Garry Edwards must have known something horrible was afoot when his evidence at a corruption inquiry was interrupted by a mystery witness.
As the Liberal member for Swansea resumed his seat in the public gallery, John Macgowan, a senior adviser in the Baird government, made his way to the witness box. And what he had to say was devastating.
ICAC witness drops Bassett bombshell
Mark Regent who worked for Nathan Tinkler's building development company claims he was asked by now suspended Liberal MP Bart Bassett to make donations to his campaign.
Mr Edwards had just told the the Independent Commission Against Corruption that Newcastle property developer Jeff McCloy gave him an envelope in the time leading up to the 2011 state election.
He said he gave the envelope, without looking at its contents, to his campaign treasurer Max Newton, who had since died.
Mr Macgowan, a senior adviser to Nationals MP Duncan Gay, dropped a bombshell. He said he was summoned to a meeting with Mr Edwards and his staffer Nicholas Jones at 9pm on April 12.
Earlier that day, Liberal MP Tim Owen had been caught lying to ICAC about $10,000 in cash given to him by Mr McCloy, who had since resigned as Newcastle lord mayor.
Mr Edwards told Mr McGowan that Mr McCloy had also given him an envelope of cash but it contained "far less than the $10,000" Mr Owen and fellow MP Andrew Cornwell received.
"I advised him the best course of action was to tell the ICAC and to tell the truth," Mr Macgowan said. "I told him my experience was ICAC will find out and I knew the commission to be hearing from Mr McCloy the next day."
Sensationally, he told ICAC that Mr Jones and Mr Edwards agreed to conceal the donation, which was illegal under laws in NSW banning donations from property developers.
Mr Jones allegedly told him that "Mr Newton is deceased and couldn't dispute ... our version of events".
When the MP returned to the witness box, counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson, SC, said: "Mr Edwards, you got together with Mr Jones, didn't you, and agreed not to bring this matter before ICAC, isn't that right?"
"Absolutely not," replied Mr Edwards.
"And you came here today with the intention of telling a little bit of the truth mixed with a bunch of lies to fool ICAC, isn't that right?" Mr Waston said.
"Not at all," Mr Edwards replied.
Earlier on Wednesday, fellow Liberal MP Bart Bassett was similarly ambushed. He had told the hearing he had kept at "arm's length" from funding for his campaign and was not aware of any donations from Buildev, a development company co-owned by embattled coal mogul Nathan Tinkler.
"Did you ever seek any bribe, benefit or donation from Buildev?" asked his barrister Matthew Dicker.
"Never," replied Mr Bassett, the member for Londonerry.
Appearing after Mr Bassett was Mark Regent, who managed projects for Buildev.
In a surprise revelation, Mr Regent told ICAC that before the March 2011 election the then Liberal candidate "came to my office to talk about campaign funds ... [and] to ask us for us for assistance".
"In broad terms, he was talking about the difficulty of election funding," he said.
Mr Regent said Mr Bassett asked if there was "any way" Buildev could support his campaign.
"I said, 'we can't', and then he said, 'do you think you might be able to speak to Darren [Williams, the co-founder of Buildev]'," Mr Regent said.
He said he believed he passed on a message to Mr Williams and he received a response "along the lines of 'Bart's OK', or something had happened".
He added that Mr Bassett called some time later and said "can you thank Darren for the support".
The ICAC had heard Buildev arranged for an $18,000 donation to be made to Mr Bassett's election campaign via an alleged Canberra-based front organisation.
In a statement, Mr Bassett stood by his version of events. Both he and Mr Edwards are sitting on the crossbench with five of their Liberal colleagues after being suspended from the parliamentary party during the inquiry.
Former police minister Mike Gallacher, a central figure in the inquiry, started giving evidence on Wednesday.