A prominent Tweed businessman gave the National Party a $175,000 loan after the ban on developer donations came into effect in 2009, Sydney media has revealed.
The revelation this morning has sparked calls for the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to probe developer donations to the National Party on the north coast in the same way the state Liberal Party has been investigated.
The current ICAC investigation into illegal developer donations has led to the resignation or standing aside of up to 10 NSW Liberal MPs and forced Newcastle’s mayor to quit in disgrace.
The National Party, according to a News Corporation report, faces having to repay a $3,000 donation it received for its state election campaign after it emerged that it came from leading Tweed National Party identity Idwall Richards, who is also a Kingscliff developer.
Labor’s shadow minister for the north coast, Walt Secord, said, ‘It appears that prohibited donations aren’t just the sole domain of the NSW Liberal Party, it seems that the north coast Nationals are in the same murky territory’.
The Daily Telegraph report this morning names Mr Richards, owner of Rico Investments, as the businessman who gave the $175,000 loan to the National Party, but both he and the party claimed it was a loan for the federal election campaign and therefore did not come under the donor laws.
Mr Richards, according to the report, said he did not believe he was a developer, but he signed a letter earlier this year as the ‘proprietor’ of Real Living Projects Pty Ltd, which built the Azura development at Kingscliff Beach.
In the letter, Mr Richards says: ‘We had the pleasure of working with the Cullen Group on our luxury multi-residential and commercial development at Azura – Kingscliff Beach’.
The Telegraph report said Mr Richards had admitted to being involved in other developments over the years but said it made up such a small percentage of his business, he did not see why he could not donate.
‘That’s [development is] only one per cent of my portfolio,’ Mr Richards said.
The report quoted National Party state director Ben Franklin as saying the party would refer the matter to the Election Funding Authority.
Multi-millionaire Mr Richards, a former chairman of the Tweed Nationals, is active also in local politics behind the scenes and involved in council election campaigns.
Mr Richards told APN Media today that he was ‘at a loss to understand’ why a newspaper report has called him a developer and claimed he’d made a loan and donation to the state National Party in contravention of the ban on developer donations.
The National Party stalwart, who founded waste resource company J.J Richards 60 years ago, told the media outlet it was also ‘a long bow’ to define him as a developer as ’99 per cent of my activity’ was directed towards his company.
Mr Secord told Echonetdaily that ‘the north coast National Party must come clean and reassure the community that they are not taking other donations from prohibited donors and they are not funneling donations through their federal branch like the NSW Liberal Party is doing on the Central Coast and in the Hunter.’