Low rent scandal hits Cansdell
DISCOUNTED rent for a campaign office is one of the latest allegations in the can of worms opened by Steve Cansdell's shock resignation last Friday.
National Party Grafton branch chairman Peter James yesterday told the Daily Examiner the party paid $150 a week for his 40 Prince St premises that had been previously rented to hairdresser Donna Eyde for up to $660 a week.
The discounted rent paid by the Nationals for the office in the six weeks leading up to the March 26 state election has raised questions as to whether the arrangement complied with NSW political donation laws.
NSW election funding laws prohibit indirect donations of more than $1000 a financial year.
But Mr James said as part of the arrangement his company Naupe Holdings would subsidise the $150 a week rent so it reached the parties agreed market value of $300, thus putting it just inside the donation threshold at $900.
"They (the National Party) made an offer, which I thought was reasonable, and I accepted it," he said.
"I am committed to the party and I am committed to that side of politics and I was prepared to help them in terms of the rent.
"If that for some reason breaches, technically or otherwise, the provisions of legislation well so be it.
"But it was all done in good faith and I must say it's odd to be in trouble for generosity, as distinct from being in trouble for stealing the union's funds or whatever.
"That's the way I see it, but anyway people will make up their own mind."
Under the arrangement between the National Party and Mr James' company, Naupe Holdings during the election campaign, the Nationals received a $3060 discount over what Mrs Edye was paying.
Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald reported a Balinese fashion retailer occupied the 40 Prince St premises from October to January paying $500 a week, plus GST, before Mr Cansdell's campaign office was set up.
The National's state director, Ben Franklin, told the Herald the donation due to the discounted rent for the campaign office amounted to $900, which was below the threshold.
The party calculated this on an estimated market value of $300 a week on the office despite the previous tenant paying $550.
"They made their own assessment, they felt for the use they were making of the premises, and the size of the area they were going to use, and the fact they didn't have exclusivity of the premises they thought $300 a week was a fair figure," Mr James said.
"And they felt if they paid $150 and the company donated the other $150 they thought that was a fair balance.
"In my mind I had empty premises and I was happy to receive some money for it and I was happy for it to be used for that purpose."