NSW Minister Mihailuk has been sacked after raising concerns about corruption

NSW Labor’s corrupt past is proving difficult to bury as opposition minister Tania Mihailuk was sacked this morning after a parliamentary speech earlier this week detailing ties between party rival Khal Asfour, convicted criminal Eddie Obeid and Labor identity Bechara Khouri, with whom Asfour – then Bankstown – was made mayor – met in 2016.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns’ decision – which was revealed to 2GB shock jock Ben Fordham – raises questions about Labor’s commitment to integrity and its ability to avoid a repeat of the dark years of his last tenure, which saw an astounding Levels of corrupt behavior involving Obeid and others were ex-minister Ian Macdonald and the continued persecution of former fellow ministers Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly, as well as links to a Chinese billionaire that lasted well into the opposition years.

Mihailuk has been accused of using parliamentary privileges to attack Asfour, who will lead the NSW Labor House of Lords in the March 2023 election, following a seat scuffle caused by a redistribution that abolished Lakemba’s seat. Mihailuk is in the neighboring town of Bankstown.

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Just last month, Mihailuk herself was targeted by internal enemies by leaking claims to News Corp that she was “abusive” and “intimidating” of employees. Minns stood by Mihailuk at the time. He now says Mihailuk has not responded to his demands that she not use parliamentary privileges to level allegations of corruption against colleagues.

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

Canterbury Council was a cesspool of property developer-led corruption uncovered by the NSW ICAC in its ‘Operation Dasha’, which ensnared former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire. ICAC found that three former officers had engaged in “serious corrupt conduct” and referred possible charges against them to the Director of Public Prosecutions, as did possible charges against others, including Maguire.

The integrity spotlight has been firmly on the NSW coalition in recent years, not only with Maguire, the resignation of Gladys Berejiklian (the subject of an ongoing ICAC investigation) and the recent John Barilaro scandal, but with the ICAC’s that there is serious corrupt conduct by former Liberal MP John Sidoti in relation to property development at Five Dock.

By comparison, Labour’s Chris Minns managed to project a fresh image, untouched by years of corruption and chaos when Labor was last in office. However, the allegations against Asfour reflect the danger for all parties of using former local councilors as state candidates.

Such was the state of corruption and unreliability in the permitting processes for local property developments in Sydney that in 2017 the state government removed all major planning decisions from the control of local councils in the city and appointed expert local planning bodies.

Even local councilors of integrity and committed to the public interest find it difficult not to become involved in corruption investigations, particularly if they are in the Labor or Liberal parties and may be targeted by state MPs, anti-party, party-affiliated lobbyists or other “fixers” who advance the interests of property developers.

Labor’s problem is that, given its track record on corruption, it cannot be given the slightest leap of faith. It must be seen that it has completely changed from the bad old days of the 2000s. It’s hard to see how Mihailuk’s sacking meets that requirement.

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