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Stateline (NSW) -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) Now before we go another

quick look at tonight's top

stories. A nighttime curfew has

been imposed in Baghdad after

the deadliest day since the

start of the US-led invasion.

And three teenagers celebrating

the end of Year 12 have died in

a car crash in Sydney's west.

That's the news for now. There

will be an update in about an

hour and 'Lateline' is on

around 10:45 there will be an

interview with the former world

bank President. We'll leave you

tonight with the Danish royals

holidaying in Princess Mary's

home state of Tasmania. Have a

great weekend. Closed Captions

by CSI

CC This week, how Michael

Costa put the boot into Phillip

Higginson. He said don't you

lecture me on - about governance, I can always sack

you if you don't agree. How

Peter Debnam tried to put the

boot into Bob Debus. And how a

country showgirl gets her kicks

when she's not, well, showing.

Welcome to Stateline NSW, I'm

Quentin Dempster. Phillip

Higginson, the just sacked

chairman of Transgrid, the

State-owned corporation which

builds and maintains the

electricity transmission system

across NSW has claimed Costa

cronyism and influence peddling

are behind his removal. Mr

Higginson has taken the rare

step of going public with his

now bitter dispute with

Treasurer Michael Costa

following a November 2 meeting

which led to his termination as

Transgrid chairman. Mr

Higginson has instructed his

lawyers to start legal action

against the Treasurer claiming compensation for lost income

and damage to his reputation.

He says he's going public

because there are broader

corporate governance questions

with State-owned entity an the

Government's methods of doing

business which the public

should know about. The

dispute's been referred by the

Opposition to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

What's it all about? It was

intimidatory and it was to show

me who was boss. If you come up against your shareholding

minister and you want to take

issue with some of his

political decisions, then you

won't stand much of a chance

and it worries me, Quentin. By

all accounts Phillip Higginson,

62, after more than 12 years as

chairman of Transgrid and with

a string of private, public,

NGO and charity directorships

over the last 40 years was

highly regarded by former

premier Bob car, Treasurer

Michael Egan and Minister Craig

Knowleses. But on November 3,

new Treasurer Michael Costa

used his extraordinary powers

under the State-owned

Corporations Act to dispense

with his services as Transgrid chairman without

notice. Transgrid could become

quite a dysfunctional company.

I have people still in the

company this week ringing me

saying how sick they feel and

that there are 900 people there

that are wanting to know why

did the chairman get the sack

in 10 hours after 12.5 years of

solid toil. Transgrid has the

legislated obligation to

nominate a director to the

board of EISS, the Electricity Industry Superannuation Scheme,

with billions of electricity industry employees super money

under management. The Higginson

board decided to replace its

nominee David Croft with Transgrid's current managing

director Kevin nucleary. Mr

Droft croft had served several

eventually becoming chairman of terms on the EISS board

the scheme. But soon after

breaking the news to Mr Croft

that he was to be routinely replaced, Transgrid chairman

Higginson encountered flak from

the office of Transgrid's sole

shareholder, the NSW Treasurer who clearly wanted David Croft

to remain on the EISS board.

This culminated in Phillip

Higginson being suCPh(.ohael Higginson being summonsed to

Michael Costa's 31st floor

office at Governor Macquarie

Tower on November 2. Mr

Higginson, unwisely he now

acknowledges, attended that

meeting without a supporting

witness. He was confronted with

Mr Costa, two treasury foirnls

and to his surprise, Bernie

Riordan, deputy chairman of EISS, State President of the Australian Labor Party,

Secretary of the Electrical

Trades Union and an

acknowledged special friend of

Michael Costa. Now I have sign

ed a statutory statement that

I'm lodging with the courts and Quentin, with your permission,

I would like to refer to that

so that there be no, in the

court proceedings later, no

conflict between what I say now

and what I say then. Right. May

I do so? Sure. I'm going to

have to read this obviously.

When I'd taken a seat at the

table with the others, Mr Costa

opened the meeting by saying

"What's all this about then?

I'm annoyed that I even have to

be here at this meeting." Mr

Costa then, whilst looking at

Mr Riordan, who is seated on

his left, said to me "Why can't

you give this bloke the

director he's looking for?

