NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s decision to order a review into Sports Minister John Sidoti has been labelled a “cop-out” by Labor who say the Independent Commission Against Corruption needs to investigate the MP.
Labor leader Jodi McKay said if the premier did not refer Mr Sidoti to ICAC by the end of the day, then she will.
The embattled Mr Sidoti on Thursday fronted a budget estimates hearing, where he faced a storm of questions over a number of property interests and their proximity to future Sydney metro stops.
John Sidoti was the parliamentary secretary for transport when the department designed a new access road to land he part-owned at Rouse Hill which subsequently won approval for a $70 million high-rise precinct, News Corp Australia reported on Thursday.
A Liberal Party spokesman said it was working with the NSW Electoral Commission to forfeit the $1750 donation made in 2015 from a property developer who was partnering with Mr Sidoti on the project.
In a statement, Ms Berejkilian said “the public’s confidence in the integrity of government decision making is absolutely paramount”.
“That is why today I have asked the secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet to conduct a review into allegations that have been made regarding Minister Sidoti’s disclosures and other obligations as a minister,” she said.
“I regard Mr Sidoti as a hard working MP and minister and note he has given strong assurances that he has acted appropriately at all times.”
The review will look at whether Mr Sidoti complied with his disclosure requirements, whether he had access to confidential information that was personally beneficial, and whether he “appropriately managed” any conflicts of interest.
Ms McKay labelled the review “the easy way out”.
“If she’s going to lead her party appropriately she needs to take the hard decision and the hard decision but the right decision is to refer this matter to ICAC, the right decision is to stand him aside,” she said.
At budget estimates, Mr Sidoti faced questions about whether he had known train stations were slated to be built close to properties he purchased – which would increase their value – and whether he had used that inside information for his own gain.
They include a property owned by his parents in Five Dock.
He was also quizzed as to why he had taken so long to disclose his interests in the properties to parliament.
“I have always complied with all of my obligations,” he said more than 100 times.
Mr Sidoti’s refusal to answer the questions proved too much for Greens MP David Shoebridge, who accused him of being “parliamentary secretary for planning by day and a property developer by night”.
“There’s such an obvious conflict of interest, how could you not understand that,” he said.
“You acted grossly inappropriately, if not – in the definition of the ICAC Act – corruptly.”
Prior to the hearing Mr Sidoti issued a statement saying he “categorically” denied “all allegations made against me in the media in recent days”.
“To suggest I used my position as a member of parliament to influence government decisions for my private interests are a gross misrepresentation of fact,” the statement read.
“My pecuniary interests are publicly available and I comply with my obligations.”