ICAC: Hartcher, Watson and the shovel

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Chris Hartcher was in ICAC yesterday and so was Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones, who considers where it all will lead.

FOR MINE, the best line of ICAC so far didn’t come from Geoffrey Watson SC, it came from a tenacious Nine journalist Lizzie Pearl, who asked Terrigal MP Chris Hartcher, as he fled through the back entrance of the ICAC building on Castlereagh Street into an adjacent shopping centre:

“Is this really how you wanted your political career to end? Walking through Westfields?”

He likes malls, does Chris, especially when it comes to alleged bundles of cash handed over in Erina Fair mall which, if anyone knows it, is one of the Seven Horrors of the Modern World.

In fairness, Chris was pretty rattled at the time. He’d just come from what is by now a well-publicised raised-voice run-in with Watson.

A very silly tactic.

Watson’s style is to explain the size, shape and material of a shovel then hand it to the witness.

Given this information and the information the commission has gained via its extensive powers to obtain hard documents, the witness is given two choices: use the shovel to assist the commission by unearthing the truth and suffer the immediate consequences if guilty, or use it to dig a hole big enough to bury yourself in shit for years to come.

Hobson’s choice if you are a corrupt liar.

Watson has laid bare the squirming underbelly of the Liberal Party. Beneath the blue ties and the slightly trembling hands lies the truth.

In a Venn diagram of overlapping self-interest, Central Coast MPs, Tinkles, Caputo, Di Girolomo, BO'F, Sinodinos, state government ministers, parvenus and hangers-on have all sat, teeth–bared, in the face of the frigid, howling gale of logic that is ICAC.

I put it to you that you are corrupt?


What about this document that nails you to the wall?

I have no recollection.

But surely that phone call followed by those texts followed by that email followed by those bank transactions means you were in it up to your neck?

I have no specific recollection.

“Oh well," says Geoffrey, “there goes your chance”.

A flicker of doubt, headlights sweep across the prey’s eyes. Too late, it’s all on tape.

But maybe that doesn’t matter, maybe, by deft touch, the predator can be prised loose. This is, after all, not the Serengeti.

Because what is said on tape in ICAC cannot be used in any future prosecution.

Sadly, therefore, all those obfuscatory outbursts of indignation: “I resent that accusation!” and the many ornate denials, will be lost to judicial history.

But the documents are there, thousands of them, painstakingly obtained by dedicated ICAC investigators. Checked, photographed, filmed, chain of evidence, bagged and tagged.

What next for this anti-democratic burlap sack of writhing vipers?

Not much for a while.

There’s another round coming up in August with a particular concentration on the ex-NSW minister for sniffer-dogs Mike Gallacher. Another visit, too, by Tinkles, Hartcher and probably a few more. Expect some seismic stuff and maybe an ensuing tsunami.

And then?

No and then unless the DPP have the will to go on with it — and that will be sorely challenged by time.

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