FEDERAL Liberal MP for Paterson Bob Baldwin wrote a letter to his NSW government ministerial counterparts to “implore” them to back Nathan Tinkler’s “Hunter Ports” coal-loader proposal.
The letter, dated April 2011, was tendered at the Independent Commission Against Corruption last week, when the inquiry into political donations was told by one witness that Buildev, the company part-owned by Mr Tinkler and behind the loader pitch, gained the “ear” of Mr Baldwin following donations to his campaigns.
“You had an ear, you wanted to talk to a minister, the member could organise that meeting for you,” long-time local Liberal Party campaigner Josh Hodges told the inquiry.
Mr Baldwin’s letter was addressed to the new resources minister, Chris Hartcher, minister for the Hunter and police Mike Gallacher, who are both at the centre of the inquiry, as well as ports minister Duncan Gay.
It said the $1billion Hunter Ports proposal would generate $6.3billion for the Australian economy and create 3500 jobs.
He urged the NSW government to give it “immediate” in-principle support and “provide an approval process free of red tape”.
“I implore the New South Wales government to do everything it can to see this project come to fruition,” he wrote.
Mr Baldwin sent a copy as “FYI” to Buildev director David Sharpe, who replied: “Thanks Bob letter looks good”.
Developers were banned from donating to NSW political parties and candidates in late 2009, but are still permitted to give money for federal campaigns. Australian Electoral Commission records show Buildev companies gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past decade to both the Liberal and Labor parties.
In 2006-2007, Buildev Development (NSW) declared giving more than $100,000 each to the Liberal and Labor parties.
The inquiry has been told a coal-loader would have been worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Mr Tinkler.
Mr Baldwin, who is on leave, could not be reached. His office declined to comment.