Lawyer blasted for blocking ICAC fire escape

A lawyer appearing at a corruption inquiry into former New South Wales Labor ministers has been blasted for deliberately blocking a fire escape to stop reporters leaving the building.

An Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry has been hearing allegations former minister Eddie Obeid's family bought farms in the Bylong Valley area because they stood to profit $100 million from inside knowledge about mining licences.

It is alleged the information came from Mr Obeid's colleague, former mining minister Ian Macdonald.

At the start of today's evidence, the ICAC heard how lawyer Robert Macaulay stood in front of a fire escape on Wednesday afternoon to stop reporters approaching witness Andrew Kaidbay.

Counsel-assisting Geoffrey Watson told the inquiry Australia has "freedom of the press" and stopping reporters doing their job was not acceptable.

He said he would normally ask Commissioner David Ipp to withdraw the lawyer's leave to appear at the inquiry, but Mr Watson said he had not done that because it would take up too much time.

"Could I put it on notice that we would not expect lawyers granted leave to appear...

to see that as a means of inhibiting not only press access to a witness, but anyone's access to a fire escape," Mr Watson said.

Mr Kaidbay, a Sydney mortgage broker, left the building yesterday after giving evidence about his relationship with Mr Obeid's family.

The inquiry heard Mr Kaidbay was acting as a frontman for them when he was awarded a coal mining licence for the property Yarrawa.

But when asked about his coal mining experience, he said he had none - apart from seeing it on television.

The inquiry has also heard he gave false evidence at a private hearing in March to protect Mr Obeid's son Moses.

Eddie Obeid is yet to give evidence at the inquiry, which is expected to break on December 13 and resume at the end of January.

He has been suspended from the Labor Party during the inquiry but has vowed to clear his name.

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