Hockey hits back at cash for access allegations

TREASURER Joe Hockey has labelled allegations he allowed access to himself to donors to the New South Wales Liberal Party for $22,000 as "offensive and repugnant".

Fairfax Media on Monday reported Mr Hockey has offered privileged access to a select of group of business figures in return for donations to a secretive Liberal Party fundraising group.

The report alleged donors to the Liberal Party's North Sydney Forum, a body run by Mr Hockey's North Sydney Federal Electoral Conference, were being given private meetings with the Treasurer related to some areas of his portfolio.

It further alleges donors to the forum included National Australia Bank and the Financial Services Council among others.

But Mr Hockey on Monday said the accusations made in the reports were "both offensive and repugnant", saying he would not let the report "distract him from the important task of putting the budget together.

"As the matter is now in the hands of lawyers no further comment can be made," a statement from Mr Hockey's ministerial office read.

The reports also claimed one of the donors to the North Sydney Forum was Australian Water Holdings, a company which former assistant treasurer Senator Arthur Sinodinos was a chairman before taking a position in the Senate.

While Mr Hockey said he was not commenting further, Prime Minister Tony Abbott defended Mr Hockey's involvement in the North Sydney Forum.

Mr Abbott said on Monday that raising money for political parties by providing access to senior party members was preferable to taxpayers paying more for the operation of political parties.

He told Channel Nine said the practice of political parties charging donors money to attend functions where party members were also present was a "time-honoured way" of fundraising.

While the latest revelations have drawn more federal politicians into the evolving allegations emerging from New South Wales corruption hearings, Mr Abbott did not directly answer questions about a potential need for a similar national body to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Rather, Mr Abbott said he believed Canberra had a "pretty clean polity", promising voters his government was "going to make sure" that lobbying similar to that being exposed at ICAC "has no place whatsoever federally".



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