Nathan Tinkler's verdict on ICAC: 'The most boring sh-t I've ever seen'

Nathan Tinkler departs ICAC on Friday. Photo: Nic Walker
Nathan Tinkler departs ICAC on Friday. Photo: Nic Walker

Nathan Tinkler has always been a man in a hurry. His crash or crash through approach to life, which has seen the 38-year-old make and lose a fortune, was evident during his combative appearance at a corruption inquiry.

"Jeez, I'm starting to see why this has been going on for three weeks," Mr Tinkler said testily not long after taking the stand at 12.30pm on Friday at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

As soon as the commission adjourned for lunch, Mr Tinkler was overheard saying, “This is some of the most boring shit I've ever seen."

The former coal magnate was shown an expletive-laden email in which he complained that he had donated $45,000 to the Nationals and they had done "f--- all" to approve his plans for a billion-dollar coal terminal in Newcastle.

"We had a bunch of deadbeats before and now we have a bunch of pricks scared to make a decision," Mr Tinkler wrote in an email on April 20, 2011, in a reference to the former state Labor government and the newly installed Coalition.

The ICAC is investigating allegations that Mr Tinkler's property development company Buildev donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Coalition before the last state election, in breach of the ban on political donations from developers introduced in 2009.

Mr Tinkler denied any knowledge of another $66,000 in illegal political donations Buildev allegedly paid to a “sham” operation called Eightbyfive, which the inquiry heard was created by former state resources minister Chris Hartcher to channel prohibited donations to the Liberal Party.

Asked why he made political donations, Mr Tinkler said he gave money to "just about all parties because I only get one vote at election time" and denied it was an attempt to buy favourable decisions.

"How much do you give to the Greens?" counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson, SC, said.

"I use recycled toilet paper, that makes me a hard arse. That's enough for the Greens," Mr Tinkler replied.

"Mr Tinkler, that's created a horrid image in my mind. We'll try and move forward," Mr Watson quipped.

"I'm such a great guy," was Mr Tinkler's response to why his company Boardwalk donated $53,000 to another alleged Liberal Party slush fund, the Free Enterprise Foundation.

Former Newcastle Labor MP Jodi McKay has given explosive evidence to the ICAC that Mr Tinkler offered her a bribe before the 2011 election in exchange for her support for the coal terminal.

In at times teary evidence, Ms McKay said it was a "relief" to discover that  Buildev was behind an attempt to smear her before the election, working with former Labor ports minister Joe Tripodi.

Mr Tinkler, who has accused Ms McKay of crying crocodile tears, said "she was all about keeping Newcastle looking like Old Sydney Town" and he "wanted her gone".

But he denied he offered to make secret donations to her re-election campaign, saying she did not have the power to approve the coal terminal.

"You're accusing her of lying," Mr Watson said.

"Agreed," Mr Tinkler replied bluntly.

Although Mr Tinkler was in a hurry to get out of the witness box, the arrival of a process server, armed with a claim for a debt, delayed his getaway.

A Mexican standoff occurred with Mr Tinkler taking refuge in a room reserved for witnesses at the back of the hearing room. Mr Tinkler’s lawyer Harland Koops agreed to sign the documents which were from international law firm Allen & Overy.

In the lift Mr Tinkler shrugged his shoulders when asked what the debt was over. Mr Koops quipped that it was “trivial” compared to what his client had just been through in the witness box.

In an ominous sign for Mr Tinkler, he was not excused from his summons, which indicates he may be recalled when the hearing resumes in August.

This story Nathan Tinkler's verdict on ICAC: 'The most boring sh-t I've ever seen' first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.