Fund-raiser: John Hart. Photo: Supplied
A key fund-raiser for federal Treasurer Joe Hockey's electorate conference has been called to give evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into alleged illegal political donations.
John Hart is chairman of the North Sydney Forum, a controversial fund-raising body attached to the Liberal Party federal electoral conference in Mr Hockey's seat of North Sydney.
Mr Hart is also chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia, the national lobby group for the hospitality industry.
Joe Hockey. Photo: Supplied
In May, the ICAC heard that a lavish New Year's Eve 2010 fund-raiser for former NSW police minister Mike Gallacher – who is being investigated by the commission – was held at Doyle's at Circular Quay.
An invitation email tendered at the ICAC sent by restaurateur Peter Doyle states that Restaurant and Catering Australia "are holding the event".
Mr Doyle is vice-chairman of Restaurant and Catering Australia's NSW/ACT state council.
The ICAC has been investigating the fund-raiser as it was attended by executives from Buildev, a property development company associated with former mining magnate Nathan Tinkler that allegedly donated $66,000 to Eightbyfive, an alleged Liberal Party slush fund.
Property developers have been banned from donating to NSW election campaigns since December 2009.
Mr Hart is likely to have been called to give evidence in relation to the New Year's Eve fund-raiser. There is no indication the ICAC plans to question Mr Hart about his other fund-raising activities.
Buildev has recently been named at the commission as a donor to a Liberal Party candidate before the 2011 election and also as having bankrolled a campaign to unseat then member for Newcastle, Labor's Jodi McKay, who opposed a proposed coal loader at Mayfield supported by Mr Tinkler.
Last week, the ICAC heard evidence that former Newcastle MP Tim Owen was aware that Buildev had helped fund his campaign by contributing to the salary of his campaign co-ordinator Josh Hodges.
Mr Owen resigned from the NSW Parliament this week after admitting he lied to the ICAC about taking $10,000 from property developer-turned-Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy.
Mr Doyle has also been called to give evidence at the ICAC next week.
He and Mr Hart are due to appear on Tuesday, according to a witness list published by the commission.
Mr Doyle and Mr Hart said they were unable to comment.
The North Sydney Forum provides exclusive access to Mr Hockey in return for donations in the form of annual membership fees of up to $22,000.
However, Mr Hockey, the forum and the NSW Liberals refuse to disclose the names of its members.
On Friday, the federal opposition criticised Mr Hart's appointment to a paid position advising on reform to vocational education and training.
Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane announced Mr Hart will chair the new Vocational Education and Training Advisory Board, aimed at strengthening industry input into vocational education.
Labor spokeswoman on vocational education Sharon Bird said there were "legitimate questions" to be asked about the appointment of a high-profile Liberal Party fund-raiser to the role.
A spokeswoman for Mr Macfarlane said Mr Hart was qualified for the role.
"John Hart has 27 years’ experience in the hospitality industry and is the chairman of the Service Industry Skills Council and is on the board of the National Centre for Vocational Education Research,'' she said. ''Mr Hart has advised previous governments on skills matters."
The position is paid but the government has not decided Mr Hart's salary.