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Operation Spicer

Operation Spicer was an investigation by the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) into allegations that prior to the 2011 NSW state election, candidates for the NSW Liberal Party, amongst others, “solicited and received political donations which were not declared as required by the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981.”

The New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (NSW ICAC) Building Entrance with the text "Operation Spicer" foregrounded.

These allegations included political donations being made from or received by prohibited donors, including property developers, and donations exceeding the legal maximums. Furthermore the commission investigated if the NSW Liberal Party had used or attempted to use the Free Enterprise Foundation as a vehicle for masking the identify of political donors or sidestepping donations made from property developers and if Coalition Party members had improperly benefited the Buildev company regarding a proposed development of terminal at the Port of Newcastle.

During the public inquiries, ICAC learned that the Liberal MP, Andrew Cornwell, had been offered $10,000, hidden in a brown paper bag, by Jeff McCloy, a property developer and Newcastle’s mayor prior to the 2011 state election. Mr. Cornwell had also given another property developer, Hilton Grugeon, a painting as a Christmas present, before Mr. Grugeon then offered to purchase the painting for more than $10,000. The NSW ICAC found this latter case to be a “pretence” for what was really a political donation. Mr. Cornwell resigned from parliament after providing his evidence.

In total the NSW ICAC found 20 people had broken the law with financial records showing political donations being made amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It also found that the Liberal Party’s Free Enterprise Foundation had amassed a significant portion of its nearly $700,000 in political donations for the 2011 campaign from banned property donors.

After the NSW Coalition's victory at the 2011 state election, then-Premier, Barry O'Farrell, stated that: "...we have a mandate to get on and clean up the mess that was government in NSW and restore confidence in government in NSW."

The investigation also resulted in 10 Liberal MPs either resigning from politics or moving to the crossbench. In the final report for the investigation, released in August of 2016, findings were made against a number of individuals, with one finding of serious corrupt conduct against the Labor MP, Joseph Tripodi.

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