Port boss kept vital meeting notes – Newcastle Herald

By MICHELLE HARRIS

TREASURER Eric Roozendaal pressed the boss of Newcastle Port Corporation to resign and blocked details of a container terminal proposal going to its board within days of Labor power-broker Joe Tripodi meeting Buildev about their rival coal-loader idea.

A 2010 file note tendered to the Independent Commission Against Corruption and prepared by then corporation chief executive Gary Webb records the gist of a meeting with Mr Roozendaal, who was then also ports minister.

Mr Roozendaal ordered him not to send details of the Anglo Ports consortium’s container terminal project for the Mayfield former steelworks site to the port corporation’s board for it to endorse the start of detailed negotiations.

‘‘The minister said that he found it very hard to accept that building a coal terminal on that site was anticompetitive and he felt uncomfortable and he said he was going to have Treasury review the process and then he told me not to send the paper to the board,’’ the note reads.

Newcastle Port Corporation was not to take any action until the review was done, Mr Webb was told.

‘‘The minister then asked me had I threatened one of his staff that I would resign. My answer was no,’’ the note continued.

The meeting took place on November 24, 2010, the day before the scheduled port corporation board meeting and just a few days after Mr Tripodi was flown aboard Buildev’s helicopter to Newcastle for a meeting with the company’s directors on November 19, when he was still a Sydney-based member of parliament.

A Buildev record of the meeting reads: ‘‘Joe- going to get Eric to stop Anglo deal going to board this Thursday’’.

Giving evidence to the inquiry yesterday, Mr Tripodi , a former ports minister, declared: ‘‘I wasn’t their mate.’’

But counsel assisting the inquiry Geoffrey Watson SC said ‘‘all of the evidence points one way’’ – that Mr Tripodi had agreed to lean on Mr Roozendaal who then blocked the container terminal proposal.

‘‘I have no recollection of speaking to Mr Roozendaal about this,’’ Mr Tripodi insisted.

‘‘. . . What we’re asking you to do is take this opportunity Mr Tripodi and grab it with both hands – explain why that inference should not be drawn,’’ Mr Watson said.

‘‘Because there’s a whole range of possible reasons why minister Roozendaal did what he did, a . . . massive gammit of possibilities,’’ Mr Tripodi said.

Mr Tripodi said he had agreed to meet with Buildev because he had a ‘‘policy interest’’ in ports and was ‘‘happy’’ to give advice to any company helping the state.