by JANET FIFE-YEOMANS, The Daily Telegraph
December 1, 2016 6:30pm
Despite his years of skulduggery, the former ALP powerbroker was able to rely on 55 character references attesting to his honesty, integrity and “good deeds”, including one from former Rabbitohs rugby league player, coach and administrator George Piggins.
“I have always found him to be good humoured, genuine, and a very willing helper and as having a real desire to help the club, its supporters and the people of the South Sydney District,” Mr Piggins said in a reference tendered to the court. Mr Piggins said of Obeid that he had “never had an occasion to doubt his honesty”.
Other references came from members of the Lebanese community as his legal team urged the court not to jail Obeid.
The former MP was charged over his lobbying of a senior public servant about lucrative Circular Quay leases without revealing his family’s stake in the outlets. His family had leases for Cafe Sorrentino and Quay Eatery.
“The time he has left on this planet, not to be too dramatic about it, is shortened,” his counsel Brad Hughes SC, said, urging a suspended sentence or home detention.
“Any time taken out away from his family is more precious because it is limited.”
Mr Hughes said Justice Robert Beech-Jones should take into account Obeid’s public work: “You are dealing with a man who has 20 years of service in parliament and that should not be discounted.’’
But Crown Prosecutor Peter Neil SC said Obeid was “far from death’s door”.
“We wish him well,” Mr Neil said, acknowledging Obeid had a “constellation” of medical issues including diabetes and a recent stroke.
“(But) the courts have repeatedly stated that ill-health cannot be allowed to become a licence to commit crime. Nor should offenders expect to escape punishment because of ... their health”.
Mr Neil said the only appropriate penalty was jail: “The public are entitled to accountability and transparency from those holding public office, especially elected politicians, and the avoidance of conflicts of interest.’’
There is no maximum penalty in NSW for misconduct in a public office and Mr Neil referred to former state prisons minister Rex Jackson, who was jailed for 10 years with a non-parole period of five years for accepting bribes. Justice Beech-Jones continued Obeid’s bail and will sentence him on December 15.