The leak on NSW liberal donors

According to The Australian property developers look like they are still big donors to the NSW Liberal party.

Is this why Mike Baird’s Government is so keen to force council amalgamations despite 82% of Sydney metropolitan residents being opposed to it?

From The Australian Revealed: the angry donors in NSW Liberals scandal (March 31, 2016):

The full list of the secret donors involved in almost $700,000 worth of payments at the heart of the NSW Liberal Party election donations scandal has been ­revealed in leaked financial records.

Documents obtained by The Australian show 73 payments by individuals and companies were funnelled through the Liberals’ controversial Canberra-based trust, the Free Enterprise Found­ation, to the party’s NSW division before the 2011 state election.

As the NSW Liberal Party ­attempts to reach a settlement with the NSW Electoral Commission in order to receive $4.3 million in funding it is withholding in the lead up to Malcolm Turnbull’s election campaign, the party is facing the prospect of legal action by property developers, furious they were encouraged to make the donations via the trust.

The payments include major donations from Lang Walker’s Walker Group Holdings, Nathan Tinkler’s Boardwalk Enterprises and Frank Lowy’s Westfield.

They strongly hit back at the Liberal Party yesterday, saying their financial support was not ­intended for the March 2011 state election in NSW — the only state in Australia where donations from property developers are banned.

NSW property developer Tim Gunasinghe, who donated through his company Printban Pty Ltd, has not ruled out launching legal action against the NSW Liberal Party and said he was also unaware his donation would be directed to the state division.

“We were approached by them as a lobby group to help developers try to get through red tape,” he told The Australian.

Donations were made via the Free Enterprise Foundation and were then directed to NSW ahead of the 2011 state election, where former premier Barry O’Farrell was elected in a landslide victory.

In total, 79 donations were made via the Free Enterprise Found­ation but six, including payments from Crown Inter­national Holdings, Harry Triguboff’s Meriton Premier Apart­ments and Xiang Rong Invest­ment Group, were directed to the federal campaign or to other states.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Australian Electoral Commission have previously disclosed donors to the Free Enterprise Found­ation but, for the first time, The Australian can reveal which donations were funnelled into the NSW Liberal Party coffers, potentially unlawfully.

Mr Tinkler’s donation of $53,000 to the Free Enterprise Foundation ended up in NSW Liberal coffers, despite the fact that property developer donations were banned in NSW in January 2010. “It was absolutely for federal party. Had no idea it would go to state, I gave that same evidence at ICAC,” Mr Tinkler told The Australian in a text.

Not all of the money received by the Free Enterprise Found­ation was from prohibited property developers; some companies donated to the trust for privacy.

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It will be a highly contested process to define which donors were property developers.

According to the NSW Elect­oral Commission, a company is a property developer if it regularly makes planning applications for a residential or commercial development of land with the intention to sell or lease the land for profit.

Under this definition, the NSW Electoral Commission is likely to argue that other donors are property developers, such as Westfield, which leases shop space to retailers.

The leaked NSW Liberal Party financial records show Mr Lowy’s Westfield made a $150,000 dona­tion via the Free Enterprise Found­ation. The money was then used for the 2011 state election.

“Westfield was asked by representative­s of the Liberal Party to direct the funds to the FEF, an entity based in Canberra,” a Westfield spokesman said.

Mr Walker’s Walker Group Holdings donated $100,000 via the foundation. That money also ended up in the state division’s coffers. “This was a donation to the federal Liberal Party and was not intended­ to go to the NSW Liberal Party at any time,” a spokesman for the company said.

The donations from Walker Group, Westfield and Boardwalk to the Liberal Party were made in December 2010, a few months after the federal election.

The Australian is not suggesting that the companies or indiv­iduals who donated to the Free Enterprise Foundation acted inappropr­iately.

The NSW Liberal Party will offer to pay a fine of about $600,000 — or equivalent to the amount of potentially unlawful donations — when it meets the NSW Electoral Commission later this week to amend its 2011 ­donation disclosures and, in turn, it will ask the commission to ­release the balance­ of the $4.3m in state funding that it has threatened to withhold.

The Liberal Party has not ruled out taking the commission to the Supreme Court if it continues to withhold the campaign funds needed for the upcoming fed

 

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