Another NSW Liberal MP Stands Aside Over ICAC Allegations Of Illegal Donations From Developer Nathan Tinkler

Londonderry MP and former Hawkesbury mayor Bart Bassett. Source: bartbassettmp.com.au

The Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) investigation into illegal developer donations to candidates in the 2011 NSW state election has widened its scope to see if Nathan Tinkler’s development company, Buildev, paid Londonderry MP Bart Bassett an $18,000 illegal donation.

After initially saying he would not comment on the allegation, Bassett announced this afternoon that he would join the six of his Liberal colleagues already on the crossbench due to ICAC revelations. In a statement, Bassett said rejected the allegations and planned to clear his name, but did not want to be “a distraction for the government or the Liberal party”.

ICAC commissioner Megan Latham announced this morning that the inquiry will look at whether Buildev was among companies that “influenced or sought to influence public officials, namely Bart Bassett to make planning decisions”.

Bassett was mayor of Hawkesbury council at the time of the donation and voted in favour of a contentious North Richmond residential development Buildev had an interest in.

Nathan Tinkler’s Buildev partner Darren Williams, was in the witness box on another day of extraordinary revelations. ICAC has documents that reveal Buildev’s relationship with Bassett dates back to 2007, when he became mayor.

The ICAC heard that Buildev contributed $18,000 Bassett’s Londonderry election campaign in 2010, a year after donations from property developers had been banned. The funds came via an alleged Liberal Party “front”, the Free Enterprise Foundation, and went towards political advertising.

Williams admitted during evidence that some of Bassett’s funding came from Buildev, but denied it was to buy influence.

“You don’t buy influence, you buy the opportunity to put your case forward,” Williams said, adding that otherwise it can take “months” to see an MP.

While Buildev was lobbying for the North Richmond development, they planned to land a helicopter at Bassett’s home for a meeting because it was “more private”.

The ICAC also heard about Buildev’s proposed plans to try and stop council opposition to the project, including Williams contacting former NSW ALP secretary Mark Arbib in a bid to silence a Hawkesbury ALP councillor opposed to the development. Ultimately, the company walked away from the 1400-lot project.

The ICAC also heard that Labor ministers were also intimately involved with Buildev and Williams admitted to being part of the group that worked to unseat the former Labor member for Newcastle, Jodi McKay with a dirty tricks campaign also engineered by former ALP powerbroker Joe Tripodi.

Bassett’s means nine NSW Liberal MPs have been implicated in the Operation Spicer investigation, including two who resigned a fortnight ago.

Tomorrow, former ALP premier Kristina Keneally returns to ICAC to give evidence, along with former MPs Tripodi, Eric Roozendaal, and Nathan Tinkler.

The SMH has more on latest ICAC bombshells here.

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