THANK God Mother Teresa and Hugh Grant got a mention before the corruption inquiry yesterday. How else could we compensate for news the brown paper bag might not have existed?
An excited crowd stretched way beyond the doors to the Independent Commission Against Corruption yesterday long before they were due to open. A recognisable crowd had travelled to the big smoke by train, presumably. Just followed the smell of blood.
Passionate Newcastle folk.
Former Greens councillors Keith Parsons, Margaret Henry and John Sutton, rail campaigner Joan Dawson, current Greens councillor Therese Doyle, former Labor councillor Marilyn Eade and former Labor MP Sharon Grierson, and some guy who was later sighted yelling ‘‘die, die’’ as Jeff McCloy left in a non-Bentley hire car.
They didn’t have to wait long. This was real-life Porpoise Spit, without the wedding but with colourful development identities continuing a script that gets better by the day.
Maitland-based developer Hilton Grugeon was the opening act. Minutes earlier he was throwing around flyers in the foyer showing that Rex Newell’s now-infamous artwork of Tea Gardens, with boat was up for grabs on eBay. No takers, though, with an opening price tag of five large. Mr Grugeon had trouble remembering anything for the first half hour, and struggled to separate alleged Liberal party bagman Hugh Thomson and former low-rating radio jock Luke Grant.
‘‘Or is it Hugh Grant, I can’t remember,’’ Mr Grugeon offered above muffled laughs from the predominantly grey public gallery.
‘‘It’s Luke Grant,’’ offered Geoffrey Watson SC.
A timely change of tone arrived conveniently enough to wake several blokes in the inquiry’s front row who clearly wanted more action.
‘‘That’s scurrilous,’’ Mr Grugeon boomed amid suggestions that his donations were designed to curry political favours for any of his 90 companies.
By contrast, the lord mayor of Newcastle declared he only had 33 companies, but only the guys in suits really cared about that stuff.
‘‘They all come to me for money,’’ Jeff McCloy declared when asked about how many politicians he had given money to. ‘‘I feel like a walking ATM at times.’’
Action! The real show had resumed, despite a disappointing plot twist.
‘‘The money came from a bank,’’ Cr McCloy offered in response to questions about the $10,000 in cash he admitted giving Andrew Cornwell. ‘‘So it would have been in an envelope.’’
An audible tear dropped to the ground in the adjacent media room as news of the absent brown paper bag was digested. But some hold onto hope the money was in a bag when it got handed from Mr Cornwell to a party representative.
The news hounds perked up almost immediately when a new name fell from the lord mayor’s lips.
Would-be Swansea MP Garry Edwards had been having a shandy at the Belmont 16-Footers and decided to pop around the corner to see if his keycard worked in the McCloy ATM.
‘‘I pulled out my wallet and gave him whatever was in it,’’ Cr McCloy offered the inquiry. It was ‘‘$1500 or something’’.
Within an hour or two of the testimony, Mr Edwards was treading to the crossbenches around the corner in Macquarie Street, where it’s become decidedly warmer this week.
Mother Teresa made her appearance shortly after lunch. Mr Watson had become intrigued by a poem being passed around during the break. Not a divine intervention for the embattled lord mayor, but some divine words from the heavenly mother he conceded had graced his desk for nigh on 30 years. It was responsible for much of his ‘‘can-do attitude’’, we learnt. ‘‘I only ever wanted a better Newcastle,’’ Mr McCloy told Mr Watson.
Newcastle was a city when Canberra was just a farm, he said. One had grown up and the other hadn’t. The difference was money and politics, and he was trying to give the city both. ‘‘I wanted to do it anonymously but that little plan didn’t work out too well.’’ Mother Teresa might have warned him that it was never going to work from the front seat of a Bentley.
‘‘Um, the guy from Swansea came to see me, Garry, he rang me [and] came round home, whatever was in my wallet, fifteen hundred bucks, raffle tickets or something, I gave him a few bucks.- Newcastle Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy on whether he’d donated to Swansea MP Gary Edwards.
‘‘I feel like a walking ATM sometimes’’- Jeff McCloy on being inundated for requests for money by politicians.
‘‘I look forward to an early opportunity to clear my name. In the meantime, I have decided to stand aside from the Parliamentary Liberal Party. I have informed the Premier of my decision and he has accepted it.’’- Swansea MP Garry Edwards confirming he would move to the cross benches following Jeff McCloy’s evidence he’d given him $1500 before the 2011 election.
‘‘I know a lot about him now.’’- Hilton Grugeon on whether he knew of the artist Rex Newell, whose painting he bought from Andrew Cornwell for $10,120
‘‘Mentoring or giving patronage’’.- Grugeon’s description of why he paid $10,120 for the painting. He told the hearing it had been suggested he could buy something from Cornwell to help him out during the campaign. His account differed from Cornwell’s, who previously told ICAC he’d given Grugeon the painting as a gift.
‘‘Depends on whether we believe standards and principles in Local Gov still mean anything. I believe they do.’’- Greg Piper, Lake Macquarie MP, writing on Twitter on whether he thought McCloy should resign from his position as Newcastle Lord Mayor.
This poem by Mother Teresa was passed around during the break at ICAC by Jeff McCloy.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motive;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis,
It was never between you and them anyway.