Suspended ALP Boss Repeatedly Cries Before Corruption Watchdog
Just three days in – and the corruption watchdog had already claimed its first scalp.
Suspended NSW Labor boss Kaila Murnain has told an anti-corruption inquiry she was scared after learning of a potentially illegal donation to the party and conceded she should have made different decisions.
Through tears Murnain said she only found out she was suspended from her $300,000+ job when she read it in the news.
“I read that in the media as well,” she told the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Thursday morning.
Murnain was suspended on Wednesday night within hours of her testimony at an ICAC hearing on Wednesday.
The Labor Party’s legal representative quickly qualified, saying her lawyers had been notified in a letter last night that ALP leader Jodi McKay no longer had confidence in Murnain.
Her day was about to get worse.
Back in the ICAC hot seat, she was grilled further about what she did in 2016 when told a $100,000 cash donation to the party had come from a banned donor -- Chinese property developer billionaire, Huang Xiangmo.
Murnain claims the ALP’s lawyer told her “to forget it.”
READ MORE: NSW Labor Boss Suspended After ICAC Probe
“I was following the advice religiously,” she said.
“I was scared for the Labor Party.
“We’d been through a lot that year, there were multiple court cases, by-elections, scared for the office and the reputation of the party.
“I obviously recognise now that’s something I should not have done and I should have made different decisions.”
She then broke down in tears again.
Counsel Assisting the ICAC Scott Robertson picked up again, asking; “To unpack that, you were scared and concerned about the implications for the party, if it became public, you decided to follow advice, mainly to keep it quiet?
“To forget it,” she clarified.
In a letter to the electoral commission on the 19 December 2016, Murnain said the $100,000 cash had come from ALP staffer Kenrick Cheah.
The inquiry is examining whether Huang, who is now banned from Australia, was the true source of $100,000 said to be donated by 12 people from the March 2015 Chinese Friends of Labor dinner.
As a property developer, Huang was prohibited by law from making donations to NSW political parties.
Robertson asked if that response on behalf of NSW Labor was misleading.
“Not intentionally,” Murnain said.
“It is incorrect, we could have done this much better.
“This was 2016, I didn’t draft this letter, I signed it off.”
ICAC Commissioner Peter Hall QC jumped in: “You were not delegating your authority and responsibility were you?”
“No,” she said. “I understand and I would do something very different now.”
At which point she broke down in tears again and the hearing took an unscheduled adjournment for her to recover.
Contact the author firstname.lastname@example.org