Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the Australian public shouldn’t rush to judge Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos after he gave evidence to a NSW corruption watchdog inquiry into a controversial water deal.
“There should be no rush to judgment there, he’s been in the box for a day,” Mr Turnbull told the Nine Network on Friday.
“I used to be a barrister, you can make people look unsure, uncertain.
“This is a very tough environment, but let’s just wait and see what the findings of the commission are.”
Senator Sinodinos, who recently stepped down as Assistant Treasurer, was in the stand at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry in Sydney on Thursday.
He told the watchdog he never investigated ballooning costs at Australian Water Holdings (AWH), which allegedly included million-dollar salaries and a $28,000 limousine bill for which taxpayers picked up the tab.
Senator Sinodinos also repeatedly said he couldn’t longer recall several details relating to his time on the board of AWH from 2008 until he left for parliament in 2011.
ICAC has been told before he had 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 was a director of AWH, a company linked to the Obeid family, and a senior officebearer of the NSW Liberal Party at the time.
Mr Turnbull said an ICAC inquiry was a “difficult environment to be in”, and backed Mr Sinodinos’ decision to stand aside as assistant treasurer during the investigation.
“Arthur did the right thing and stepped aside while this is going on,” Mr Turnbull said.
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said the coalition made a “bad decision” in appointing Mr Sinodinos as Assistant Treasurer after the 2013 federal election.
“A couple of weeks ago when we were in the parliament: one day Tony Abbott was absolutely backing Arthur Sinodinos, less than 24 hours later he was happy for him to step aside,” Ms Plibersek told Nine.