Thursday, 27 March 2014
Member for Dobell, Donations to Political Parties
I am concerned about issues surrounding three New South Wales state MPs on the Central Coast who have been forced to resign from the Liberal Party, pending an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry. The member for Wyong, Darren Webber, is currently being investigated by ICAC, as are the member for The Entrance, Chris Spence, and the member for Terrigal, Chris Hartcher. The offices of Mr Webber and Mr Spence were raided by ICAC investigators in September last year. Then, in December last year, ICAC investigators raided the office of Mr Hartcher in Erina and took several items of computer equipment. Mr Hartcher has been a Liberal Party powerbroker and was the New South Wales Minister for Energy and Resources, Minister for the Central Coast and Special Minister of State. Following the ICAC raid on his office, Mr Hartcher resigned his cabinet position.
ICAC is holding public inquiries involving these MPs. The inquiries will examine whether certain members of the New South Wales parliament—including Mr Hartcher, Mr Webber and Mr Spence—corruptly solicited, received and failed to disclose political donations from companies, including prohibited donors contrary to the Election Funding Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981. The inquiries will examine if members concealed payments from various sources, in return for favouring the interests of those responsible for the payments.
In 2010-11, the current federal member for Dobell was the campaign manager for Darren Webber, when he was running for the state seat of Wyong. As the campaign manager, she reportedly claimed to have raised up to $100,000 for Mr Webber's state election campaign. It was also reported officially, in the Liberal Party's head office, that the fundraising figures were far less—$50,000 or even as low as $15,000. This is a major discrepancy.
Newspaper reports have pointed to claims by a local interest group, the Australian Coal Alliance, that it was advised to hold a fundraising dinner for Mr Webber in 2010. It is claimed that the former campaign manager for Mr Webber—now the current member for Dobell—suggested funds be donated by the Coal Alliance as a community group, rather than from an individual member, so the funds would not need to be officially declared. Further claims have been made that a company called Eightbyfive has allegedly accepted money on behalf of state Liberal MPs and candidates. It is alleged that this occurred through the business so that donors could avoid declaring official donations to the Election Funding Authority.
I note that the member for Dobell informed federal parliament on 27 February 2014 that she was not under investigation by ICAC and was not a person of interest. In September 2013, a reporter from the Daily Telegraphasked the member for Wyong why the federal member for Dobell was not returning phone calls. In response, the member for Wyong reportedly said, 'Anyone who has dealings with ICAC is not allowed to comment.' So does this mean that the member for Dobell has, in fact, had dealings with ICAC, but has simply not been free to comment?
I think the people of Wyong Shire deserve to know the truth. I would not like to pre-empt the ICAC public inquiry and the outcomes which may result. However, I am concerned about the good people of the Central Coast—particularly those in Wyong Shire—not being properly represented by their local members of parliament.
People on the Central Coast have had enough of ICAC hearings and corruption allegations. Instead, they want honest, fair and accountable local members who will serve the best interests of the community, not the best interests of themselves. I call on the member for Dobell to answer the following questions. How much money did she actually raise for Darren Webber's state campaign? Why was there a discrepancy between the reported amount and the amount declared to the Liberal Party head office? Were any campaign funds raised directly or indirectly from developers? What advice did she give the Australian Coal Alliance in relation to political donations and a fundraising dinner for Darren Webber at Kooindah Waters in 2010? What links or dealings has she had with the company Eightbyfive or its operator, Tim Koelma? What is and was her relationship with the former state minister Chris Hartcher?