Sinodinos: The not so Artful Dodger

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Arthur Sinodinos thinks he's very smart after avoiding appearing at a Senate hearing into dodgy donations yesterday, but Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones, who did turn up, says he is actually an idiot.

YOU CAN'T BLAME Arthur Sinodinos for not wanting to front Penny Wong in the Senate Estimates Committee — she would have chewed him up and left only the skeleton of truth for the electorate to pick over.

At ICAC, Arthur eclipsed even Alan Bond in the "I don’t remember" stakes, but failing to remember is not a crime. Failing to remember leaves wriggle room.

A Senate Estimates hearing affords no such luxuries.

At ICAC, Arthur bluffed and blustered and claimed black was white in the face of overwhelming evidence. Hanging with the Obeids? The Free Enterprise Foundation, what? All dead-set above board.

There were several occasions when the gallery burst into laughter at Arthurs’s ridiculous denials and senior moments, too many for a youngish wealthy man with a track record as being Howard’s Richeleau.

Every politician knows the huge majority the voting public can’t handle detail. Maybe 30 members of the public attended ICAC. For the rest – for channel 9, 7 & 10 viewers – all they saw was a beaming Arthur exiting ICAC with a big grin on his face and saying everything was hunky dory.

Where it counts, Fairfax is largely irrelevant.

Hardly anyone noticed the Kate McClymont and the Sydney Morning Herald coverage.

But if Arthur had fronted Penny he would have had nowhere to hide. So he didn’t bother. Because he has plenty to hide.

One of the great things about Parliament House is that its staff are effusively friendly. But the whole place is like Downton Abbey. There are downstairs mutterings and one of the main mutterings is that no bastard tells any other bastard what is going on.

So, confusion reigned on the morning of Thursday 29 April 2016.

The Senate Estimates Committee into associate entity funding was due to kick off at 9.30am. The only witness we were sure wasn’t going turn up was A. Sinodinos, PILLOW AO.

Others were rumoured, including even KMcK.

At 9am, the hearing was rescheduled for 11a.m. Not long after, it was rescheduled to start at 11.30 a.m. It was scheduled to finish at 1.00 p.m., but actually finished at 1.30 p.m.

In the interim, not much happened.

The only poor sods who turned up were AEC commissioner Tom Rogers and his legal chap.

They were facing senators Jenny McAllister (ALP, chair), Joe Ludwig (ALP), Nova Peris (ALP), Deborah O’Neill (ALP) Sarah Hanson-Young (Greens), Lee Rhiannon (Greens) and, formidably, Penny Wong (ALP). Not to mention Zed Seselja (token Lib).

Zed was worried that not enough attention was being paid to stuff like the CFMEU, but no-one cared much. Hanson-Young played on her phone, Peris said not a word. Ludwig stuck in the odd wry snipe at Zed.

And that was it.

Except for the admission Wong elicited from Rogers that if donors to an associated entity, say the FEF, contribute whatever amount, say $100,000, and they do it in lots under the $12,800 declaration threshold, there is no need to disclose.

The Senate hasn’t finished with Arthur yet. Refusal to comply with a Senate summons is not easily brushed away.

Worse for the artful one is that is within the powers of the Senate to determine the consequences of non-compliance.

Gaol is one.

Arthur might appear bright, but actually he is stupid. His former boss losing his seat is a clue.

The whole Senates Committee dissolved into a farce yesterday.

But it will re-solidify soon. And maybe grow some teeth.

You can follow Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones on Twitter @RPZJones.

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