forced to give up his lucrative sideline career as a barrister.

He did not return calls but a Labor source said the shadow cabinet had eventually accepted the package, saying: ”Robbo got his way in the end.”

Mr Robertson will announce the new standards at a Labor forum in Parramatta and make long-term commitments dependent on Labor reclaiming power, including active disclosure of all meetings and phone calls between ministers and business lobbyists.

The diaries of ministers would be published online and details of meetings would be available under freedom of information laws.

”For too long, ministers’ interactions with lobbyists and major corporations regarding commercial deals have been kept hidden from the public and this reform will deliver more open, honest and accountable government to the people of NSW,” Mr Robertson said.

An independent probity panel would be created to oversee the approval of mining licences. Recommendations on new mines by the Department of Primary Industries would have to be posted online, and ministers forced to provide written justification for any decision that deviates from the department’s advice.

Mr Robertson will also foreshadow the creation of an ”inspector of parliamentary standards”, who would be appointed to look into pecuniary interests and would be given the power to fine those who fail to comply with the reforms.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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