Newcastle MP Tim Owen has resigned from the NSW Parliament after confessing to the Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into illegal donations that he lied under oath.
Charleston MP Andrew Cornwell, who admitted he accepted an illegal $20,000 donation from property developers, also resigned, the speaker of the NSW Parliament announced this afternoon.
The pair had been sitting on the crossbench after stepping aside from the Liberal Party as the ICAC revealed a growing web of illegal donations from developers in the Hunter region. Owen planned to step down at the election in March next year, after just one term.
Their departures save NSW Premier Mike Baird from further embarrassment after he refused to support a Greens motion to expel the duo from Parliament earlier today.
The Premier labelled the motion a stunt and political game, arguing that the MPs had “the right to due process”.
But prior to their resignations, Baird called on the MPs to “consider their positions”.
“I think it’s fair to say that every person across NSW will feel appalled, they’ll feel angry and they’ll feel betrayed by events they’ve seen over the past couple of days,” the Premier said.
At the ICAC on Tuesday morning, Owen admitted he lied about returning $10,000 in cash to Newcastle mayor and property developer Jeff McCloy. Owen said they met on Sunday and shook hands after agreeing to lie while giving evidence, saying only $2000 was involved and it was returned.
Today Owen said it was $10,000 and it went towards his 2011 election campaign.
Donations from developers are illegal in NSW. Lying under oath can attract a jail term of up to five years.
McCloy is now also under pressure to step down.
The ICAC was told that the Newcastle mayor will give evidence that Owen told him he swore “on a stack of bibles” to his wife that he did not take illegal donations and that she would divorce him if he had. Owen denies it.
Voters in Newcastle and Charleston will now have to return to the ballot box before the planned 2015 election to replace the two Liberal MPs.
The SMH’s Kate McClymont has the details here.
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