When embattled NSW Liberal MP Tim Owen was given a wad of hundred dollar bills in a car, there wasn’t any “foreplay” with Newcastle mayor and property developer Jeff McCloy.
But there was a lot of seedy interaction between Central Coast MPs and developers, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has been told.
Mr Owen couldn’t remember whether it was his campaign manager Hugh Thomson or former NSW police minister and fellow Central Coast MP Mike Gallacher who arranged the December 2010 deal, which is being examined by ICAC.
Mr McCloy told Mr Owen the money was to help his campaign with printing and staffing costs as the Liberal Party wasn’t going to cover all election costs.
“I really can’t remember who (arranged the deal). Whether it was Mike Gallacher or whether it was Hugh Thomson,” Mr Owen said.
“You went down there in your own car and met Mr McCloy in his car … what happened next?” counsel assisting the commission Geoffrey Watson asked.
“He just handed over a thin envelope effectively,” Mr Owen replied.
“What, no foreplay?” Mr Watson inquired.
The ICAC heard that Mr Gallacher partially controlled the donations.
A day after Mr McCloy slipped Mr Owen the one-centimetre thick envelope, just months before 2011 NSW election, the cash was returned, he told the ICAC.
“I took it (the envelope) at the time and I must admit I thought `mmmmmm’ what do I do with this,” the former the deputy commander of the Australian forces in Afghanistan and Iraq said.
“I took it home and I thought about it and thought about it and thought about it and essentially … I went back to his house and basically dropped it in his letterbox.”
The Newcastle MP said he didn’t speak further to Mr McCloy about the money and returned it with a note saying “no thanks.”
“It just wasn’t a particularly nice look,” Mr Owen said.
Mr Watson bluntly suggested Mr McCloy was trying to buy influence.
“Yeah, I mean, you could say that but he’s a pretty generous guy,” he said.
“I agree. It does look bad. But, there’s really not anything that I as a candidate or a backbencher in the government have any influence over.”
The commission earlier heard Nathan Tinkler’s company Buildev was paying the wage of another of Mr Owen’s staffers, media adviser Josh Hodges.
Former government whip Andrew Cornwell has also admitted receiving $10,000 in a brown paper bag from Mr McCloy while sitting in the mayor’s Bentley ahead of the 2011 election.
NSW Greens MP Jamie Parker will on Tuesday move a motion in parliament to expel Dr Cornwell, saying resigning from the state Liberal Party wasn’t enough and that he should immediately quit politics.
Mr Owen and Mr Cornwell stood down from the Liberal Party last Wednesday shortly after the ICAC’s two-hour opening address into the alleged funnelling of illegal donations, focusing on the Newcastle region.
Federal Liberal MP Bob Baldwin, who supported Mr Tinkler’s plans for a Newcastle coal loader, may be called to give evidence after the inquiry heard that Buildev made donations to his campaign.
It’s not illegal for developers to donate to federal candidates.
Mr Owen will continue his evidence on Tuesday.