By James Atkinson

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) grilled former AHA NSW CEO Paul Nicolaou on regrettable comments he made in his first ever interview in the role, which set the tone for an at times disastrous relationship with the media.

Counsel assisting ICAC, Geoffrey Watson, SC, seized on TheShout’s January 2012 interview and Nicolaou’s ill-considered explanation for why he was appointed NSW pubs boss in ICAC hearings in April. An excerpt of the transcript is below.

In spite of the association’s best efforts to develop his media savvy, Nicolaou developed a reputation for unpredictability in public forums and interviews, not least his widely-condemned appearance on 4 Corners, where he made it all too easy for reporters to present the hotels industry as greedy and insensitive.

AHA NSW confirmed Nicolaou’s resignation earlier this week, with the ICAC's Operation Spicer inquiry set to resume on Wednesday. Acting CEO John Whelan will continue in the role until further notice.

Geoffrey Watson to Paul Nicolaou

Do you know of an industry magazine called TheShout?—It’s an online, it’s an online publication.

Did you give an interview in TheShout?—Yes, I did. 

Were you asked the question as to why you were selected, given the lack of experience in the industry, why you were selected as the CEO?—Yes, I did. 

And did you say this? “Well, look, it’s a Liberal Government. Let’s be upfront and honest, it’s no good beating around the bush, you’re not going to put a person with Labor ties in as the CEO.” Did you say that?—That’s correct. 

Why?—Well, they were asking me my assessment of why I got selected. 

But tell me, why wouldn’t you put somebody in with Labor ties?—Well, because you want to ensure that the Association is able to engage with the Government. 

Engage? For what advantage to the Association?—Just from the point of view of knowing who’s who in the zoo and also who um, you know, need to be um, consulted in particular matters in relation to the Australian Hotel Association.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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