Dominic Perrottet has lashed out at allegations his younger brother tried to orchestrate a $50,000 branch-stacking operation to unseat federal Coalition MP Alex Hawke, demanding the inquiry running the probe “leave my family out of it”.
An upper house inquiry heard evidence this week that Jean-Claude Perrottet, who is secretary of the NSW Young Liberals, asked businessman and party insider Frits Maré for the money in to 2019 to “get rid of Alex Hawke, stack his seat”.
But on Thursday Perrottet dismissed the allegations as “political mud-slinging” by the Labor party ahead of next month’s state election, accusing the opposition of “playing games with my family”.
“Leave my family out of it. Seriously,” he told reporters.
“I’m here elected to represent the people of NSW. The Labor party are playing smear games with my family.”
The claim was raised during an inquiry that’s examining allegations of inappropriate links between property developers and Liberal party councillors in the Hills Shire in Sydney’s north-west.
The inquiry was set off after a speech in parliament by NSW Liberal party MP Ray Williams last year, in which he alleged senior members of the state Liberal party had been “paid significant funds” to install new councillors to support development applications by a company known as Toplace, owned by Sydney developer Jean Nassif.
Williams told parliament that, before the council elections, Nassif had “apparently” met with Ellis and other members of the Liberal party who were “paid significant funds in order to arrange to put new councillors” at the council to be “supportive of future Toplace development applications”.
Nassif has denied those allegations. Ellis is yet to comment on the claims.
But Dominic Perrottet said Williams had “never mentioned any of my family members”, saying Labor were “attacking [my] family members to cover [for] the fact they don’t have an economic plan”.
The committee investigating the allegations, which is dominated by Labor and Greens MPs, has taken the extraordinary step of hiring private contractors to issue a summons to witnesses, including Jean-Claude Perrottet and another of the premier’s brothers, Charlie Perrottet, in a bid to force them to give evidence at the inquiry.
On Thursday the premier repeatedly refused to answer questions about the allegations, saying Labor were “playing politics a month out from an election” and insisting that he was unaware of his brothers’ whereabouts and had not spoken to them.
Former Hills Shire Liberal party mayor Michelle Byrne told the inquiry on Thursday that she had suspected “something was going on” in the party after she and most of her council colleagues were ousted in the lead up to the last NSW local government elections.
Byrne repeatedly told the inquiry she had no evidence of wrongdoing, but believed she had been targeted by party insiders because of a perception that she was “anti-development”.
“[To] get the pain-in-the-butt mayor out of the way who is perceived as [being] anti development and have a better chance of getting things through without me in the way and jacking up,” she said.
Byrne told the inquiry that while she had no “direct conversations” to suggest that, she had been told by then councillor Robyn Preston, who is now a state Liberal MP, that “my problem is I’m too anti development”.
“I think it was certainly probably in the last couple of years where I really got to feel … that if I didn’t change my stance on development, if I didn’t become more ‘yeah that’s OK’ and not vocal, than it was going to cost me.”
Asked if she was referring to the Hawkesbury MP, Byrne replied: “Correct.”