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The Sydney Morning Herald

ICAC IN THE HOT SEAT

Author: By MATTHEW MOORE and BRAD NORINGTON
Date: 21/08/1992
Words: 1114
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 1
Widespread support has emerged for changes to the Independent Commission Against Corruption after yesterday's Court of Appeal decision overturning a finding of corrupt conduct against the former Premier, Mr Nick Greiner.

The Premier, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Carr, the head of the ICAC, Mr Ian Temby, QC, and key Independent MPs all supported a review of the ICAC Act after Mr Greiner and the former Minister for Environment, Mr Tim Moore, won their appeal against the ICAC decision in June which led both men to resign from Parliament.

Mr Greiner said he had been vindicated because the decision showed that Mr Temby's finding was "absolutely wrong" and that "any suggestion of corrupt conduct on my part was totally ... nonsensical".

At a media conference called soon after the two-to-one court decision, Mr Temby said he regretted that the court had found his decision was wrong.

However, he believed that the ICAC's authority was not undermined. On his reading of the judgment, ministers in NSW were not bound by the same rules as other public officials for the purposes of the ICAC legislation.

Asked whether he believed Mr Greiner had been done an injustice, he said: "I don't think the term 'injustice' fits, but others can judge that."

Mr Temby said the ICAC was considering an appeal to the High Court although he was concerned about the public expense, particularly as he believed the legislation governing the ICAC would be amended after the judgment.

Mr Greiner and Mr Moore went to the Court of Appeal after the ICAC found that they had both acted corruptly in the appointment of the former Independent MP for Davidson, Dr Terry Metherell, to a senior Public Service job.

Justice Gleeson and Justice Priestley both found that Mr Temby had erred by defining the behaviour of Mr Greiner and Mr Moore as corrupt because he had not applied legally recognised standards as to what constitutes grounds for dismissal.

Under the section of the ICAC Act used by Mr Temby, conduct can be found corrupt only where it could constitute grounds for dismissal. The majority decision declared that Mr Temby was "wrong in law".

The dissenting judge, Justice Mahoney, said that although their conduct did not constitute reasonable grounds for dismissal, it was open to the ICAC to conclude that it did.

Justice Mahoney also said that the term "corrupt conduct" in the ICAC Act was "misleading and apt to cause injustice".

Two Independent MPs who played a key part in forcing Mr Greiner's and Mr Moore's resignations by threatening to support a no-confidence motion said the Court of Appeal judgment changed nothing.

Mr John Hatton (South Coast) said justice had been done to Mr Greiner and Mr Moore. Although he was "pleased for them", he said their resignations were warranted because of the way they had created a job for Dr Metherell and appointed him, not because of any finding of corrupt conduct.

Dr Peter Macdonald (Manly) said: "There was a lot more than the label of corruption - there was a host of issues in terms of what was unethical, improper and immoral - standards of behaviour well below the criminal threshold which was the thing that dominated the ICAC report."

Mr Carr urged Mr Temby to appeal to the High Court, although he argued that the judgment did not exonerate Mr Greiner of corrupt conduct.

Mr Carr maintained that the appointment of Dr Metherell to a senior government job was an act of corruption.

"A job was given to Metherell ... a job illegally created ... a job to induce him to quit Parliament," he said.

"That's what we objected to, that's what we brand as corrupt and no technical finding in a court alters the essential facts of the case," he said. Mr Fahey said Mr Carr's remarks showed that the Opposition Leader, who was at home with a cold, was not only sick but "delirious", and had made a fundamental legal error in interpreting the judgment.

Yesterday's decision was welcomed by the Liberal Party, which is fighting two by-elections today to replace Mr Greiner and Mr Moore. Although both are safe Liberal seats, the decision should cushion any adverse reaction from the Metherell saga.

The Deputy Premier, Mr Murray, also called for a major overhaul of the ICAC Act and said Mr Hatton, Dr Macdonald and the Independent MP for Blight, Ms Clover Moore, should all consider resigning for forcing Mr Greiner and Mr Moore to quit.

Mr Fahey said the review of the ICAC Act will be conducted by the parliamentary committee on the ICAC headed by the Liberal backbencher Mr Malcolm Kerr. The committee has been reviewing the operation of the ICAC since it was established in 1989.

Mr Moore declined to attack either the ICAC or the Commissioner, Mr Temby, saying he was a strong advocate of a need for such a body.

"But as all three judges indicated this morning, there is clearly a need to deal with the (ICAC) Act to prevent this sort of injustice and damage that Nick Greiner and I and our families have suffered in the last two months.

"It has been a pretty rough time for me and my wife," he said, adding that after quitting Parliament he was "learning how to be a normal human being again".

Although the Government has paid most of Mr Moore's costs, he said he was$40,000 out of pocket as a result of the affair.

The court awarded costs against the ICAC.

Senior members of the Government were bitterly critical of the role the Independents in the Metherell affair.

 
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