Former NSW Labor minister Joe Tripodi said he wasn’t trying to dig himself out of a hole during his repeat visit to a corruption inquiry.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is investigating claims another former MP, Eddie Obeid, lobbied several ministers over lucrative Sydney harbourside leases owned by his family.
Mr Tripodi has already given evidence to the commission, but was asked to reappear on Wednesday to clarify that while he knew Mr Obeid had an “interest” in the leases, he didn’t realise it was financial.
Mr Tripodi’s former chief of staff had given evidence that Mr Tripodi had told her in 2006 he knew Mr Obeid had an interest in the businesses.
“I meant he was interested in the subject of the leases at Circular Quay,” Mr Tripodi told the ICAC during his second round of questioning.
Assistant commissioner Anthony Whealy wanted to know whether this new evidence “was a bit of a long shot”.
“No sir, it’s the truth,” Mr Tripodi said.
“Well, have you asked to come back here to clarify it because you think you might dig yourself out of a hole from what you said on the last occasion?” Mr Whealy pressed on.
“No, commissioner, this is very serious,” the witness said.
Mr Tripodi was grilled for 25 minutes before being excused.
Another witness, Mark Duffy, was seen jostling a photographer as he tried to exit the building before bursting into tears.
Also on the stand on Wednesday was former senior bureaucrat Steve Dunn, who told the inquiry he was simply helping Mr Obeid exercise “due diligence” when he asked after water licences attached to land the then-MP’s family was buying in the Bylong Valley.
Along with the Circular Quay probe – and another investigation into health contracts involving a company with Obeid links – the commission is exploring whether Mr Obeid used his political clout to secure valuable water allocations for his family’s $3.65 million Bylong Valley farm in November 2007.
Mr Dunn had previously worked as a bureaucrat under Mr Obeid.
The commission has been shown an email sent by Mr Dunn in September 2007 wherein he asked a water department bureaucrat for information about various licences covering the Obeids’ property.
“This wasn’t about any kind of commercial advantage for Mr Obeid,” Mr Dunn said.