When she became the NSW premier, Kristina Keneally told parliament she was “nobody’s girl”.
And on Thursday, she took the witness stand at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to shake off any lingering doubt about her relationship with corrupt former Labor MP Eddie Obeid.
“I reckon you could count on one hand the number of times Mr Obeid and I have spoken on the telephone,” Ms Keneally said.
“Because you didn’t want to appear to be his puppet?” Mr Obeid’s silk Stuart Littlemore SC asked.
“Because I didn’t like him,” the former premier shot back.
The watchdog is investigating claims Australian Water Holdings (AWH) was allegedly part-owned by the Obeids and corruptly billed Sydney Water for limousine rides, lavish salaries and Liberal Party donations.
It has been alleged former Labor minister Tony Kelly twice submitted a doctored minute to cabinet that backed a proposed deal between AWH and the NSW government that, had it gone ahead, could have earned the Obeids up to $60 million.
Ms Keneally told the ICAC that Mr Obeid, Mr Kelly and fellow former Labor MP Joe Tripodi all lobbied her about the mooted AWH agreement.
The former premier said she “cut short” one conversation about AWH with Mr Obeid, though she admitted she was a member of his right-wing Terrigals faction.
“Didn’t he put you into your job?” Mr Littlemore asked.
Ms Keneally replied coolly: “No. Caucus did that.”
Ultimately, she said, she rejected the suspect cabinet minute.
“This was the cabinet minute that wouldn’t die – until I drove a stake through its heart,” Ms Keneally told the commission.
Asked why she never referred the minute to the corruption watchdog, Ms Keneally said she encountered the document “at the pointy end” of the process.
“At no point did anyone raise with me concerns about ownership of the company, authorship of the minute, donations being made to the Liberal Party,” she said.
Ms Keneally later told reporters that a series of corruption inquiries centred on Mr Obeid and fellow former Labor MP Ian Macdonald last year showed the pair “used government as a personal plaything for their own greedy ends”.
But this new inquiry muddied both sides of politics, she said.
“It would be fair to ask others about their relationship with this proposal and whether they felt it should have been referred to ICAC, and I would include in that (NSW Premier Barry) O’Farrell, (former NSW Liberal minister Greg) Pearce, and (former Labor premier Nathan) Rees,” Ms Keneally said.
“It seems that in this case we have people from both sides of parliament – Labor and Liberal – who have engaged, potentially, in corrupt activity … That is a blow to people’s trust.”
The inquiry continues.