Seems to be a reasonable thing

for him to be asking. They only

need him for a year." Now that

was at the first time I'd heard

that he was only required for a

year. "That doesn't seem

unreasonable, does it?" After a

pause Mr Costa said, "I'd like

you to write another letter

nominating Croft." And at that

stage, of course, the hair on

the back of my neck rose

slightly. I then said, "Well

we've already written a letter

nominating Mr Murray, the

company has followed proper

procedures and governance." Mr

Costa then said, "Don't you

lecture me about governance. I

can always sack you if you

don't agree, you know?" Was it

said as aggressively as you're

saying here? Absolutely. He's a

bloke who doesn't hold back and

he speaks his mind forcefully.

So he said, "Don't you lecture

me on - about governance, I can

always sack you if you don't

agree you know N fact I can

sack the whole board N fact I

can write a letter instructing

you to appoint Croft." Mr

Higginson said he asked for 24 hours to consider his position

on the appointment but soon

after he was informed by

treasury secretary John Pierce

that Treasurer Costa had comper

sided his unfetered discretion

under the Corporations Act and

would remove him as the

chairman of Transgrid without

notice. Opposition energy

spokesman Peter Seaton has now

Independent Commission Against referred the dispute to the

Corruption while other

Opposition members have asked

questions in Parliament about

Bernie Riordan 's directorship

of Chifley Financial Services,

a union's investment entity and

any potential conflict of

interest which may arise. The

concerns I've raised to ICAC

ICAC go to questions of

influence peddling, of threats

and of intimidation. Peta

Seaton has put on the parliamentary record other

concerns. Concerns were raised

to me that the director General

of the Department had phoned

the general manager of

Transgrid to pass on a message

that the spin doctors of the government would be brought

out, that reputations would be

put at risk if the outgoing

chairman didn't go quietly.

These are matters that we

raised in question time this

week in Parliament. Michael

Costa ducked those questions.

So now is the time for ICAC to take on this investigation and

get to the bottom of what

actually happened. This goes to

the heart of intimidation

tactics, threats, harassment

against someone who is

discharging his duties in the

interests of the taxpayers and

the people of NSW. Phillip

Higginson who says he has no philosophical objection to

trade unions, wants to know

why, over what started as a minor disagreement over a board

nominee, resulted in Minister

Costa using his extraordinary

powers to remove him as

chairman. So obviously to me

it's helping, and Michael did

come from the union movement,

we've just said, he's helping a

union maid mate. To me it would

indicate to me that the union

has tremendous power in the

running of the NSW Government

and I think it's appalling,

quite frankly, that over a

matter like this helping a mate

get his own nominee on the

board, that he would even contemplate pressing the

nuclear button and I think that

that should be used with great discretion and I'm looking

forward to the arguments in the

court as to whether or not he's

acted whilst under the law, strictly speaking, whether or

not there's a boundary that you

really can't step over in that

clause and that stepping over

for improper purpose. Is there

any concern that you should

flag to the public of NSW about

where this influence peddling

might be leading? I'm very

concerned that if the chairman

of Transgrid can be dismissed

on a whim within 10 hours over

an issue like this, that

something is happening at the EISS, something is happening. What? I have no idea

what but if I was APRA and if

anyone from APRA is listening

to this broadcast, I'd get down

there pretty quickly and have a

look at their governance

policies. APRA is the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. Stateline

is not suggesting that any

director of EISS is acting

improperly y. Bernie Riordan

declined an on camera interview

but in a statement to members

he denied any involvement in

the removal of Phillip

Higginson and said the

directors of EISS work together

to ensure the best outcomes for

members. He also denies any

conflict of interest in his

role as a director of Chifley

Financial Services. There's a

broader co-incidental context

to this dispute worth noting.

By Government instructions,

Transgrid is to be loaded with

hundreds of millions of dollars

of debt mainly from country

energy. Treasury is moving to

collect more dividend income

from all its utill tis as

Transgrid chairman Phillip

Higginson objected to State

Government policy to rewrite

the corporations industrial

agreements to remove its

employees from federal Work

Choices jurisdiction, Mr

Higginson is a member of the

Liberal Party and a friend of

Tony Abbott. A perception could

arise, Mr Higginson, that

because you are a member of the

Liberal Party you are raising

these issues publicly now four

months before the State

election for a party political

purpose and that is to

embarrass the State Labor government? Quentin, I have

only recently joined the

Liberal Party, in the last 18

months to two years, something

like that, I have been like that, I have been chairman

of Transgrid for 12.5 years. I

don't believe whether I'm a member of the Labor Party, the

Liberal Party, the Independents

or the Greens, that it has

anything to do with it. This is

a matter of good corporate

governance and directors

following their fiduciary

duties. In Parliament this week

Treasurer Michael Costa

rejected claims of union

cronyism or any ulterior motive

arising from the removal of Phillip Higginson as chairman

of Transgrid. Stateline sought

an on camera interview with Mr

Costa to canvas Mr Higginson's

complaints . Mr Costa denied

saying as the matter was stoon

soon to be before the court an

was the matter of a "Baseless"

