Arthur Sinodinos lobbied NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell to support a controversial water deal but didn’t tell him that he stood to make millions from the contract.
Senator Sinodinos on Thursday admitted to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that he had met with the then opposition leader in August 2010 to gain his support for a lucrative deal with Australian Water Holdings (AWH).
Senator Sinodinos was a director of AWH, a controversial company linked to the Obeid family, and a senior officebearer of the NSW Liberal Party at the time.
ICAC has heard he stood to make a share and bonus package worth up to $20 million if the government agreed to the deal with AWH.
After the Liberals took power in 2011, Senator Sinodinos called then state Finance Minister Greg Pearce on a weekend to lobby on behalf of AWH.
But the senator, who recently stepped aside as federal assistant treasurer, didn’t feel it was necessary to tell Mr O’Farrell or Mr Pearce that he stood to make millions from the contract.
“They never asked,” Senator Sinodinos told the commission.
“It never occurred to me that that would need to be done.”
He added that government MPs would have understood that officers of the company “would benefit in some way from the contract being awarded”.
The commission heard that AWH chief and Liberal donor Nick Di Girolamo wrote to Senator Sinodinos in 2011 asking him to ring “BOF”, or Mr O’Farrell, to lobby for the company.
Senator Sinodinos said he didn’t think it was appropriate to call Mr O’Farrell and instead decided to contact his minister Mr Pearce.
Counsel assisting the ICAC, Geoffrey Watson SC, presented a handwritten note from Mr Pearce, saying he felt “over-lobbied”.
“AS (Arthur Sinodinos) has called me and MP (lobbyist Michael Photios) has come to see me,” the note read.
Meanwhile, the ICAC was shown a string of emails between Peter McConnell, who was Mr O’Farrell’s chief of staff while he was in opposition, and Senator Sinodinos.
In one email in 2010, Mr McConnell asks Senator Sinodinos for help with the wording of a letter from Mr O’Farrell to Mr Di Girolamo supporting the deal.
“Can you let me know what things you want covered and what form of words,” the email read.
Asked whether Mr McConnell was trying to make sure that the AWH would go through, Sen Sinodinos replied: “He is being positive.”