ICAC target Mike Gallacher ‘guest speaker’ at East Maitland branch meeting

Former police minister Mike Gallacher FORMER police minister MikeGallacher was set to offer hisversion of history at a Hunter Liberal Party branch meeting on Monday night.

Mr Gallacher, the onlytarget of theIndependent Commission Against Corruption’s Operation Spicer investigation still sitting in parliament, was listed as a “guest speaker” at an East Maitland branch meeting on Monday night.

His attendance at the meeting has drawn criticism from Labor’s Port Stephens MP Kate Washington, who said it showed Mr Gallacher was still being given a role in the party.

“It’s clear that he’s still in the Liberal Party fold and not only that he’s being held up as someone to aspire to,” she said.

“And yet, his involvement in everything that came out in ICAC is clearly problematic.

“It just shows the Liberals are still, even in the Hunter, soft on corruption.”

Mr Gallacher did not respond torequests for comment on Monday, but branch president Bob Geoghegandefended his right to attend party meetings.

“It’s an internal matter and I’m not going to comment one way or the other on whether he is attending [but] he’sentitled to come to any meeting,” he said.

Mr Geoghegan said there were“a lot of faults” with the ICAC report, and said“my own opinion about Operation Spicer is that it was a kangaroo court”.

Advertised as“discussing” theinquiry with the branch, the one-time architect of the Liberal Party’s success in the Hunter at the 2011 election was accused in May 2014 of hatching a “corrupt scheme”with Nathan Tinkler’s company Buildev to channel illegal donations to the Liberal Party before the 2011 election.

He vigorously denied the claims and said outside ICAC: “I know in my heart I am not corrupt.”

No corruption findings were made against him, but theinquiry found that hehad engaged in conduct with the intent of evading electoral laws which banned developers making political donations in NSW, and had not always been a truthful witness.

“The commission does not consider Mr Gallacher was always a truthful witness and places no reliance on his evidence unless it is corroborated by other reliable evidence or objective facts,”ICAC says in its report.

After the report was released in August the Premier Mike Baird said Mr Gallacher would not return to cabinet or the parliamentary Liberal Party.

A spokesman for the NSW Liberal Party said it was “common that branches and conferences of the Liberal Party invite guest speakers to address meetings”.

“The NSW Liberal Party has publicly acknowledged and apologised to the people of NSW for matters that occurred six years ago, which were revealed by the Independent Commission Against Corruption during its Operation Spicer investigation,” the spokesman said.

“The Party has since taken detailed steps to prevent such issues reoccurring.”

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