Deputy Premier admits to private ICAC grilling

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By Miles Godfrey

Originally published: The Daily Telegraph online, August 21 2014, 12:02pm.

Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner has been questioned by ICAC about a meeting he held with Nathan Tinkler’s executives and two former NSW ministers now mired in serious corruption allegations.

Mr Stoner attended the meeting with former resources and police ministers Chris Hartcher and Mike Gallacher on August 24, 2010, seven months before the Nationals won office at the 2011 state election.

The Deputy Premier confirmed that it was one of six meetings he held with representatives of Tinkler’s companies after August 2010, when he was opposition ports spokesman.

“The meeting took place when I was the shadow minister for ports – that was the topic of discussion,” Mr Stoner told a Parliamentary Budget Estimates hearing on Thursday.

“I’ve given sworn testimony to the ICAC in relation to these matters – I don’t intend to prejudice the investigation that’s underway by the ICAC at the moment and neither do I think should you.”

Mr Stoner’s testimony was given to the Independent Commission Against Corruption at an informal private hearing.

Mr Hartcher and Mr Gallacher have been forced onto the crossbenches amid two ongoing ICAC probes into illegal property developer donations that helped fund the NSW Liberal Party’s 2011 election campaign.

Mr Gallacher is alleged to have orchestrated one scheme to funnel the donations into secret slush funds and Mr Hartcher is alleged to have solicited illegal donations.

Mr Tinkler has denied allegations that he made illegal donations to both the Liberal and National parties before the 2011 election.

Labor MLC Luke Foley questioned Mr Stoner on Thursday about his relationship with Nathan Tinkler and alleged that he later became “Tinkler’s agent inside government”.

Mr Foley said Tinkler texted one of his executives in May 2011 and said he’d “given up on” disgraced Newcastle MP Tim Owen and former Premier Barry O’Farrell and would “drive through Stoner”.

“Given that, is it the case that you were and are Nathan Tinkler’s agent inside this government,” Mr Foley asked Mr Stoner.

The Deputy Premier replied: “You’d have to ask Nathan Tinkler that – I can’t read Nathan Tinkler’s mind.”

Mr Stoner denied any wrongdoing and said he has never taken an illegal donation.

His spokesman said: “Mr Stoner has not broken any rules around disclosure and is not under investigation.

“He has a clear conscience on these matters.”

Originally published as: Deputy Premier admits to private ICAC grilling