THE 2014 hearings of Operation Spicer heard of envelopes of cash being donated by banned property developers including Hilton Grugeon, Bill Saddington and then Lord Mayor of Newcastle Jeff McCloy.
In total, eleven NSW Liberal MPs, including then Premier Barry O’Farrell, were subject to scrutiny as part of Operation Spicer. Upper House member and former Police Minister Mike Gallacher is the only MP scrutinised by Operation Spicer who is still in Parliament.
Former Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell is the only Hunter MP referred to the DPP for further investigation. Other MPs have been referred to the NSW electoral commission further investigation.
This report has particular importance in Port Stephens, where Hilton Grugeon and Darren Williams continue to be involved in the planning system and former MP Craig Baumann continues to hold influence in Liberal Party branches, as does former Port Stephens Councillor Josh Hodges.
The findings of Operation Spicer have highlighted the need for further protections to the integrity of the electoral system, including restoring the funding cut to ICAC by the Baird Government and banning property developers from standing for Local Government.
The Baird Government has slashed the ICAC’s funding by 7.5 per cent in 2015-16 and a further 9 per cent in 2016-17. This has resulted in a 15 percent reduction in staff at the ICAC.
State Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington MP said, “I thank the ICAC for doing what it does best – protecting communities from corruption.”
“It’s damning that many local developers and former sitting members were found to have intentionally evaded the law.”
“Clearly, there’s a need for a well-fed watchdog,” said ms Washington.