refrling to the ICAC he was

unable to appear. Stateline

emailed Mr Costa's office with

specific questions including

one asking if Mr Higginson's

version of the November 2

meeting was accurate. Again Mr

Costa declined to comment

further. This afternoon Peta

Seaton announced she'd made

another reference to the ICAC

claiming interference in a Transgrid senior executive

appointment in 2005. And late

today lawyers for the

Government rejected an out of

court settlement. Mr Higginson

told Stateline his lawyers

would seek an injunction next

week arguing that his Transgrid

removal was unlawful.

It was never going to be a

good week for Opposition Leader

Peter Debnam. Last weekend

newspaper headlines revealed

the source of Mr Debnam's allegations against

Attorney-General Bob Debus, a

convicted paedophile who was

introduced to the Opposition

Leader's office by none other

than Liberal Senator Hef nan.

Senator Hef nan was forced to

apologise to Justice Michael

Kirby in March 2002 for having

wrongly accused him of using

Commonwealth cars to trawl for

male prostitutes. In the wake

of child sexual assault charges

against former Labor minister

Milton Orkopoulos, Peter Debnam

used parliamentary privilege to

imply that Attorney-General

Debus was under investigation

by the Police Integrity

Commission. This week the Attorney-General told

parliament the history of Mr

Debnam's paedophile source, a

man dubbed W26 by the Wood

royal commission and a man with

a shocking criminal history.

Sharon O'Neill reports on a week that left the Government

on a high and an Opposition

wondering how it could all turn

out so wrong. It was the start

of a new week for Peter Debnam,

an opportunity for him to make

up for the lost ground of the

previous week. Here we go

again, another list of

infrastructure proments promises from this Government but it's just a few months

before the election. But the

media had other issues on their

mind. On the weekend the

'Sydney Morning Herald'

revealed Mr Debnam's source on

the allegations about

Attorney-General Bob Debus to

be a convicted paedophile. What

role did Senator Heffernan in

crafting your attack on Mr

Debus. It goes to your question

before about sources. I don't

comment rt about sources the

same as you cone. Have you got

some more questions to ask Mr

Debus tomorrow.? Paul, I won't

signal what I'll do tomorrow or

Wednesday or Thursday. This

week was the final week of

parliamentary sittings before

the State election next March.

The last opportunity for Peter

Deb nanl to boost the morale of

his own troops by putting a

troubled Government under even

more pressure. Mr Speaker, my

question is to the Premier.

Will you confirm a complaint

was lodged with the Police Integrity Commission during

meetings on 23 and 30 January

this year about misuse of

ministerial power by the Attorney-General in a former portfolio and whether

assessment of the complaint was

ongoing or if it was dismissed,

tell us when. In relation to

ministers to the best of my

knowledge, no. In relation to

those three other questions the

answer is no, no, and no. But

it didn't end there. In

response to a question from his

own side about the now

notorious W26, Attorney-General

Bob Debus rose to give a full

account of the background to

the Debnam claims. The source

of Mr Debnam's claim is a

compulsive liar and a convicted

paedophile. In 1980 W26 was

convicted of 19 counts of

demanding money with menaces.

He used to pass female bank

tellers notes saying he would

"Blow their heads off." Mr

Speaker, W26 was later

convicted of sexually

assaulting an intellectually

handicapped minor and sexual

assault of a young boy. I have

never met W26 or spoken to him

ever but I have been the

subject of many complaints by

him, as many, many other people

have been over the years. And

what was W26 complaining about?

The answer from the Attorney-General was delivered

to an unusually silent

Parliament. Prison authorities,

victims and parents of victims,

10 years ago, wanted this

offender moved from one jail to

another so that he could not

confront and intimidate a

former child sexual assault

victim, then in the same

facility into changing his

earlier evidence that had led

to one of W26's many

convictions for child sexual

abuse. I am advised that when

W26's cell was searched by

prison authorities they found a

photo of the target of his

intended intimidation and

photos of dozens of other young

boys including the victim's

brothers. Later, I should say,

I received a let er from the

former leader of the NSW

Coalition Kerry Chikarovski.

