NSW Premier's shocking abuse of power

The face of a Leftist crook

Public servants have been gagged from giving evidence to the parliamentary inquiry into Labor's power privatisation in Premier Kristina Keneally's latest desperate bid to stymie scrutiny of the sale. The move follows her attempts last week to scuttle the hearings by closing Parliament two months early.

Committee chairman Fred Nile accused Ms Keneally of using "brutal force" to shut the inquiry but vowed he would not be stopped from finding the truth about the $5.3 billion sale.

Ms Keneally said yesterday the Auditor-General had started his investigation into the midnight electricity sell-off. But voters won't see that report until after the March election because the Auditor-General's reports must be tabled in Parliament, which Ms Keneally closed early.

And that is where Mr Nile's inquiry could embarrass the Government - it reports back on January 31, possibly giving the Opposition and Greens ammunition leading into the state election.

Ms Keneally yesterday referred to Crown Solicitor's advice - given in 1994 - that witnesses would not be offered parliamentary privilege if they appeared at Mr Nile's inquiry because it had no legal standing. "That would not be a situation in which we would have public servants attending an inquiry," she said.

But despite relying all week on that legal advice, Ms Keneally has now gone back to the Crown Solicitor's office to ask if it was still relevant and correct. Depending on the response, which won't come until after January 10, the inquiry could be ruled legal.

In the meantime, Ms Keneally said the Auditor-General had broad powers to consider whether the "activities of government are being carried out effectively, economically, efficiently and in compliance with all relevant laws. I am quite confident this transaction stands up to that scrutiny," she said.

Mr Nile, who is determined his committee will meet on January 17, asked what Ms Keneally was "afraid of". "If she has nothing to hide or nothing to fear, then why did she prorogue Parliament early and why is she gagging public servants from giving evidence?" he said. "It's like she is using brutal force to try to stop the inquiry."

Mr Nile said he was aware that the eight directors who quit the boards of Delta and Eraring over the sale were "ready and willing" to speak.

Public Servants Association assistant secretary Steve Turner said he was not happy with the sale. "We would welcome an inquiry to look into it and if a proper inquiry occurs then public servants should legally be able to give evidence," he said.


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