ICAC zeros in on Liberal Party donations
Former minister Chris Hartcher, a sham company called Eightbyfive and thousands of dollars of political donations are all in the cross-hairs of the latest Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry.PT0M0S 620 349
Nathan Tinkler, the embattled bogannaire from Newcastle, lived up to his nickname when he sent a text message to an associate last year saying: "Who is ICAC?"
It is an unattractive prospect that someone at ICAC would have to listen to Mr Jones's radio program
On receiving the reply, Tinkler responded: "Oh mate ur f---ing kidding me … "
"Who is ICAC?": Nathan Tinkler's text message to an associate. Photo: Sasha Woolley
Tinkler will know far more than he ever wanted to know about the corruption watchdog by week's end.
No doubt Mr Tinkler will be thrilled he donated so much money to the Liberal's slush fund Eightbyfive because its website boasts: "The Eightbyfive team has a penchant for dealing with the unexpected and unknown."
The hapless Tim Koelma, whose efforts to prove his innocence at the ICAC are being hampered by the destruction of documents in a flood in his garage, had another top-notch project on the ball.
Project "Black Ops" was Tim Koelma's ingenious scheme to destroy the career of Sydney Water chief Dr Kerry Schott. Dr Schott was proving to be a serious roadblock for Liberal donor Nick Di Girolamo getting a billion-dollar deal with the state government.
"Black Ops" use of an anonymous complaint to the ICAC did not work out so well as the ICAC investigators discovered Mr Koelma had used his brother to send in the complaint about Dr Schott.
The Liberal's chief fundraiser Paul Nicolaou was another arm of "Black Ops". He used the Millennium Fund letterhead to shoot off a letter to his friend Alan Jones on 2GB making all manner of baseless allegations against Dr Schott. They included terms such as "cover-ups" and "kickbacks".
Mr Nicolaou was hoping the broadcaster might repeat the allegations on air.
Whether this happened or not is unclear. "It is an unattractive prospect that someone at ICAC would have to listen to Mr Jones' radio program. It's limited resources are better directed elsewhere," quipped counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson, SC.
By day's end Mr Nicolaou had stepped down as chief fundraiser.
No doubt the good burghers of NSW will be pleased to hear that secret property developer donations were used to help launch the political careers of some of Chris Hartcher's office workers.
Take Darren Webber. His career leading up to election as the member of Wyong in 2011 is as follows: "Mr Webber was apprenticed as a smallgoods butcher, but that did not work out. He was then apprenticed as an electrician but that did not work out either."
After a stint in a call centre, Mr Webber volunteered to work part-time in Mr Hartcher's Central Coast electoral office.
He told the ICAC that the conservative faction of the party had triumphed in the area "because the central coast happening by virtue two census ago happened to be 98.7 per cent Anglo-Saxon background is conservative heartland [sic]''.
The member for The Entrance, Chris Spence, also had his electoral chances boosted by the developer dollars.
Mr Spence finished school in 1992. He then did some work in the security industry, and painting houses. He also worked intermittently in the office of the One Nation MP David Oldfield before joining Mr Hartcher's staff.
The inquiry heard that between 2009 and 2011 nine companies paid $414,042 to Eightbyfive. Of this Tim Koelma pocketed $265,000, Chris Spence $105,000 and Darren Webber $50,000.
The crossbenches of state Parliament are now crowded, with the three men being joined by upper house Liberal MP Marie Ficarra.