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Mundine removal not on agenda - 12.10.2005

State Government denies it is plotting to unseat Mick Mundine. Report Alexandra Walker SydneyCentral Courier 12 October 2005.

A senior Labor Party staffer has rejected claims he discussed removing Mick Mundine as chief executive of the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC), calling the accusation "complete baloney".

The claims surfaced late last week, when Ray Jackson from the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) accused two Labor party staffers of raising the idea of replacing Mr Mundine during a September 28 meeting at Mr Jackson's Waterloo home.

Mr Jackson has since published his account of the meeting, saying in a statement:

"They then moved their agenda that [sic] involved their wishes to find an organisation that would remove Mick Mundine from the Aboriginal Housing Company, and for that organisation to then work with the [State] Government on solving the Block issues."

Warwick Neilly, a senior advisor to NSW Premier Morris lemma, confirmed that he and Nathan Rees (chief of staff for Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Milton Orkopoulos), visited Mr Jackson on September 28. However, he said that Mr Mundine was only mentioned in "passing commentary during a bit of incidental conversation about the Block".

Mr Neilly said Mr Jackson's claims were inaccurate.

The main focus of the meeting he said was to discuss issues surrounding the tragic death of T.J. Hickey. Mr Jackson has been campaigning to have the inquest into the teenager's death reopened.

Mr Orkopoulos’ office similarly maintained that Mr Mundine and his position at the AHC were not discussed in depth at the meeting.

“Nathan Rees and Warwick Neilly met with Ray Jackson of the Indigenous Social Justice Association in response to an invitation Ray sent to the Premier and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, to attend forum on the Block," a spokesperson for the Aboriginal Affairs Minister said. "Neither the Premier nor the Minister could attend the forum, so a private meeting was arranged to established a dialogue with Mr Jackson."

The spokesperson acknowledged that Mr Mundine's name was mentioned during the talks, but denied it was said that the Government was seeking to remove him from his post.

"No, the Government does not hold that view that Mick Mundine should be replaced," the spokesperson said. "Nor was that view expressed."

The claims were the latest in a series of run-ins involving the AHC arid the NSW Government.

Newly appointed Opposition Leader Peter Debnam has weighed into the debate challenging the Premier to take over responsibility for the Redfern-Waterloo Authority from Frank Sartor.

Mr Debnam, who assumed the role as Opposition Spokesperson for the area, has said that if was elected Premier he would approve an AHC plan for the site involving 62 new dwellings, as well as other commercial, educational and sporting facilities.

Mr Sartor has since labelled Mr Debnam's announcement a "political stunt".

"Six months ago the opposition wanted to bulldoze the Block as the only way to deal with the problems," he said. "Today they want to save it and fund it.”