ICAC: Hartcher in screaming match
Former Liberal energy minister Chris Hartcher and counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson, SC, trade verbal blows at the corruption inquiry into alleged illegal party donations.PT1M13S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-38k16 620 349 May 19, 2014
Tempers have reached boiling point at a corruption inquiry as former Liberal energy minister Chris Hartcher and the barrister leading the investigation shouted at each other across the hearing room.
Mr Hartcher, the alleged "mastermind" of schemes to channel tens of thousands of dollars in illegal donations to the Liberal Party, started giving evidence shortly before midday on Monday at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
He locked horns repeatedly with counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson, SC, who told him his memory was "deficient".
Former energy minister Chris Hartcher has appeared at ICAC on Monday.
Mr Hartcher said he could not recall "laundering" $4000 in Liberal Party cheques through his old law firm, Hartcher Reid, and directing the money be paid to Micky Tech, a company run by the partner of his long-term aide Ray Carter.
"I have already explained to you now on seven occasions that I don’t recall," Mr Hartcher snapped.
Mr Watson interrupted with, "Do it again."
Mr Hartcher said Mr Carter's evidence that Mr Hartcher asked him to give him the money was "wrong" but stopped short of calling him a liar.
"I want you to know what I will be putting, Mr Hartcher … you pocketed that $4000," said Mr Watson.
"I reject that absolutely!" said Mr Hartcher angrily.
When Mr Watson repeated the allegation, Mr Hartcher shouted, "I resent that!"
"Don’t you DARE tell me that you resent anything!" Mr Watson shouted in return.
As the pair continued yelling at each other, Alister Henskens, SC, for Mr Hartcher, added to the mayhem by shouting "I object!" over the top.
Commissioner Megan Latham was forced to intervene.
"Can we all back off right now … I don’t want things to degenerate into a screaming match," she said.
"They are both setting each other off and they need to take a backwards step."
Mr Watson then started afresh by suggesting calmly that Mr Hartcher had instructed Mr Carter to give false testimony to the commission and that he used his nephew, a solicitor at Hartcher Reid, to launder money.
After Mr Henskens objected once again to the use of the word "launder", which he said "had a particular meaning within the Crimes Act", Mr Watson stated: "I want to make it clear. I am putting that Mr Hartcher laundered the money through Hartcher Reid."
This was a "rolled up, emotive, sensational, media grabbing proposition", Mr Henskens responded.
The ICAC is investigating allegations that Mr Hartcher was involved in a number of schemes to "wash" illegal donations to the Liberal Party before the last state election.
One was an alleged "sham company" called Eightbyfive, which the inquiry has heard billed property developers and other companies for fake services to disguise the fact they were making illegal donations.
The company was set up by Mr Hartcher's former adviser, Tim Koelma.
Mr Hartcher, the member for Terrigal, has denied he was involved in the schemes.
Mr Hartcher is the last witness to give evidence before Operation Spicer adjourns until August 4 to give investigators time to examine new evidence implicating former police minister Mike Gallacher in "serious electoral funding irregularities".