New South Wales (NSW) Labor MP Tania Mihailuk has lost her position in the shadow ministry after she criticized a party colleague who is running for the state upper house.
Opposition Labor Party leader Chris Minns said on Friday he had sacked Mihailuk from his cabinet and accused her of carrying out “political attacks through parliamentary privilege”.
But NSW Liberal Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet stood by Mihailuk and said Labor is trying to silence people who expose suspected corruption by party members.
Mihailuk expressed concern on Tuesday night that Canterbury-Bankstown Mayor Khal Asfour is linking him to corrupt former Labor Minister Eddie Obeid.
Obeid was charged with misconduct in public office following an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). In 2021, he was found guilty of conspiring to grant a mining exploration license in 2009, which helped his family make $30 million from the deal.
Mihailuk claimed Obeid went to Asfour’s wedding and graced him with a “generous gift” while continuing to campaign to ensure he held the office of mayor during a period of major restructuring.
“I voice my valid and long-standing concerns about Asfour’s character and his unprincipled actions in furthering the interests of developers and identities, particularly Eddie Obeid,” she told the NSW Parliament.
“Candidating for as privileged a position as you would expect merits full scrutiny, particularly given Labor’s recent ICAC troubles and the well-documented ICAC findings against former ministers that tainted the last NSW Labor government.”
Asfour is to be endorsed by the Labor State Conference in October to vote in the March 2023 state election.
Asks Mihailuk to back up claims with evidence
Mihailuk also pushed for an investigation into “significant discrepancies” in planning controls for Bankstown’s central business district revitalization, affecting several properties linked to the Obeid family.
She also said the plan would result in “valuable land” becoming “virtually worthless” to taxpayers.
Asfour has denied the allegations, calling them “outrageous and unfounded”.
“She has used parliamentary privilege to launch a cowardly attack on me and my family and I urge her to bring evidence of any wrongdoing to the relevant authorities,” he said.
Labor leader Minns said he told Mihailuk her position in the shadow cabinet was no longer viable after giving her 24 hours to substantiate her allegations.
“Obviously there needs to be discipline in the shadow cabinet,” he told Sydney’s 2GB radio on Tuesday.
“There are correct ways of presenting information about potential or suspected illegal conduct and using the 11.30pm parliamentary privilege at night in the NSW Parliament is not one of them.”
But Premier Perrottet criticized Labor’s decision to strip Mihailuk of her position.
“That’s exactly the kind of behavior that’s allowed [former MP] Eddie Obeid blossoms,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Friday.
“Silencing strong women who are standing up and speaking out about alleged corruption in the NSW Labor Party should not be tolerated.”