She was at the time shadow

minister for crecks, not the

leader, and in her letter,

dated 27 April 1998, she

mentioned the name of the

mother and said she is very

distressed that her son is

being contacted by a fellow

inmate, W26, said Kerry

Chikarovski to me "I would ask

you to investigate my concerns

and assist this woman in what

ever way you can. Yours sin

serly Kerry Chikarovski." The

former Leader of the Opposition

supported the victim's mother. The present Leader of the

Opposition has supported the perpetrator. The focus was

again on Peter Debnam. Would

the Opposition Leader, who had

refused to name his source,

refute the Attorney-General's explanation? Peter Debnam's

claims are rotten and when

something is rotten, it's

rotten to the core.

Mr Speaker, my question is

- Get some character and resign

now. Mr Speaker, my question is

to the Premier. Given Bob Carr

has racked up a record $400,000

expense bill - It was a change

of tack that made his own

backbench squirm. For Peter

Debnam, the attempt to use the

privilege of parliament to

smear Bob Debus had failed. The

next day it was all about face

saving. Bob Debus brought up

W26, you didn't but when Bob

Debus brought him up did you

agree with ha he said about W26? Simon, I can't quite

remember all the things that he

said, it was a lengthy

distaition but I'm not going to

go into a discussion of that.

The point I'd make again on

this issue is my questions were

put to morse Iemma, I don't

believe he's answered them. How

do you feel about the fact that

your MPs are coming to us and

saying you're unhappy with what

you did yesterday? Louise I'll leave that for you to comment

on. Will you be persuing the

Bob Debus allegations Bob Debus allegations further

in parliament today? Anne, one

thing I've found it productive

to do in dealing with questions

about question time is not the

talk about what I'm going to do

in question time. Not

surprisingly, the Opposition

Leader did not ask any further questions about the

Attorney-General. In one of his

last questions, Mr Debnam

shifted the focus to water, but

as you'll hear, even that backfired. Given there's just

100 weeks worth of useable

water left in Sydney's dams, in

the absence of significant

rain, are you predicting level

four water restrictions will be

introduced before or after the

March election? My point of

order is that the question is

predicated on the assumption that the Government is going to

win the election next year and

you lot may have thrown in the

towel but the Independent s

haven't. And we all know who

the win rers going to be in the

election election and that's

going to be the Independents.

To Yass now, the town that's

fast becoming a satellite of

Canberra with people living

there and commuting to the ACT

for work. But there will always

be something of the

quintessential charm of an

Australian country town no

matter how developed Yass

becomes. In fact, at their

recent festival, they

resurrected an old rural

tradition - the showgirl.

The streets of Yass may not

be paved with gold, but hidden

treasures are about to be

discovered. It's showtime.Miss

Yass Showgirl to be exact. I'm

17 year s old. My name's

Catherine. Hello my name's

Kate. And unlike other towns

where Miss Showgirl is simply

missing through lack

missing through lack of

interest, here it's raining the

faid raidant faces of hope for

the first time in 10 years. I'm

Alicia, I've grown up in Yass.

I was born in Canberra but

grown up in Yass. My name's

Emma Cox and I'm 23 years

old. After a decade-long break,

the girls are back, frocked up

and ready for their date with

destiny. I think at the moment

the Australian army is moving

away from being the really

blokish, really male orientated

area. Now everyone's involved

so you have young women like me

in dresses an we can represent

the army in this because you

know it's OK to do that now and

so we can embrace our fem

anymority and be in the army at

the same time. And in is

Rachel's mun mum. Canberra

showgirl 1983. She still has

the picture tr the Land

magazine. The winner's sash,

and the determination to revive

the competition in Yass. It

really taught me that I could

do anything I set my mind to

and that it's really not so

much about what you know, it's

about how you feel and how you

communicate with other people

and that there is a great big

world out there full of

opportunity, all you need to do

is take the first step and

after all, isn't it true that

80% of success is just turning

up. I think it's one of the

areas where a lot of people are

going to now. Like the

complementry medicines. It's

not a beauty contest like so

many of the other contests that

they run now. So it's more

about your experiences and your

life journey and stuff and it's

a really good experience and

you don't have to be really

good looking to win. It's about your qualities and your

personal traits. Hi, I'm mon

yeeck Patterson, I'm 19 years

of age, I'm completing a

bachelor of nutrition and die

yettics at the yooufrts of

Canberra but I also work at the

local cafe and my passion is

horse riding, specifically

dressage. At the cafe, a highly unscientific Stateline poll unscientific Stateline po?m/ quickly establishes the show gs

