Eddie Obeid

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The Honourable
Eddie Obeid
OAM
Member of the
New South Wales Legislative Council
In office
12 September 1991 – 10 May 2011
Preceded by Jack Hallam
Succeeded by Walt Secord
Minister for Fisheries
In office
8 April 1999 – 2 April 2003
Preceded by Bob Martin
Succeeded by Ian Macdonald
Minister for Mineral Resources
In office
8 April 1999 – 2 April 2003
Preceded by Bob Martin
Succeeded by Kerry Hickey
Personal details
Born Edward Moses Obeid
(1943-10-25) 25 October 1943 (age 70)
Matrite, Lebanon
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party (1972–2013)[1]
Spouse(s) Judy Obeid (m. 1965)
Children 9
Website NSW Parliament webpage

Edward ("Eddie") Moses Obeid OAM (born 25 October 1943), a former Australian politician, was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council who served between 1991 and 2011, representing the Australian Labor Party. He was the Minister for Fisheries and the Minister for Mineral Resources from 1999–2003. Prior to the March 2015 expiry of his term in the Legislative Council, Obeid announced his decision to retire early on 10 May 2011, citing family reasons.[2]

During his parliamentary career, Obeid was considered by many to be a "power broker"[3] in the New South Wales Labor Party, belonging to the dominant right-wing sub-faction, often referred to as The Terrigals, so named as its inaugural meeting was held at Obeid's beach house in Terrigal.[4] It was reported that Obeid might retire at the 2011 state election, prior to the expiry of his term,[5] however he waited until the election was concluded.[2][6][7] Obeid, who joined the Labor Party in 1972, had his membership of the party terminated in 2013 for bringing the party into disrepute.[1]

A series of three investigative hearings by the Independent Commission Against Corruption between 2012 and 2014 into the conduct of Obeid and others found that Obeid acted in a corrupt manner in relation to cafe leases at Circular Quay and that he misused his position as a Member of Parliament to benefit his family's financial interests in both Direct Health Solutions and in water licences over the family's Bylong Valley farm. In June 2014 the Commission recommended the Director of Public Prosecutions consider prosecuting Obeid for the offence of misconduct in public office over his attempts to influence bureaucrats and Labor colleagues to benefit his family.[8][9][10]

Early years and background[edit]

Obeid was born in the village of Matrite (sometimes called Metrit),[11] (a village in Northern Lebanon with a Christian majority),[12] in Lebanon.[13] At age 6, he migrated to Australia with his family and they settled in Redfern, growing up in a terrace house.[11][12] Of Lebanese Maronite Catholic faith, he was an altar boy, sold newspapers from a street corner and collected deposits on soft drink bottles.[11] Obeid married Judith in 1965, is now father of 9 children and a grandfather of 28 grandchildren.[13] At age 29 in 1972, Obeid joined the Labor Party.

Prior to entering parliament, Obeid held a range of voluntary roles including:[13]

  • Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1980–1982)
  • Part-time Commissioner of the Ethnic Affairs Commission (1981–1985)
  • Vice-President Ethnic Press Association of Australia (1981–1986)
  • Director of the Western Suburbs Hospital Board (sic) (1983–1986)
  • Board of Governors of the Law Foundation of New South Wales (1985–1988)
  • Led Australian-Lebanese hostage negotiation mission to Iraq (December 1990)
  • Patron, Australian Lebanese Christian Federation

Political career[edit]

Elected to the Legislative Council in 1991 to replace Jack Hallam,[11] despite a brief carriage of junior ministerial responsibilities in the second Carr ministry, Obeid's main contribution to parliament has been through Committee representation[13] and his ability to manipulate factional numbers and votes.[5][14] At the time of his resignation from the Council, Obeid claimed that his most satisfying moment in politics was to assist in the passage of legislation to help building sub-contractors.[2]

His term in parliament, though, was dogged by controversy, including:

