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Inquiry into Newman assassination begins -

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Inquiry into Newman assassination begins

The World Today - Wednesday, 8 October , 2008 12:49:00

Reporter: Brendan Trembath

TANYA NOLAN: The man jailed for plotting Australia's first political assassination is the first
witness to be called to front a judicial inquiry into his conviction.

Phuong Ngo says he did not give evidence at the final trial, where he was convicted of killing NSW
MP John Newman in 1994, because his mother had died.

The judicial review was called after an academic raised concerns about some of the evidence
presented to the three trials.

Our reporter Brendan Trembath joins me from the hearing at the Supreme Court in Sydney.

Brendan how did Phuong Ngo appear when he gave evidence?

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Well, he calmly answered questions at this inquiry into his conviction. He was
brought from a maximum security jail where he's serving a life sentence. He's been in jail for the
past ten years.

Phuong Ngo wore a dark blue suit, he was a willing witness, he has been convicted of killing the
Labor Party MP John Newman in 1994. This is really his last chance to have a review of his
conviction, he's already faced the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal, but had no luck there.

This is a special inquiry.

The inquiry's heard that the men were members of the Labor Party's right faction but they were not
friends.

TANYA NOLAN: And why do you think he mentioned his mother's death?

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Well this is important because, it's to do with why he didn't give evidence in
his third trial. He faced several trials: one of them was aborted; one resulted in a so-called hung
jury, essentially when a jury can't agree on a verdict; the third trial resulted in his conviction.
But he only gave evidence at his second trial, and not the third and he was asked why this was,
because this might have a bearing on his case.

He has told the inquiry that his mother died in March 2001, she died on the 20th of March in
Vietnam, Mr Ngo is originally from Vietnam, but he didn't find out about her death until a few days
later.

He has told the inquiry that he did not give evidence because he just gave up, and he took the
advice of his lawyers not to give evidence.

TANYA NOLAN: What weight will this judicial review carry?

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Well it can carry fairly significant weight, these are relatively rare in New
South Wales, there have only been a couple. This particular one was ordered by the Chief Justice.
But previously there have been judicial reviews into the convictions of people like Tim Anderson,
he had his conviction quashed, he was accused of involvement in the bombing of the Hilton Hotel
during a Commonwealth heads of government meeting in the 1970s.

But his conviction was quashed, so there can be quite a dramatic effect at the end of these
inquiries. At the end of this one it's likely that the former district judge conducting it will
make recommendations to the state's Chief Justice about what should happen next.

TANYA NOLAN: Our reporter at the Supreme Court in Sydney, Brendan Trembath.