A finger-pointing row over campaign funding erupted at a public meeting last night between two prospective independent candidates at the NSW state election, former independent state MP John Hatton and Newcastle lord mayor John Tate.
A visibly angry Cr Tate walked in on Mr Hatton’s meeting at City Hall from council briefings going on upstairs to respond to Mr Hatton’s comments.
Earlier, Mr Hatton listed Cr Tate’s political campaign donations for the 2007 state election and raised more recent code of conduct inquires into the actions of the mayor.
‘‘He [Tate] raised $178,260 in total,’’ Mr Hatton said.
‘‘He got 10,000 from the Australian Hotels Association and liquor companies, $47,120 from real estate and developer interests,’’ Hatton said.
Hatton said another $24,550 had come from developer Hilton Grugeon.
Cr Tate said all his political donations were registered with the NSW Electoral Commission.
‘‘Every cent was accounted for publicly and nothing was hidden because that’s the sort of person I am.
‘‘I play by the rules,’’ Cr Tate said.
Mr Hatton told the meeting he wanted people to have the facts about the source of political campaign funds.
‘‘I am not here to undermine anybody what I am here to do is to give you the facts,’’ Mr Hatton said.
Mr Hatton, who retired from state parliament in 1995 after 22 years, was in Newcastle as part of his campaign as a leader of a team of independent candidates for the Upper House.
He said he would not endorse Cr Tate as an independent candidate.
Mr Hatton told the meeting ALP and coalition parties were ‘‘hitting corruption with a feather’’ because of the large amounts of money property developers and the hotel industry had contributed to their campaigns.
When Cr Tate entered the meeting and sat down, Mr Hatton invited Cr Tate to respond to his earlier comments.
Cr Tate was furious and got to his feet to refute Mr Hatton, angrily pointing his finger at the former MP.
‘‘All the money I raised, every cent, according to the rules was registered with the electoral commission.
‘‘I did not go along asking developers to give me money. Friends organised fund-raisers, which I attended and they attended."
Cr Tate said the code of conduct inquiries said were examples of people taking ‘‘political’’ advantage.
‘‘I stand before you and say that I will stand as an honest person,’’ Cr Tate said.
‘‘And as far as you are concerned, Mr Hatton, you come along and denigrate me.
‘‘I am disgusted with your attitude,’’ Cr Tate said.
This morning, Cr Tate is reported to be seeking legal advice about Mr Hatton’s comments.
Cr Tate denied he ever asked for Mr Hatton’s endorsement as an independent candidate for the seat of Newcastle.
Mr Hatton said he and another part of his team of independents had financed their campaign so far by putting up $25,000 each.
Mr Hatton said he would only accept donations of up to $1000 from outside sources.
Mr Hatton told the Newcastle Herald this morning his comments were not directed at Cr Tate but at the influences in politics.
He said Cr Tate’s campaign donations were recorded on a website compiled by the NSW Greens which they have created as part of the party’s campaign to reform political donations.