NSW Labor preselection derailed amid Tania Mihailuks attack on Khal Asfour

Written by

A city planner said so Sydney Morning Herald of his “surprise” in 2014 when he turned up to a meeting at a Chullora coffee shop with his developer client to find “Mr B” (as Khouri is known) had brought Asfour. The two men seemed very “buddy, buddy,” the planner said.

Asked by Herald if he had ever met a developer with Khouri, Asfour replied, “It’s hard for me to remember.” He also said he had not spoken to Bechara “for a long time”.

Asked if he had spoken to Khouri since the ICAC investigation, Asfour said, “if I had, it would only be because I came across [him] somewhere and said hello”.

Khouri was at the center of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s long-running investigation into corrupt planning activities at Canterbury City Council.

Loading

The inquest heard in March 2016, Khouri hosted a meeting at his Enfield home to discuss the merger of Canterbury and Bankstown councils and who would be given the crucial role of planning chief.

Asfour attended Khouri’s meeting representing Bankstown, while Canterbury was represented by the general manager, Jim Montague, and councilors Michael Hawatt and Pierre Azzi, the trio later found to be corrupt.

Asfour hit back on Wednesday, calling Mihailuk’s attack on him “powerless and a slander against his good reputation and status in society”. He said it “reeks of sour grapes being overlooked on Labour’s upper house ticket”.

“I challenge her to repeat these outrageous and unsubstantiated claims outside parliament,” Asfour said.

“She has used parliamentary privilege to launch a cowardly attack on me and my family and I urge her to provide evidence of any wrongdoing to the appropriate bodies.”

Mihailuk warned that if Asfour’s name remained on the Labor ticket at the conference, it would be cemented by the Labor party leadership, a move she said would be disastrous.

“And the wider public would actually have to question what the Labor party’s operating mantra will be under a potential Minns Labor government if we can’t deliver new blood that is not tainted,” she told parliament.

“I have never taken a step back against corruption, and I never will. I will have more to say about Asfour and this council in the coming weeks.

“All of this dwarfs Barilaro’s problem. A $500,000-a-year job against tens of millions — potentially hundreds of millions. It pales into insignificance. Can we really cry foul over our opponents? I don’t think so.”

Several senior party sources said Mihailuk’s move would overshadow Labor leader Chris Minns’ big announcement on safe staffing levels for nurses, which he unveiled on Wednesday morning.

Loading

Minns said he planned to meet with Mihailuk on Wednesday afternoon to discuss why she decided to air the allegations in Parliament. He also said Asfour had referred these allegations to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

“I will take steps to speak to Tanya Mihailuk today about two things; Firstly, the nature of the corruption that she is alleged to have taken place and whether she has referred those matters to ICAC or other authorities,” Minns said.

“I think it’s very important to understand that Mr Asfour has personally referred it to ICAC himself, completely denies the allegations … and I will find out what she has to say this afternoon.”

Minns said he did not know what motivated Mihailuk’s speech that evening or why she had not raised the issues with him before airing them in parliament.

“It’s difficult for me to work out what her intentions were with the speech she made at 11.30 last night in the NSW Parliament… I need to discuss with her what it is and find out what her motives were,” he said.

The morning edition’s newsletter is our guide to today’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. sign up here.

About the author

Leave a Comment