Labor MPs dismiss Obeid links as 'smear'


Senior Labor figures have dismissed as "smear" coalition attempts to link the federal party to the New South Wales corruption inquiry targeting former state Labor MPs.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has heard former NSW Labor factional player Eddie Obeid offered free accommodation at his family's Perisher Valley ski lodge to many Labor members, including federal ministers Tony Burke and Stephen Conroy and former senator Mark Arbib.

Mr Burke stayed twice while Senator Conroy stayed once at the apartment owned by the Obeid family.

Bill Shorten's name was also raised, but apparently in error, with the employment minister denying he had ever been to Perisher.

Senator Conroy, Labor's senate leader, volunteered he had stayed at the apartment in 2005 or 2006, as a guest of Mr Burke but said he had never met Mr Obeid.

"I've never had so much as a cup of coffee with him," he told ABC Radio.

Mr Burke said the allegations before ICAC were "deeply serious" and while it was quite proper they be investigated, the inquiry had nothing to do with him.

"But obviously you would rather not be part of it," he told reporters.

Mr Burke described Mr Obeid as a "colleague" from the days when he was in the NSW state parliament, adding it was a "big stretch" to call him a friend.

Asked if Mr Obeid or Obeid family members had made representations to him as a minister, Mr Burke said: "No."

Mr Burke said if the ICAC allegations were proven it would constitute a "complete abuse of public responsibility".

"Thank heavens we have an ICAC in NSW that is investigating it," he said.

Both ministers have now included their ski lodge stays in parliament's pecuniary interest register, even though personal gifts don't need to be declared under the rules.

Labor frontbencher David Bradbury defended Mr Burke and Senator Conroy, saying it was "smear by association".

"There is no substantive allegation that is being made here," he said.

"It appears to me to be just a little bit more of the smear of association that the Liberal Party seems so good at."

Labor backbencher Doug Cameron dismissed as "press hyperbole" attempts to link NSW Labor "disease" to federal Labor, which is facing a voter backlash in key seats in Western Sydney.

There is lingering disenchantment with Labor in NSW since the 2010 election wipe-out that delivered state government to the coalition.

Federal Liberal frontbencher Scott Morrison questioned Mr Burke's and Senator Conroy's judgment.

"There is an old saying in this life that you can't choose your family but you do choose your friends, and it is clear that Eddie Obeid has friends in Julia Gillard's cabinet," he said.

ICAC is investigating claims former NSW minister Ian Macdonald rigged a 2008 tender process for coal exploration licences in the Bylong Valley and whether Mr Obeid and his family gained financially.