‘Whatever it takes never urged an illegal act’: Graham Richardson bags claims of toxic influence

Who said politicians don't have a sense of humour? Vince Sorrenti with Graham Richardson.

Who said politicians don't have a sense of humour? Vince Sorrenti with Graham Richardson. Photo: Facebook

Graham ‘Richo’ Richardson, the man who came up with the NSW Right’s unofficial motto ‘Whatever it takes’, has rejected claims he is the golden thread that runs through a toxic culture.

The former Hawke Government minister posed with an Aldi bag on Monday with comedian Vince Sorrenti in homage to the donations scandal engulfing the NSW Labor Party.

But he told Sky News that the title of his memoir, Whatever It Takes, never urged criminality.

“Whatever it takes never urged an illegal act,” Mr Richardson said.

“I can also say that I never received $100,000 in an brown paper bag, or any bag, certainly not an Aldi bag.

“If anyone came up to you and said, ‘I’ve got 100 grand here in a paper bag’ wouldn’t some sort of alarm go off?’’

Graham Richardson in May 2003 after hearing his friend Rene Rivkin was sentenced to 9 months periodic detention and a $30,000 fine for insider trading. Photo: AAP

Mr Richardson, who first held the post in the 1970s, has remained a mentor for a generation of NSW ALP secretaries who always hail from the dominant right faction.

Former Labor Senator Sam Dastyari was in constant contact with Mr Richardson during his tenure at the ALP’s Sussex Street offices and Kaila Murnain often maintained daily contact with the Sky News host.

Mr Richardson quipped that a big failing of another ALP secretary, Jamie Clements, who also quit in disgrace, was he was appointed without ‘Richo’ knowing who he was, a confession of his powerful influence that sparked laughter from the program panellists.

The NSW Right powerbroker also declared he was still backing suspended ALP secretary Kaila Murnain, who has admitted signing misleading donations declarations, arguing she “had done nothing wrong”.

“I am sticking with Kaila Murnain. I don’t think she’s done anything wrong,’’ Mr Richardson said.

“All she admitted was being aware that someone else did something wrong.”

Mr Richardson said she was a person of “good repute”. And while she could survive the scandal, she wanted to quit the job.

“The shape she’s in, I don’t think it matters,’’ he said.

“She’s not a child. This is a hard job, and people make mistakes in hard jobs.”

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts interjected to infer that Mr Richardson’s influence had been stamped on a toxic party culture.

“Mate, you started the rot, I reckon,’’ Mr Roberts said.

“The Labor Party is corrupt.”

During the program, Mr Richardson was also asked about an opinion piece by former Julia Gillard staffer Sean Kelly, who was sharply critical of his influence.

“Let’s face it, I am a lightning rod for wankers,” Mr Richardson said.

Ernest Wong arrives at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) public inquiry in Sydney on Monday. Photo: AAP

On Monday, former NSW MP Ernest Wong told the anti-corruption hearing that Huang Xiangmo allegedly took a “big bag of cash” from a fundraiser to personally deliver it to Mr Clements.

The dinner, featuring a VIP table with Labor leader Bill Shorten and NSW leader Luke Foley, raised more than $100,000.

During the hearing, Mr Wong was repeatedly warned to consider carefully his evidence.

“Mr Wong, are you just making this up as you go along? Your evidence seems implausible,” counsel assisting Scott Robertson said.

Mr Wong was also forced to concede that after meeting Ms Murnain on September 16, 2016, and confessing he was concerned that Mr Huang was the true source of the $100,000 donation, he called Mr Huang and others associated with the processing of the original donation.

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