LIBERALS ARE WINNING THE CORRUPTION COMPETITION HANDS DOWN.
Liberal MP becomes the latest scalp
A sensational corruption inquiry has concluded by claiming a
10th NSW Liberal scalp, with Port Stephens MP Craig Baumann sent to the
crossbench amid allegations he took secret developer donations.
This brings to 12 the number of state and federal Liberal politicians
who have resigned or stood aside after corruption inquiries this year.
One, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, told the Independent Commission Against
Corruption on Friday he did not accept ''any responsibility'' for the
NSW Liberal Party accepting donations from prohibited donors during the
past state election campaign.
Operation Spicer, which concluded nine weeks of public hearings on
Friday, investigated allegations that the NSW Liberals accepted money
from banned sources before the 2011 election.
Senator Sinodinos was then the chairman of the party's finance
committee. He gave evidence he was unaware property developers, who
have been prohibited from making political donations in NSW since
January 2010, were donating to the campaign.
''Property developers as defined by whom?'' he asked.
''What's your problem? Don't you know what a property developer is?'' counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson, SC, asked.
The biggest donor, a shadowy Canberra-based organisation called the Free
Enterprise Foundation, allegedly ''washed'' almost $700,000 in illicit
donations, channelling the money to the NSW Liberal Party.
''What about this for a pub test: the chairman of the finance committee
of the Liberal Party didn't know the identity of the single largest
donor to the Liberal Party in an election campaign. What do you think
about that?'' Mr Watson said.
Senator Sinodinos said it was the responsibility of the party agent, finance director Simon McInnes.
He also said if he was present when the party's former chief
fund-raiser, Paul Nicolaou, suggested using FEF to wash funds ''it went
over my head''.
Mr Baumann joined the crossbench after the inquiry heard he took $79,684
in secret donations from developers Jeff McCloy and Hilton Grugeon
before the 2007 election. Mr Baumann, the former mayor of Port Stephens,
admitted he hid the donations by means including a ''sham'' invoice.
Although this occurred before the 2010 developer donations ban, he
agreed the reason for hiding their identity was that both developers
could have profited from a proposed development at Wallalong, near
Mr McCloy and Mr Grugeon denied they were trying to ''buy'' influence and the MP denied making any favourable decisions.
Mr Baumann's accountant, Vince Heufel, admitted he donated $100,000 he
owed Mr Baumann's company to his client's campaign. This reduced the
company's tax bill.
''I knew that tax evasion was a criminal offence but … I wasn't thinking along those lines.''