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'My hard drive is broken': Liberal MP Chris Spence tells ICAC he has no documents

Date

Michaela Whitbourn, Kate McClymont

Chris Spence arrives for his appointment with ICAC this morning.

Chris Spence arrives for his appointment with ICAC this morning. Photo: Nic Walker

A state Liberal MP accused of taking illegal developer donations has claimed he can't produce documents to a corruption inquiry because his computer hard drive was "destroyed".

Chris Spence, the member for The Entrance, told the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Friday that his computer stopped working in late January 2011.

"I took it to a computer place to try and get it fixed and it was irreparable," Mr Spence said.

Nathan Tinkler arrives to give evidence at ICAC on Friday.

Nathan Tinkler arrives to give evidence at ICAC on Friday. Photo: Nick Moir

The ICAC is investigating allegations the property developer Gazal family bankrolled Mr Spence's successful 2011 election campaign.

The inquiry has heard the money was channelled through a "sham" consulting company called Eightbyfive, which issued "fake" invoices for services to disguise the fact that businesses were making payments in breach of the 2009 ban on developers making political donations.

Mr Spence, who was a staffer in Liberal MP Chris Hartcher's parliamentary office from 2007 to early 2010, told the inquiry that he gave public relations, political and media advice to the Gazal family in return for $9504 a month.

Asked if he could produce one "crummy, flimsy piece of paper" to support his claims he did valuable work for the family's company, Gazcorp, Mr Spence said: "No."

He said he was working as a "freelance political consultant" but agreed he had no business plan, no business cards or letterhead, and had only one client - Eightbyfive.

His previous employment history was as a prison guard, house painter, surveillance operative at Canberra casino, the president of the Canberra branch of One Nation and a former staffer to One Nation MP David Oldfield.

The inquiry heard that Mr Spence entered into a retainer with Eightbyfive while he was still working in the office of Mr Hartcher, who was then shadow energy minister. Money from the Gazals, which came via Eightbyfive, was his sole source of income leading up to the 2011 election.

Mr Hartcher, who resigned last year as energy minister after the ICAC raided his central coast electorate office, has been accused of being the "mastermind" of the Eightbyfive scheme.

The money was allegedly used to fund the Liberal Party's successful campaign for Mr Spence's seat and the nearby seat of Wyong, which was won by Darren Webber.

"I just want to put to you that the whole thing is a shabby joke," counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson, SC, said.

"I disagree," Mr Spence replied.

He denied he was involved in an "electoral funding fraud".

Mr Spence, who received more that $100,000 from Eightbyfive, claimed he only found out later that his friends the Gazals were paying money to Eightbyfive, which then paid him.

When asked if he thought it would have been politically damaging if it was known that he was being paid by a developer, Mr Spence said, "I don't think it's a bad look."

The Central Coast MP has stood aside from the parliamentary Liberal party for the duration of the current inquiry, along with Mr Hartcher and Mr Webber.

Mr Spence agreed that he had given the ICAC a "reconstruction" of a May 2010 invoice from Eightbyfive to the Gazals but said it was because the real invoices were on his destroyed hard drive. He said he created new invoices for accounting purposes.

He agreed he had charged and collected GST - totalling over $7000 - but did not remit it to Australian Taxation Office.

Asked if he was aware this was an offence, Mr Spence said: "I don't believe so."

He agreed that he was referring to the Gazals when he texted the alleged controller of the Eightbyfive slush fund, Tim Koelma, in August 2010, "can you see if my friends have been helpful?" and "have my guys shown some love?"

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