The owner of a spectacularly successful “lobbying” firm launched by a 21-year old Young Liberal after working for the former NSW Planning Minister is a mystery — and there’s no way to find out.
The case of Dylan Whitelaw, one of the so-called “NSW Reformers”, who hid from an upper house inquiry earlier this year, has exposed massive flaws in NSW Government political lobbying laws.
Those laws – along with the inbuilt serious failings – were introduced by the former NSW Liberal Government.
For over a decade the NSW Electoral Commission, under legislation, has operated a lobbyists register where lobbying firms must disclose their own details; the names of their employees who engage in lobbying; the names of the firm’s clients; and the “owners” of the lobbying firm.
Yet a flaw at the heart of the law means the true owners of lobbying firms can be legally — and easily — hidden from government and the public.
“A flaw at the heart of the law means the true owners of lobbying firms can be legally hidden”
The NSW Electoral Commission has confirmed that the register does not the “beneficial owners” — the actual owners — of lobbying firms to be disclosed.
And because of a gaping hole in Federal law, Australia has no “beneficial owners” register — which means there’s no way to find out.
“The beneficial owners of a third-party lobbyist is not information that is required to be included in the Lobbyists Register,” said NSW Electoral Commission spokeswoman Laura Maclean.
“The beneficial owners of a third-party lobbyist is not information that is required to be included” – NSW Electoral Commission
That means there is no way to determine the actual owners of two of the three “lobbying” firms at the heart of the “NSW Reformers” scandal, which contributed to the March downfall of Dominic Perrottet’s NSW Liberal Government.
The “beneficial” owner information is hidden for Whitelaw’s Macquarie Capital Advisory lobbying firm, as well as for Beckington Group, the lobbying firm run by Liberal powerbroker Christian Ellis.
“The Lobbyists”, part of dossier tendered by NSW parliamentary inquiry. Source: NSW Parliament. Graphic: The Klaxon
As previously revealed, Whitelaw, who turned 22 this month, launched lobbying firm Macquarie Advisory Group in November last year after working as a “senior advisor” to former NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts.
Almost immediately, Whitelaw listed a string of major property developer clients on the NSW Lobbyist Register, including western Sydney land developer Dartanyon; property developer Pacific Community Housing; and commercial building company J Group.
Last June NSW Liberal MP Ray Williams raised allegations that senior Liberal figures had been paid “substantial amounts of money” by property developer Jean Nassif to fund the December 2021 stacking of Sydney’s the Hills Shire Council, in a bid to get developments approved.
A NSW upper house inquiry was launched in December, and last month it was announced the matters were in the hands of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which has launched a major probe.
That announcement came as it was reported “up to five” homes of “past and present NSW Liberal Party members” hadbeen raided by the ICAC — including the confirmed raid of the Melbourne home of Charles and Anita Perrottet, the brother and sister-in-law of Dominic Perrottet.
The NSW upper house inquiry, forced to wind-up ahead of the March 25 NSW election, was to reconvene after the election but has been replaced by the ICAC probe.
Central to the scandal are three highly detailed dossiers, all of unknown origin, that were submitted to the upper house inquiry and tabled in NSW Parliament.
The dossiers set out the alleged operations of the NSW Reformers, a far-right faction of the NSW Liberal Party, allegedly created to influence “public policy”, including by stacking local councils.
Charles Perrottet, Jean-Claude Perrottet (another of Dominic Perrottet’s brothers); Whitelaw and Ellis are alleged to be key figures in the NSW Reformers — and all either went “missing” or refused to appear before the parliamentary inquiry, despite a state-wide, taxpayer-funded manhunt.
The “beneficial owner” of a company is the actual owner because it is the person or people who receive the profits of the company and who ultimately control the company.
The third dossier tabled by the NSW parliamentary inquiry is titled “The Lobbyists”. Under “our stars” it lists Whitelaw’s Macquarie Advisory Group; Ellis’ Beckington; and Macquarie Consulting (again no connection to the financial giant) which is owned in the name of Anita Perrottet.
The forensic dossier shows Beckington Group was created with ASIC in July 2019 by Ellis and fellow NSW Reformer Jeremy Greenwood, holding 50 per cent each.
In December of that year, the 50 per cent owned by Ellis shifted to a company called Belloc Associates Pty Ltd.
Belloc Associates Pty Ltd is a company whose sole-director and ostensive “owner” is Cecil Piat, Ellis’ wife.
Yet ASIC filings show Piat is the “non-beneficial” owner of Belloc Associates Pty Ltd.
That means the true owner of Belloc Associates — and so the true owner of the 50% stake in Beckington, that until late 2019 was owned by Ellis — is hidden.
(As previously revealed, 10 “clients” of Beckington, including Toplace, the development company owned by Nassif, were quietly deleted from the NSW Lobbyists Register between February 10 and February 15. Those clients no longer appear anywhere on the register, even as “historical” clients of the firm, despite Beckington remaining an “active” lobbyist”).
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