Witnesses must front up to explain suspicious SMS chain

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The NSW Opposition is calling for key witnesses to be recalled to the Parliamentary inquiry into the sale of the electricity network – following new evidence that Mike Baird’s office pressured investment bank UBS to revise a research note in favour of its privatisation plan.  

Records of correspondence indicate the Government subjected UBS to significant pressure to change the report due to “a fair degree of angst” from the Baird Government about the original version.

“These text messages raise serious questions about the Premier’s involvement in revising the research note,” said Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Industry, Resources & Energy Adam Searle.

"The text exchange indicates the Premier’s office exerted more pressure and influence in having the UBS report changed than the Premier and other witnesses were prepared to concede.

“The exchange appears to confirm that Guy Fowler of UBS investment banking was “working on” having the research report changed or fixed.

“This is contrary to the evidence given by UBS at the inquiry and would appear to breach the “Chinese Wall” arrangements, where the research arm is independent from the advisory body which is doing work for the Baird Government on the privatisation.

“Without full disclosure from both the Government and UBS, it will now be hard to avoid the conclusion that the report was changed to suit the interests of the NSW Government.

“If the Premier really thinks it was all above board, he should release all communication about the report within the government, with UBS and within the transaction team.

“UBS should also release all communications it had with the transaction team about the matter.

“The witnesses should come before the parliamentary inquiry again, to get to the bottom of how this research note’s review of the power sale transformed from ‘bad for the budget’ into a tick of approval.”