girl competition is still

relevant and popular. It's not

just what they look like and

how they present themselves,

they have to know something

about the area. The more

representatives we get, the

more opportunity we have got of

representing the district and

then as Trish said down at the

Royal, which promotes Yass and

the district. There you go,

Helen. That's on television. I

operate excavator, bob cat, I

can drive a dozer. Just mainly

bobcats. My favourite is a

dozer. I like graders, they're

a little bit more controlling.

You've got to have a little bit

more knowledge on them and

training but they're hard. But

my absolute favourite is a D7

dozer because just the power

behind them and the things you

can do with them is just

amazing. It's time to sort the

D7s from the Tonka toys. It's

judgment hour. On the way to

the ceremony at Yass rodeo,

there's time to think. I just

don't want to fall over.

Imagine that, you fall over,

how embarrassing. Or your dress

flies up like mo neecks

does. Watch your dress because

it's windy up here. I

know. This competition is

actually a Statewide comp

taition and it's run by the

Land newspaper. The heels may

not tread a red carpet but the

destination seems almost as

glamorous. I feel as though I'm

on the Academy Awards or

something here. I think you're

all winners and I thank you

very, very much on behalf of

the Yass show society

committee. But despite the camaraderie just one must be

chose ton fly the Yass banner

at the regional finals and then

with luck, the Sydney Show. The

winner of 2007 show gs girl

competition is Ms Emma Cox.

Well done. You can tell

everyone she was the last

person and had to wait for her

interview for so long. Emma was

the last girl interviewed today

so she had to sit around and

wait all morning so

congratulations, Emma. Thank

you. Yass-onnians have lived

with many uncertainties -

droughts and floods, boom and

bust, wool up, wool down. But

until recent times always the

showgirl. Now she's back and

she's ready for the world. If

you have any girls who you

think should be in this

competition next year, please

look me up because this is a

fantastic opportunity and every

single girl here deserves to

win but it's a fantastic

opportunity for them to really

put themselves forward and say

hey, I've got what it takes to

represent Yass. Great carpet.

Thanks Phillip Williams. Now

some short stories from around the regions.

At Batemans Bay this week,

they celebrated the 50th

birthday of the bridge across

the Clyde River. Thousands turn

ed up for the party which

included a reenactment parade

of the bridge's opening and a

procession of schoolchildren

carrying lanterns on Saturday

night. New technology is being

used to track grey nurse and

great white sharks between

Batemans Bay and the north

coast. Underwater listening

devices are monitoring the

movements of already tagged

sharks so researchers can get a

better idea of feeding and

travelling patterns. Manning

valley tourism operators are

appalled at their treatment by

tourism NSW. The State body has

decided that in future only

local tourist material will be

available at Sydney's Rocks and

Darling Harbour information

centres. Taree council says

it's a Sydney sent rick

decision that's robbed them and

other regional tourism groups

of valuable exposure at one of

Australia's major tourism hubs.

And finally, a drunken bus

driver who drove schoolchildren

from Orange to Canowindra has

been banned from bus driving

for life. The 50-year-old

driver was more than five times

over the limit when police

pulled him over earlier this

month. He pleaded guilty and

will be sentenced in February.

And that's Stateline. The '7:30 Report' will be back on

Monday. Bye-bye. Closed

Captions by CSI Will drive

emergency specialists out of

NSW.

Do you regret this

decision? I don't regret any

decision I've matte made.

Hi, I'm Andy Muirhead,

and wherever you're watching right around Australia,

welcome to another big episode here on Collectors. THEME MUSIC Hello, guys. Hello, Andy. I'm really excited about tonight's show. Oh, that doesn't have anything to do with tonight's passionate collector, does it? Oh, it might do. Well, tonight it's Rusty Berther, and he's got a Simpsons collection. My favourite piece or pieces would probably be these chocolates from Israel. Delicious! And Justin's bringing us a story of heroism, bravery, and an auction house record.