Providing advice: Then Prime Minister John Howard with his chief of staff Arthur Sinodinos. Photo: Jessica Hromas
Seven months after quitting as chief of staff to then prime minister John Howard, Arthur Sinodinos was providing advice to a company later linked to corrupt Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid on how to lobby his former boss.
Mr Sinodinos provided the advice in 2007, the year before he was appointed as a director of the company, Australian Water Holdings, allegedly to ”open lines of communication with the Liberal Party”.
Emails released by the Independent Commission Against Corruption show Mr Sinodinos was consulted about a letter to Mr Howard advocating the sale of government-owned land at Badgerys Creek in western Sydney for development.
Senator Arthur Sinodinos has step down. Photo: Andrew Meares
The letter was drafted by Nick Di Girolamo, then chief executive of Rouse Hill Infrastructure Corporation (RHIC) – later renamed Australian Water Holdings (AWH) – whose attempts to secure NSW government contracts are being examined by the ICAC.
Documents show Paul Nicolaou, then chairman of the NSW Liberal Party’s main fund-raising arm, the Millennium Forum, sought the advice of Mr Sinodinos on the letter to Mr Howard.
The ICAC has heard Mr Nicolaou was retained as a lobbyist by RHIC/AWH in April 2007 on a retainer of $ 5000 a month. In an email sent from his NSW Liberal Party account dated July 24, 2007, Mr Nicolaou asked Mr Sinodinos if he has ”been able to review the letter regarding Nick Di Girolamo’s idea on Badgery’s Creek”?
Mr Sinodinos replied he thought the letter was ”good”.
”However, it would be difficult for the government to offer the land preferentially to one developer,” he advised Mr Nicolaou. ”It would be better to couch the letter in terms of advocating sale of the land and how it would be quarantined for first home owners or those of modest means. Nick would then explain how RHIC would be good at at doing [sic] achieving that quarantining”.
He added as a postscript: ”Happy to discuss with Nick, if you like.”
The commission has not provided documents to show if the letter was sent, replied to or if Mr Sinodinos was paid for his advice. The government did not sell its land at Badgerys Creek.
Among the allegations being examined by the ICAC are that former NSW Labor ministers Eddie Obeid, Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly misused their positions as MPs to benefit AWH.
Senator Sinodinos did not respond to a request for comment.
Senator Sinodinos quit as Mr Howard’s closest adviser in December 2006, a year before Mr Howard was removed at the November 2007 election. He entered Parliament in 2011 and has told Parliament he was unaware of the Obeid family’s financial stake in AWH, which the ICAC alleges occurred in 2010.