  • 2002 Oasis redevelopment (see below)[15] and subsequent investigation that cleared him of allegations of corrupt behaviour[16]
  • 2002 revelations that Obeid had failed to disclose all his business interests on Parliament's pecuniary interests register (see below)[17][18]
  • 2003 allegations that Obeid promised to secure the seat of Parramatta - and an early ministry - for David Borger if he dumped the Left faction and joined the dominant Right[3]
  • Providing Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, a member of the Australian Democrats, with a lift to Parliament House and using the opportunity to lobby Chesterfield-Evans in order to achieve favourable political outcomes, as revealed by Chesterfield-Evans in Hansard:[19]
"(Obeid said to me,) "Look, I'll give you the drum on what to do when you're here. You vote with us regularly and consistently and at the end of the day we'll give you a little win and you'll get back in." I said, "That's very kind, Eddie, but I've got a different idea. I've come here with a bunch of policies from the Australian Democrats. If you give me good legislation that's close to those policies, I will vote for it, but if you give me bad legislation that's a long way from those policies, I will vote against it." Eddie replied, "Oh no, you haven't got the right idea at all." ..... One day Eddie said, "You didn't vote for us. You should, you know, because I give you a lift home." I did not know whether he was being facetious—he may well have been—but I did not want it to appear as though I was compromising on the matter so from then on I caught the ferry."
  • 2004 censure motion due to Obeid's undue influence in the elections of Matrite Council[19][20][21][22]
  • 2004 claims that Obeid had exerted undue influence on family members[23]
  • 2006 attempts to dump Obeid from the 2007 state election in favour of a Muslim candidate[24]
  • 2007 influence in the composition of the Iemma ministry[25] and Iemma's demise[26]
  • 2009 influence in the composition of the Rees ministry[27]
  • 2009 representations to NSW Minister for Roads, Michael Daley, on behalf of Mid-Western Regional Council for funding to seal a 1.5 km stretch of roadway near Obeid's family property near Mudgee. Obeid failed to disclose his business interest[28][29]
  • 2009 allegations of linkages between Obeid, his son, Moses, former Labor powerbroker and current lobbyist, Graham Richardson, businessman, Ron Medich and the murder of Michael McGurk[30]
  • 2009–2010 allegations that Obeid, together with right-wing Terrigals sub-factional colleague Tripodi, influenced the election and make-up of the Kristina Keneally ministry[14][31][32]

A large number of the allegations against Obeid have been generated by Fairfax Media's, Sydney Morning Herald. In 2003, following Obeid's decision to not seek re-election to the fourth Carr ministry, he was quoted as saying:[33]

"...my decision will ensure that Government is not distracted by the campaign of innuendo, vilification and unsubstantiated allegation launched against me by The Sydney Morning Herald. This campaign shows no sign of abating and until my defamation action against the Herald is resolved in the courts, any work I did as a minister could be overshadowed."

Announcing his decision to retire from the Legislative Council on 10 May 2011, Obeid issued a statement that his granddaughter, Gisele, was diagnosed with cancer tumours in her kidneys in November 2010 and that, despite an operation and extensive chemotherapy, recent scans suggest some of the tumours remain. He said that "... My wife and I need to spend all our time supporting our son Moses and his wife Nikki through this difficult time."[34] Following his announcement to retire, John Hatzistergos MLC also announced his intention to retire from the Legislative Council. Walt Secord, the former chief of staff to the former Premier, Kristina Keneally, and Adam Searle were nominated by Labor to fill the casual vacancies.[6][7]

Business interests and corruption findings[edit]

Initially working as a taxi driver and then property developer,[14] the source of Obeid's initial wealth and business is not clear.[35] However, it is known that Obeid, together with his two brothers, inherited their father's estate that comprised land and houses in Lebanon.[12] In 1973, Obeid together with business partners, purchased an interest in the recently established Arabic press, El-Telegraph Newspaper, with Obeid later buying out his business partners.[36] Obeid has since sold his stake and is, "no longer the publisher of that paper".[37]

In September 2002, The Sydney Morning Herald alleged that Obeid was one of NSW's richest members of parliament.[17][38] Media reports claimed that Obeid had purchased a property in Clovelly for A$875,000 in 1991 and the following day sold the property to the New South Wales Department of Housing for A$1.1 million.[14] The Herald also claimed that two companies associated with Obeid have had debts of $AUD5 million written off by various banks.[17] It was also alleged that the Obeid family trust secured a loan from the Colonial State Bank for A$18 million. The Herald also sourced an internal document from Macquarie Bank, claiming:[17]

