Garry Edwards, member for Swansea, opposed the Buildev marina proposal for Swansea. I WAS practically in despair over all this ICAC stuff.
I mean, we’ve had allegations that former Labor puppet-master Joe Tripodi worked hand in hand with Nathan Tinkler to bring down Labor MP Jodi McKay in the seat of Newcastle because she wouldn’t back Tinkler’s coal-loader.
Why the hell would he do that? The ICAC reckons Mr Tripodi might have been planning a post-politics career working for Buildev, one of Mr Tinkler’s companies, but surely not?
Would any politician put their own financial interests above their government, their party, a city and a whole state full of voters?
I’m sure another explanation will emerge.
Though the ICAC has been sending me into a slough of despond, what with alleged bags of cash, fake invoices and tales of conspiracies, one small portion of the ICAC transcript cheered me up a little.
That was the bit where, in 2011, the new Liberal member for Swansea, Garry Edwards, came out publicly against another plan by Buildev for some kind of mega-marina on the waterfront at Swansea.
The Newcastle Herald wrote about it at the time. Mr Edwards thought the idea of handing a heap of super-valuable public land over to Buildev sucked and he said so. He backed keeping it public and improving it with public funds.
His stern position was not appreciated in some quarters, as you might imagine.
The contracts manager at the Daracon Group, a Liberal lawyer named Hugh Thomson who is now assisting the ICAC in return for a certain amount of immunity from prosecution, sent a pungent email to two of Mr Edwards’s Liberal colleagues.
The Daracon office-bearer emailed Newcastle MP Tim Owen and Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell, saying: “Not sure if you guys feel up to reminding Garry who paid for the lion’s share of his campaign. Picking a fight with Buildev is not a smart move, particularly if he hasn’t engaged with them privately.”
(By the way, this probably isn’t relevant to anything, but Mr Thomson managed Mr Owen’s election campaign.)
Ouch. So there it is. Mr Thomson appeared to be under the impression that donations to a politician’s campaign are expected to be repaid with some sort of loyalty, or consultation at least.
Who knew? I thought developers paid politicians because they love the idea of democracy and they want to nurture a free and fair society where all are equal before the law.
I thought developers always put little notes on their donations that told the politicians to be careful not to do them any special favours, and to vote against their proposals if they felt that was best for the wider community.
But maybe I was wrong after all.
So, you’re wondering what happened next at Swansea, right?
Well, the Buildev plan didn’t get up.
And it turns out that the ICAC, despite looking as hard as it can, hasn’t been able to find any evidence that Buildev paid anything for Mr Edwards’s campaign, so maybe Mr Thomson was wrong about that one.
Mr Edwards apparently resisted approaches by at least one senior Liberal who was trying to sell him on the positive aspects of the Buildev plan, apparently using rough words to discourage him.
Brownie points for Mr Edwards, it seems.
I like to think the member for Swansea would have used the same rough words to his seniors in the party if Mr Thomson had been right and if Buildev really had funded the lion’s share of his campaign.
But isn’t it disturbing, this mistaken perception that some people appear to have, that campaign contributions from rich developers must be repaid in the coin of a friendly attitude to those developers’ plans?
That’s the kind of thinking that led to the government making donations from developers illegal, which in turn led to this whole mess in Newcastle where civic-minded businessmen with development industry interests were obliged to support democracy in awkward and cumbersome ways that the ICAC is now investigating.
Soon, perhaps, the High Court will rule that the ban on developer donations is invalid.
If that happens, then we can all get back to business as usual, open slather and no questions asked.