Former Whit­sun­day mayor de­fends $10,000 do­na­tion

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS - By Dane Lilling­stone and Sharon Small­wood

“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.

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