These allegations arose at the same time as The Herald alleged that Obeid had attempted to solicit a A$1 million payment in return for promising NSW Government support for the Canterbury Bulldogs League Club's A$800 million Oasis housing development in south-western Sydney.[15] As a result of these allegations, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) conducted an inquiry and found that there was no evidence that any donation was made to the Labor Party in relation to the project. The Commission made a finding that Obeid had never solicited a donation and cleared him of any wrongdoing.[16] In the meantime, The Herald reports for a series of articles concerning Canterbury Bulldogs salary cap breaches and the above (false) allegations had won a Gold Walkley.[39] Obeid commenced defamation action against Fairfax Media and in 2006 the Supreme Court found that Obeid had been defamed and that the media article had contributed to Obeid losing his job as a NSW minister. Obeid was awarded A$162,173 in damages, plus costs believed to have been more than A$1 million.[40] Walkley Awards organisers later said the judging panel, "would not have awarded the prize if it had known the allegations against Mr Obeid would be found to be unsubstantiated".[41]

Obeid's family have property interests in Lebanon, Port Macquarie,[38] Terrigal, Bylong Valley,[29] Woolwich[42] and Hunters Hill (listed for sale in 2013),[43] and Concord (since sold);[44] and business interests in live sheep exporting to Syria and Iraq.[23]

ICAC investigations[edit]

Operations Jasper and Acacia[edit]

In November 2012, the New South Wales ICAC began a series of investigative hearings relating to Obeid's alleged property and mining interests. This inquiry concerned, among other issues, the circumstances surrounding a decision made in 2008 by the then Minister for Primary Industries and Minister for Mineral Resources, Ian Macdonald, to open a mining area in the Bylong Valley for coal exploration. These circumstances include whether Macdonald's decision was influenced by Obeid.[45] After the presentation of the ICAC's opening statements in 2012, NSW Opposition Leader, John Robertson asked the NSW Labor Party to suspend Obeid's party membership;[46] which was subsequently terminated in mid-2013.[1] The witnesses list for the inquiry included former NSW Premiers Morris Iemma and Nathan Rees.[47][48]

On 31 July 2013 the Commission found that Obeid, Macdonald, and others engaged in corrupt conduct in relation to their actions involving the Mount Penny mining tenement in the Bylong Valley. The ICAC found that Obeid engaged in corrupt conduct by entering into agreements with Macdonald, whereby Macdonald acted contrary to his public duty as a minister of the Crown.[49]

The Commission recommended that the matter be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions with respect to prosecuting Obeid and others.[50][51][52] On reviewing the evidence before the Commission of the financial benefits accrued to the Obeid family, the ICAC provided relevant information to the NSW Crime Commission for such action as it deems appropriate, and the ICAC also disseminated relevant information to the Australian Taxation Office for appropriate action. Further matters were also referred to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Stock Exchange, and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.[49]

In January 2014, the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, announced that the Liberal/National government would introduce legislation into Parliament to cancel the exploration licences for Doyles Creek, Mount Penny and Glendon Brook.[53][54]

Operations Cyrus, Meeka and Cabot[edit]

In October 2013, the Commission commenced further investigative hearings surrounding allegations that, between 2000 and 2011, Obeid misused his position as an Member of Parliament to attempt to influence public officials to exercise their official functions with respect to retail leases at Circular Quay, without disclosing that Obeid, his family or a related entity had an interest in some of those leases. It was also alleged that during the same period, certain public officials improperly exercised their official functions, with respect to retail leases at Circular Quay, to benefit Obeid or his family (Operation Cyrus). The Commission also investigated allegations that, between 2005 and 2008, Obeid misused his position to attempt to influence other public officials to make decisions favouring Direct Health Solutions Pty Ltd, without disclosing that he, his family or a related entity had an interest in that company (Operation Meeka). Further, the Commission also commenced investigations into allegations that, between 2007 and 2008, Obeid misused his position as a Member of Parliament to influence public officials to exercise their official functions with respect to the review and grant of water licences at a farm at Bylong in the Upper Hunter, without disclosing that he, his family or a related entity had an interest in the licences. It is also alleged that during the same period, certain public officials improperly exercised their official functions with respect to the review and grant of the water licences (Operation Cabot).[55][56]

