The National Party cronyism show has moved south today with community and national media concern about a company owned by a Kempsey Councillor and National Party member undertaking work on the controversial cinema development.

The cinema project was promoted and approved by Council, undertaken by a National Party donor and involves $4 million in public funding.

Yesterday it was revealed that a company chaired by the new National Party candidate for Coffs Harbour, Mr Gurmesh Singh, received over $3 million in federal government grants earlier in 2018. The grants involved three different amounts, on three different dates via three different publicity announcements on three different federal government websites.

Today, I have been contacted by members of the Kempsey community concerned about paid work being undertaken on a majority publicly funded project by a company owned by a Kempsey Councillor and National Party Member who voted in support of the project in Council.

Prominent broadcaster, Ray Hadley, raised concerns about the matter on his nationally broadcast program at 10.20 am (listen) and 10.45 am (listen) today. In the latter discussion, Mr Hadley said that the Councillor confirmed to his staff that his company was undertaking work on the cinema project.

The facts are:

This is cronyism. This is a conflict of interest. This doesn’t pass the pub test. It passes no test.

I mean you can’t have Councillors saying, I support this controversial project, the Kempsey cinema project, you can’t have the council on behalf of him, saying no Kempsey Shire Council elected representative has declared an interest commercial or otherwise in the Kempsey cinema development. And then this morning, have Councillor Anthony Patterson’s trucks from Patterson’s Glassworks and staff working on it. And admitting he’s being paid to do it. Therein lies the conflict of interest that has not been declared and was not going to be declared until we started making some phone calls,” Ray Hadley, 2GB, 27 November 2018.

Time and time again, I hear from everyone that the National Party governments at all levels are out of touch and it is time for a change. They do little, and when they do do something, it is generally for themselves or their mates. This has to stop. It is out of hand.

If you are or intend to be a member of the National Party; if you are or are intend to be an elected official for the National Party; you can not personally or professionally profit or benefit from decisions you, Liberal-National federal or state governments, or National Party controlled Councils make. It is as simple as that.

All of this comes in a week when the Liberal and National Parties are going out of their way to thwart a National Integrity Commission, with powers wider than that of an Independent Commission Against Corruption. The Liberals and Nationals simply don’t get it. Labor and I support a National Integrity Commission and it will be one of the first actions of the incoming Labor federal government.

The Kempsey Cinema Development is at best dubious and at worse a farce. Only this week, the last cinema in Darwin CBD, the capital of the Northern Territory, announced it was closing. How Kempsey Council could promote such a development is astounding. How the federal government could tip $2 million into the project is equally astounding.

As I have said before, upon election to Government, I will be referring the Kempsey Cinema project to Labor’s National Integrity Commission.



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