DONATIONS gained from a Liberal Party fundraising event had to be returned to corporate donors after a senior minister realised the money had been gathered illegally.
Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said he had to return several cheques from the fundraiser held at parliament on March 14 because of complex new donation laws introduced by Premier Barry O’Farrell.
They stipulate that only individuals, not corporations, can donate to political parties in NSW.
Another government MP, Jonathan O’Dea, also had to return funds from a breakfast function. Under the Premier’s new laws, donations are capped at $5000 a year.
Already, thanks to changes late in the Labor Party’s reign, developers and publicans are banned from making political donations.
In a heated debate in the Coalition party room this week, several MPs spoke out to state party director Mark Neeham about how difficult they were finding the laws. Mr Hazzard admitted the $65-a-head fundraiser at parliament almost ran at a loss after the donations were handed back.
“The day of the branch function I asked whether it complied with the new laws. I pointed out they couldn’t bring anyone who made commercial donations,” he said.
Mr Hazzard said the cheques were then returned.
Liberal Party sources said Mr Hazzard had complained in the party room that he now could scarcely even go to functions because of the difficulty with electoral laws.
Under state laws, MPs cannot take donations from developers but federal MPs can.
“(He said) the branches organise a function with a federal member and a state member and ‘you’re putting me at risk by even inviting me to those functions’,” a source said.
“(Mr) Neeham just slapped his back and said ‘I’m the only one in this room who did not vote for this’.”
It comes after Energy Minister Chris Hartcher came under fire in parliament this week over opposition allegations a donations “slush fund” was created by two of his staffers.