Former ministers, Carl Scully and Joe Tripodi were called before the Commission;[57][58] which handed down its findings in June 2014, recommending that the Director of Public Prosecutions consider charging Obeid with misconduct in public office.[8][9][10]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1984 Obeid was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to ethnic welfare.[59]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Harvey, Eliza (6 June 2013). "Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald expelled from Labor Party". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Obeid attacked as he exits NSW politics". ABC News (Australia). 11 May 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Totaro, Paula; Wainwright, Robert (25 February 2003). "Dump the Left, and Eddie Obeid will see you right". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 March 2010. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Fairfield - New South Wales Legislative Assembly Election 2007". Crikey.com.au. Australia. 2007. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Jones, Gemma (20 December 2010). "'Puppet master' Obeid set to quit". The Daily Telegraph. Australia. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "New Labor faces decided for NSW Parliament". ABC News. Australia. 20 May 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "Labor votes two MPs to NSW Upper House". Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 20 May 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  8. ^ a b McClymont, Kate; Whitbourn, Michaela (5 June 2014). "ICAC: The verdict on Eddie Obeid". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Coultan, Mark (5 June 2014). "ICAC finds Eddie Obeid, Joe Tripodi, Steve Dunn corrupt over series of deals". The Australian. AAP. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Wells, Jamelle (5 June 2014). "ICAC finds Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi corrupt over retail leases at Sydney's Circular Quay". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Maiden Speech". Legislative Council - Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. 13 November 1991. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  12. ^ a b c "Eddie Obeid". Independent - NSW. Alex McTaggart. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  13. ^ a b c d "The Hon. (Eddie) Edward Moses Obeid, OAM MLC". Members of the Legislative Council. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  14. ^ a b c d McClymont, Kate (4 December 2009). "Discredited, despised, but still pulling all the strings". The Age. Australia. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  15. ^ a b Wainwright, Robert (20 September 2002). "Revealed: the Oasis gallery - eight Ministers in the spotlight". The Sydney Morning Herald (sourced from Ku-ring-gai Preservation Trust). Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  16. ^ a b "Report on investigation into conduct concerning the Woodward Park project". Liverpool City Council - proposed development at Woodward Park. Independent Commission Against Corruption. 27 February 2003. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  17. ^ a b c d McClymont, Kate; Davies, Anne (20 September 2002). "The empire that slipped Obeid's mind". The Sydney Morning Herald (sourced from Ku-ring-gai Preservation Trust). Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  18. ^ "Obeid defends incorrect disclosure of business interests". ABC News. Australia. 20 September 2002. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  19. ^ a b "Motion of Censure - The Hon. Edward Moses Obeid". Full Day Hansard Transcript. Parliament of New South Wales. 3 June 2004. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  20. ^ "Obeid defends himself against censure". ABC News. Australia. 3 June 2004. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  21. ^ "Obeid due from Lebanon tomorrow: Carr". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 1 June 2004. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  22. ^ "Obeid denies involvement in Lebanese election". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 31 May 2004. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  23. ^ a b McClymont, Kate; Nicholls, Sean (4 June 2004). "Fear of Eddie: now Obeid niece puts it on the record with police". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  24. ^ Mitchell, Alex (2 July 2006). "Labor dumps its king-maker". The Sun-Herald. Australia. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  25. ^ Clennell, Andrew (8 October 2007). "Obeid does numbers for Iemma". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  26. ^ Hildebrand, Joe (6 September 2008). "Party machine men that ate the Premier". The Daily Telegraph. Australia. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  27. ^ Smith, Alexandra (27 January 2009). "Iemma caught up in Labor feud". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  28. ^ Davies, Anne (19 May 2010). "Two council approaches to Obeid". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  29. ^ a b Davies, Anne (18 May 2010). "Obeid's smooth bush ride". The Land. Australia. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  30. ^ McClymont, Kate; Carson, Vanda; Clennell, Andrew (10 September 2009). "I was forced to quit Australia by McGurk, says financier". WA Today. Australia. