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Labor ministers deny being friends with Eddie Obeid

TWO senior Gillard government ministers have denied being friends with former Labor MP Eddie Obeid despite staying free of charge at his Perisher apartment.

The former New South Wales minister is the subject of an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into his business interests and allegations of corrupt mining deals.

In the final moments of Tuesday's proceedings Mr Obeid revealed several senior Labor party figures had been guests at his New South Wales ski resort.

Those figures included former NSW premier Morris Iemma, former NSW minister Carl Scully, and former federal Labor Minister turned lobbyist Mark Arbib.

After the hearing on Tuesday Environment Minister Tony Burke, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson also admitted to having stayed at Mr Obeid's apartment.Mr Burke updated his register of pecuniary interests on Tuesday, indicating he and his family had twice stayed at a Perisher Valley apartment owned by Mr Obeid in 2004 and 2006.

"I have absolutely no doubt that what I put on the register yesterday was not required … (and) was not required some years ago," Mr Burke told reporters in Canberra today.

"That was entirely in a personal capacity and it was long before I was minister.

"Since I have become a minister I have made sure that I disclose a lot more than what the rules actually demand."

While no members of the Obeid family were present during Mr Burke's stay, he did invite ministerial colleague Stephen Conroy to the apartment.

Senator Conroy, who was this week elected the government's Leader in the Senate, said he had no prior knowledge of who owned the apartment and it was "simply a spare bed for a couple of nights".

Asked why he had not previously declared the hospitality, Senator Conroy said: "Eight years ago, I didn't know there'd be an ICAC investigation, and I didn't think to ask who owned the apartment in case there was."

Senator Conroy also updated his pecuniary interests to reflect the accommodation.

The Perisher apartment is part of a ski resort called The Stables, which currently charges more than $8000 a week during the peak season for a stay in a lodge apartment.

Mr Burke also said it was a "big stretch" to describe Mr Obeid as a friend, considering he had not met him for many years.

"No one wants to be mentioned in the same breath as the deeply serious allegations that are quite properly being investigated in Sydney at the moment," he said.

"What's been the subject of discussion in respect to me over the last 24 hours has nothing to do with those allegations."

Topics:  australian labor party, eddie obeid, independent commission against corruption, inquiry


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