Businessman tells NSW inquiry he was approached by Jean-Claude Perrottet to help unseat key ally of Scott Morrison
A Sydney engineer with links to a former prime minister says the New South Wales premier’s brother approached him for a $50,000 donation in a bid to unseat a federal Liberal MP.
Businessman Frits Mare told a NSW parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday that Jean-Claude Perrottet, along with Hills Shire Councillor Christian Ellis, asked for a $50,000 contribution from him in 2019 to “get rid of Alex Hawke, stack his seat”.
Hawke, who remains in parliament, was the Liberal immigration minister heading into last year’s federal election. He is a key ally of the former prime minister Scott Morrison.
“They told me they wanted to unseat a sitting member of parliament, the federal member in the seat of Mitchell [in north-west Sydney],” Mare told the inquiry.
“They were raising money for that and they thought I’d be a prime candidate to contribute to that.
Mare told the inquiry it was suggested he may want to avenge Hawke’s role in the ousting of Tony Abbott as Liberal party leader.
“They said because I was friendly with a previous prime minister [Abbott] who got unseated and that Alex Hawke was one of the people who had the numbers to unseat him … therefore they thought I should help revenge that.
“At that point I terminated the conversation … I wasn’t interested.
“The member, whatever I think of him, was elected by voters and it’s up to them to unseat him, not me,” Mare said.
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Jean-Claude Perrottet, the 26-year-old brother of NSW premier Dominic Perrottet, was among several Liberal-aligned witnesses summonsed to appear before the inquiry.
On Tuesday it was revealed the upper house committee would use a private firm to issue Jean-Claude and his brother Charles with formal summons to appear after they were accused of “failing to cooperate”.
The probe is examining matters raised under parliamentary privilege by the Liberal MP Ray Williams in June, alleging several senior members of his party were paid to install new councillors who would be friendly to the Sydney developer Jean Nassif.
Councillor Virginia Ellis, Christian Ellis and Jean-Claude Perrottet, the NSW Young Liberals’ secretary, were among witnesses summonsed to appear on Wednesday and Thursday.
The inquiry chair, Sue Higginson, said parliamentary staff had “made multiple attempts to personally serve the summons on these individuals but have been unsuccessful”.
Another of the premier’s brothers, BP manager Charles Perrottet, was also summonsed but might not be in NSW.
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Asked by Labor committee members John Graham and Penny Sharpe if he knew the whereabouts of Jean-Claude Perrottet, Mare said they should “go ask the premier”.
“It’s his brother, he probably knows where he is,” Mare said.
The Nationals MP Scott Barrett, who sits on the committee, said the scope of the inquiry was veering away from the original allegations raised by Williams.
But Graham and Sharpe argued that “there could be overlap” since the seat of Mitchell encompasses the Hills shire in north-west Sydney.
When asked about the inquiry, the premier said it was an attempt by Labor to “throw political mud in an election campaign”.
“The advice I’ve received is that [the allegations by Williams] went to the ICAC (Independent Commission against Corruption) and no further investigation needed to be undertaken,” he told reporters.
Higginson said the “failure to cooperate” by those summonsed showed “a blatant disregard of parliamentary process”.
Ellis and Jean-Claude Perrottet have been contacted for comment.
This article was amended on 15 February 2023. Frits Mare’s evidence referred to a leadership challenge to the former prime minister Tony Abbott, not Malcolm Turnbull as an earlier version said.