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  31. ^ "I did not influence reshuffle: Obeid". Nine News. Australia. 31 May 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  32. ^ Hall, Louise; Walters, Conrad (31 May 2010). "I did it my way, insists Premier as Joe has a quiet word". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  33. ^ Totaro, Paula (28 March 2003). "Obeid falls but Amery hanging on". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  34. ^ Nicholls, Sean (10 May 2011). "Obeid resigns from NSW parliament". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  35. ^ Dempster, Quentin (29 November 2002). "Minister rejects bribe allegation at Oasis inquiry". Stateline. Sydney, Australia. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  36. ^ Mack, Denise Baraki (April 2001). "El-Telegraph Newspaper". Stories. Australia. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  37. ^ O'Malley, Nick; Wainwright, Robert (24 October 2002). "Trips, dinners but no business: Obeid". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  38. ^ a b McClymont, Kate; Davies, Anne (30 August 2002). "ALP push for Oasis cash: Obeid accused". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  39. ^ "Past Gold Walkley award winners". SBS World News. Australia. 20 November 2009. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  40. ^ King, David (13 October 2006). "Fairfax article defamed Obeid". The Australian. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  41. ^ King, David (13 October 2006). "Fairfax to pay $1m for Obeid defamation". The Australian. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  42. ^ McClymont, Kate; Chancellor, Jonathan (19 February 2011). "Obeid joins the jetty set". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  43. ^ McClymont, Kate (7 November 2013). "Obeid falls on hard times". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  44. ^ Davies, Anne (20 May 2010). "Coal down below: how rich is Obeid's valley". The Land. Australia. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  45. ^ "Public inquiry into circumstances surrounding decision to open Bylong Valley mining area for coal exploration". Operation Jasper (Press release). Independent Commission Against Corruption. 9 November 2012. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  46. ^ Carson, Vanda (12 November 2012). "Labor to suspend Obeid after ICAC claims". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  47. ^ "Witness list for the Operation Jasper Segment" (PDF). Operations Indus/Jasper/Acacia Public Inquiry (Press release). Independent Commission Against Corruption. 9 November 2012. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  48. ^ Wells, Jamelle (13 November 2012). "Iemma tells ICAC of relationship between Obeid, Macdonald" (transcript, video, audio). ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  49. ^ a b "ICAC finds corrupt conduct over Mount Penny tenement" (Press release). Independent Commission Against Corruption. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  50. ^ Shanahan, Leo (31 July 2013). "Ian Macdonald, Eddie Obeid facing charges after being found by ICAC to have acted corruptly". The Australian. AAP. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  51. ^ Wells, Jamelle; Gerathy, Sarah (31 July 2013). "ICAC recommends charges against former NSW Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  52. ^ Olding, Rachel; Waters, Georgia (31 July 2013). "Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald acted corruptly, ICAC finds". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  53. ^ Kennedy, Jean; and staff (21 January 2014). "NSW to cancel licences for Hunter Valley mines at centre of ICAC corruption findings". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  54. ^ Nicholls, Sean; Whitbourn, Michaela (20 January 2014). "NSW government cancels mining licences tainted by Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald corruption scandals". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  55. ^ "Public inquiry into alleged attempts by the former Hon Edward Obeid MLC to influence official functions over Circular Quay retail leases, and other matters, starts Monday". Current investigations (Press release). Independent Commission Against Corruption. 23 October 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  56. ^ Colvin, Mark; Lloyd, Peter (6 November 2013). "Eddie Obeid used influence to lobby for water licenses, ICAC told". PM (ABC Radio) (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  57. ^ Coulton, Mark (5 November 2013). "Eddie Obeid reacted angrily when Carl Scully refused to extend leases, ICAC told". The Australian. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  58. ^ Wells, Jamelle (7 November 2013). "ICAC told Eddie Obeid's attempt to influence bureaucrats over water licences was "stupid"". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  59. ^ "Edward Moses Obeid". Australian Honours - Search. Commonwealth of Australia. 11 June 1984. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Bob Martin
Minister for Fisheries
1999–2003
Succeeded by
Ian Macdonald
as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries
Minister for Mineral Resources
1999–2003
Succeeded by
Kerry Hickey