Emails another brick in foundation of federal ICAC
There are more calls for a federal anti-corruption body to be set up, as builders’ donations continue to trouble NSW politicians.
Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) hearings continue in Sydney this week, including a set of emails that have just been approved for media publication.
The previously banned emails were sent from the chief fundraiser of the NSW Liberal Party Paul Nicolaou to Peta Credlin, Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief of staff and key advisor.
The emails were CC’d to Brian Loughnane, the federal director of the LNP and husband to Ms Credlin.
They show a series of events wherein Brickworks, one of Australia’s largest brick and building material firms, donated massive amounts to the NSW Liberal Party.
The ICAC heard that Brickworks used the Free Enterprise Foundation - a secretive Canberra-based organisation which appears to exists for no other purpose than to channel money toward the federal LNP - to help move $125,000 in illicit donations to NSW Liberal candidates for the 2011 state election.
One of the previously-suppressed emails shows Brickworks relaying its stance on the Carbon Tax to the LNP in 2011.
Brickworks subsidiary Austral Bricks became a case-study for the LNP, as an example of a company that could have been negatively impacted by the tax.
It was titled ‘Re Carbon Tax’.
“Dear Peta,” the message from Paul Nicolaou to Ms Credlin reads.
“Please note below from Lindsay Partridge the MD of Brickworks the largest producer of bricks in Australia and a very good supporter of the Party.”
He then attached an earlier message from Lindsay Partridge, the MD of Brickworks, which read;
“Paul, Tell Tony to stick to his guns on no carbon tax.
“I am running an internal fight with the BCA [Business Council of Australia] who seem to be driven by a few companies who will make bundles out of the tax.”
“We want certainty that there is no new tax.”
Ms Credlin jumped on the chance.
“Lindsay provided a great line for Question Time,” she said in a reply message to Mr Nicolaou.
“Do you have a number that I might be able to contact him on and see if he was happy for us to use it...”
An exchange between the Brickworks director Mr Partridge and LNP donation-collector Mr Nicolaou indicates that the Free Enterprise Foundation is being used to move money to the NSW Liberals through the federal LNP.
"Paul, via the diversionary organisation there is $50k for NSW,” a message from Partridge to Nicolaou said.
“$250k in total.”
Mr Nicolaou (who was getting six per cent of all donations he collected) then emailed the finance director of the NSW Liberal Party for a quick boast.
“Please note! Another $50k for us via Free Enterprise Foundation from Brickworks,” he wrote.
For former Supreme Court judge Stephen Charles, the ongoing situation in the NSW ICAC shows that a federal body needs to be established to deal with the national level of dodgy behaviour.
“We've been calling for a federal anti-corruption body for a long time,” Mr Charles told ABC reporters
“Sydney is simply an example of what happens in an environment where there is plenty of money - it means that corruption follows.
“Anywhere where people are in a position to spend money and [hold] influence and power, there will be others seeking to obtain them. And Canberra is where most of these things are to be found.”
But Mr Charles said there is no appetite for a federal anti-corruption court amongst the people it would have the power to investigate.
“The natural reaction from politicians in Canberra is a total lack of enthusiasm, understandably,” he said.
“When they see what is happening in Sydney and in any place where you've got a good, functioning anti-corruption commission, naturally they do not want that sort of overview and surveillance of operations in their area.
“The trouble is that, when you look at Canberra and you look at its history, there are any number of examples of corruption by individual officials in Customs, in Defence, even in Treasury.”