Former Whitsunday mayor defends $10,000 donation
“I couldn’t honestly tell you why any of my four donors donated to me,” – Jennifer Whitney
FORMER Whitsunday Mayor Jennifer Whitney has denied any connection between an election donation and the man behind a now defunct Airlie Beach Chinatown proposal - Peter ‘Raymond’ Wang.
The allegations, now referred to the Electoral Commission Queensland, stem from a $10,000 donation to Ms Whitney from an ASIC-registered company named TMT SA Pty Ltd.
According to a company title search, TMT SA Pty Ltd is a South Australian business in Campbelltown, owned by Pasqualino Catania and Domenic Clemente – previous executives of Mr Wang’s South Australian branch of the China Australia Entrepreneurs Association Inc (CAEAI).
During her term as mayor, Ms Whitney was known to be in favour of Mr Wang’s Chinatown development and described herself as disappointed when it eventually fell through – voided by her then deputy’s casting vote after contractual obligations by the developer had not been met.
When asked on Friday why two of Mr Wang’s former associates would have donated to her election campaign, Ms Whitney replied, “why wouldn’t they?”
“I couldn’t honestly tell you why any of my four donors donated to me,” she said, adding, “I very rarely accept donations”.
Ms Whitney said perhaps the South Australian businessmen liked her style of government or the way she treated people, noting she had visited one of them when he was taken into hospital while in the Whitsundays.
Certain sectors of the Whitsunday community however don’t see it this way.
Whitsunday Regional Residents Association president Ross Newell said he believed there was a clear connection between the donation, Mr Wang and Ms Whitney and as a result the WRRA had lodged their concerns with the ECQ.
“We believe that the (former) mayor has received donations in respect to assisting her with her election because of her connection to Mr Wang and with the CAEAI,” Mr Newell said. “The source of donation was not made crystal clear, it was made through an indirect source. We’ve put that to the ECQ and we are waiting for the response.”
Ms Whitney described this as “just part of the same beatup I’ve been through over the past four years”.
“Legally I’ve done everything that’s required of me to do and if people’s perception is to create and make up stories that’s fine,” she said.
The Whitsunday Times contacted Mr Wang about the donation through an English speaking associate but he declined to comment.
One of the men who made the donation however, backed Ms Whitney’s case up.
Domenic Clemente said he met Ms Whitney two years ago in China while seeking new opportunities.
He said his donation was purely about supporting a politician he thought he was doing a good job.
“I got a lot of respect for her,” he said. “I think she should still be mayor.”
Mr Clemente said he met Mr Wang two to three years ago but their business relationship had since come to an end.
Nonetheless Mr Newell believes the donation raises concerns about transparency, made worse when Ms Whit- ney chose not to comment initially last week.
A spokesperson from the ECQ meanwhile said the donation had been disclosed correctly. “With the information in front of the Commission, it is our view that the relevant disclosures have been made by Ms Whitney,” the spokesperson said.
This week the Queensland Government announced it would introduce an electronic real-time donation disclosure system allowing voters to see who had donated to candidates before they voted.
OLD FRIENDS? The two men who donated to Jennfier Whitney's election campaign, Pasqualino Catania and Domenic Clemente are pictured here (far left) with the former mayor and CAEAI president Raymond Wang (centre).
SUPPORTIVE: Jennifer Whitney was supportive of Mr Wang’s Chinatown development on Waterson Way.