Crooked former MP Eddie Obeid has denied demanding a NSW minister “sack the bitch” running Sydney Water – Kerry Schott – when she began asking questions of Australian Water Holdings (AWH).
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is probing allegations the Obeid family had a secret stake in AWH – and stood to make up to $100m if a $1 billion public-private partnership with the NSW government got up.
It has been alleged AWH corruptly charged Sydney Water for luxury hotel stays and limousine rides and that Dr Schott demanded justification for the company’s “ballooning” expenses.
Mr Obeid appeared in the witness box on Wednesday to echo the testimony of his sons Paul and Moses, who have each claimed a 2010 agreement recorded a $3 million loan to AWH chief executive Nick Di Girolamo, not a share purchase.
He denied Mr Di Girolamo, a family friend, told him he had a problem with Dr Schott.
“He made it plain to you that she was an obstruction, someone who stood in the way of Australian Water Holdings’ success,” counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson SC put to Mr Obeid.
“No,” Mr Obeid replied.
“I believe he had a problem with Sydney Water and Kerry Schott was the managing director.”
Former water minister Phil Costa’s evidence to the ICAC that Mr Obeid asked him to “sack the bitch” had been “taken out of context”, the fallen powerbroker said.
He said the conversation came after he attended a budget estimates meeting where Dr Schott failed to back up Mr Costa, who was new to the portfolio.
“I believe she hung him out to dry. I was very offended and I told Phil what I thought of her behaviour,” Mr Obeid said.
“I don’t recall the exact words … I’d say heads of departments would be sacked over this behaviour.”
Mr Obeid smiled before adding: “I don’t think Mr Costa’s got the guts to sack a tea lady.”
During a long afternoon of testimony, Mr Obeid was repeatedly accused of lying and “tailoring” evidence.
“You were motivated by nothing more than just personal greed to try and secure an improper outcome,” Mr Watson said as his examination drew to a close.
“That’s your version and it’s rubbish,” Mr Obeid spat back.
He denied attending a meeting at his son Moses’s Elizabeth Bay home with former Lehman Brothers banker Gardner Brook and fellow former NSW Labor MP Joe Tripodi at which AWH and the mooted public-private partnership was discussed.
Mr Obeid said he only once met Mr Brook at his son’s home, and he was “absolutely intoxicated – full to the boot”.