ICAC inspector David Levine is being questioned by a parliamentary inquiry over the commission’s probe into crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen.
Levine’s report into ICAC’s decision to investigate Cunneen over allegations she had encouraged her son’s girlfriend to fake chest pains to delay a breath test after a car accident, called the investigation into Cunneen a ‘debacle’ among other things. The report sparked a bitter feud with ICAC commissioner Megan Latham, who last month told the inquiry that the report was so ‘fundamentally flawed’ it should be disregarded.
But the ABC reported that Levine defended his appearance before the inquiry yesterday, in an opening statement that lasted nearly 40 minutes.
“Let me make it perfectly clear that I warrant my report to this Parliament,” Levine said.
He said that no one would have guessed that a simple car accident “would have led to the most demeaning but nonetheless occasionally bemusing blood-letting war between the two major media groups in this country”.
Despite saying he wouldn’t engage in a debate over every disputed fact, he did dispute a number of statements made by Latham, including her denial that she had a personal history with Cunneen presenting a conflict of interest.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that Cunneen had launched an attack on ICAC, highlighting the impact of the media on government agencies during a speech to guests at a private lunch at NSW Parliament House yesterday.
“There is much more vicious and vociferous attack on people shamed in the media by or because of the methods of these government agencies than there is on murderers, terrorists and paedophiles,” she claimed.
She said that a damaging headline bringing “carefully selected by as yet untested scrap of information” released by such agencies to the public has only been made worse with the 24-hour news cycle.
The inquiry confirmed it had decided not to publically release phone tapes of conversations Cunneen had after the accident, but much of it has already been leaked to the media. Various media outlets have previously confirmed that Cunneen is heard telling a tow truck driver that she had sent a message to her son’s girlfriend telling her to fake chest pains. Cunneen has denied any wrongdoing.
“What was said in puffery after the event, [and] bore no relationship to what actually happened,” she told the ABC.