Tweed businessman gave Nats a $175,000 ‘loan’ after donor ban

Luis Feliu

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.’

7 responses to “Tweed businessman gave Nats a $175,000 ‘loan’ after donor ban”

  1. Bob Smith says:

    Amazing to see the Libs being looked after by developers and the ALP looked after by Unions. Why is it just 1 sided. Rat through the whole lot of them if you want to be fair or may the best corruption win (and don’t dismiss other parties as well)

  2. Paul Waters says:

    Mr Richards donates to dozens of organisations through out this region, it is a shame to discourage this generosity by accusing him of illegal donations – to my knowledge his single handed community care has saved a football club, and golf club he has sponsored the Show society allowing thousands of poor people free entry to the tweed valley show and I am sure the list goes on and on…

    Any donation to conservative parties would be dwarfed by union support of the Labor parties election campaigns, shame on anyone who cant recognise that the Richards people aren’t developers in the true sense of the term and would try to sully their good name.

    God bless Idwall Richards and his family for their dedication in running a great business and supporting 100`s of Jobs and the community. We would be so much poorer without citizens of their ilk.

  3. w ch says:

    Yes that is so right Paul Waters. Last time I checked unions were not coming before ICAC, property developers are. Remember, the Coalition when in Opposition also voted for the laws banning property developers from corrupting the political process. Your logic seems to be that as long as someone creates jobs then according to you, the law does not apply to them. And of course they do not create jobs for charity reasons anyway. There is the prospect of personal profit or gain from the jobs these people create. So stop bowing and scraping because any jobs they create is because they think they can make more money themselves. Democracy and obeying the law is more important than jobs anyway or do you suggest we live in a dictatorship so everyone has a “job.”. As Margaret Thatcher said “You can not have freedom without order. You can not have order unless people obey the law.” Job creators need to obey the law, just the same as anyone else. Or else their lax attitude to our laws in the long runs threatens our free society. And as for the “he donates to charity” line, so what? It is the obligation of those better off to help the less fortunate. It is their duty, they don’t deserve a pat on the back for doing what is right. Those who have had a bit of luck by being born to good parents or making a few good business decisions are obligated to help those who didn’t get the breaks. Also, giving to charity also does not exempt people from obeying the law. According to your logic anyone can be an anarchist as long as they create jobs and donate to charity. Absolute nonsense. There is one law for all. Not one law for job creators and charity donors and another law for the rest of us.

  4. Vince Kean says:

    I am so over liberal diehards and their abuse of unions. If a developer gives $10,000 to buy influence in political circles, that is purchasing advantage for him/herself. It is a matter of greed and self centered self promotion. If a union representing 10,000 people gives $10,000 to a political party that is $1 per head. they certainly could not afford $10,000 individually on the pittance that the developers and their ilk pay good solid workers. Lets not have any pretence that there is some form of equivalence and any attempt to do so is the worst form oif deception, practiced by the lowest types in the political sphere.

  5. Curtis Crew says:

    With 3 different disclosure interpretations across 3 levels of govt from local to state to federal no wonder the average punter doesn’t get involved in donating. Even the NSW electoral funding authority’s fact sheet leaves it open to interpretation who is actually a developer. Building a patio extension on an investment property or adding a garage or pool via any private or corporate trust will land you potentially in trouble.
    It appears to me that this is a storm in a tea cup and that the Sydney papers have made a lot of assumptions without even getting some balance from other parties

  6. George Lewin says:

    When are the sheep of Australia going to wake up and realise that public funding of elections, and a total ban on political donations from any source, are the only way to go to ensure governments act in the interests of the electorate at large rather than in the interests of their donors?

    The argument that taxpayers should not face this additional burden is nonsense. The cost of funding elections every three or four years is minuscule in any event, and even more so when compared to the monetary and societal cost to taxpayers of having plum projects inefficiently and corruptly awarded to political donor and their lobbyists.

    The cost of running the ICAC alone as a full-time watchdog could probably in itself cover the cost of periodic elections in NSW. Wake up Australia, and stop being so penny-wise and pound-foolish!

  7. Paul says:

    Those 6 readers responses are what makes the Echo such an important news portal. The response from w ch is as good as I have read in ages. I also think Mr Waters should wipe the mist from his glasses and rejoin the congo line.

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