The NSW ICAC has launched a major probe into allegations that key NSW Liberal Party figures were involved in branch stacking across the state. Anthony Klan reports.
HE’S 22 YEARS OLD and runs one of the nation’s most successful political “lobbying” firms.
He launched the firm after departing as a “senior advisor” to former NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and almost immediately named a string of major property developers as clients.
Last month an explosive NSW Parliamentary Inquiry – now the basis of a full-blown state corruption probe – found he made ‘deliberate attempts’ to avoid giving evidence.
Meet Young Liberal Dylan Whitelaw.
Whitelaw, who turned 22 last month, is among several Liberal Party figures – including two of former NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s brothers – who went “missing” or refused to appear before the parliamentary inquiry which conducted a high-profile, state-wide manhunt.
Charles Perrottet, Jean-Claude Perrottet, Whitelaw and Liberal powerbroker Christian Ellis are alleged to be key figures in the far-Right NSW Reformers, a secretive fundamentalist Christian group within the NSW Liberal Party allegedly created to influence “public policy”, including by stacking local councils.
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 to get developments approved.
‘Christian Ellis is the owner of a lobbyist company and at the time a Liberal Party State Executive member who listed Toplace as one of his major clients,’ Williams said.
Nassif denies the claims.
The Inquiry was to relaunch, but last week it was announced the matters are in the hands of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which has launched a major probe.
A string of up to five homes of ‘past and present NSW Liberal Party members’ have reportedly been raided, including the confirmed raid of the Melbourne home of Charles Perrottet and his wife, Anita Perrottet.
The Parliamentary Inquiry was provided with three highly detailed dossiers of unknown origin which it tendered as evidence.
The third dossier, titled ‘Chapter Three: The Lobbyists’, names three entities: Macquarie Consulting, owned by Anita Perrottet; Beckington, run by Ellis; and Whitelaw’s Macquarie Advisory Group.
‘Whitelaw left Anthony Roberts office... and a few weeks later started his own lobbyist company,’ says the dossier:
‘Macquarie Advisory has a short but successful history having nine clients, most of which are developers or development adjacent industries.’
(Neither Macquarie Advisory Group nor Macquarie Consulting have any connection to financial giant Macquarie Group.)
Whitelaw is Secretary of the Mittagong branch of the Liberal Party.
Details provided in the dossier, which have been separately confirmed by The Klaxon, show Whitelaw registered Macquarie Advisory as a company with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) on 21 October last year.
The firm become “active” on the NSW Government lobbyists register on 2 November.
Between then and 23 December, Whitelaw added seven clients as “active”, including western Sydney land developer Dartanyon; property developer Pacific Community Housing; commercial building company J Group; and KLF Holdings, a western Sydney construction waste recycling company.
In January he added two more clients, including UAE-based developer Arada, run by Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi and Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, which has previously announced plans to build in Sydney.
Macquarie Advisory Group’s success is despite it having no website.
The Inquiry issued summonses for Whitelaw; Jean-Claude Perrottet; Christian Ellis; his mother, Virginia Ellis (a current Hills Shire councillor and a staffer of NSW Liberal MP Robyn Preston); Robert Assaf and Jeff Egan, after they either rejected or failed to respond to requests to appear.
Individuals can be arrested and imprisoned for failing to attend after receiving a summons, however, despite a state-wide manhunt costing taxpayers thousands of dollars, private process servers were unable to locate the six witnesses to physically “serve” them.
‘Never has a committee been faced with such serious, deliberate and co-ordinated attempts to evade service of a summons.’
Whitelaw did not respond to a series of written questions put to him last week, including whether his home had been raided by the ICAC.
He has denied any wrongdoing.
Whitelaw rejected multiple requests from the Parliamentary Inquiry for him to give evidence in person or via video link.
‘I note that your invitation for me to attend your Greens/Labor-led partisan and politically motivated inquiry was received yesterday,’ he wrote to the inquiry on 24 February.
‘I decline to attend this circus of a hearing,’ he wrote on 27 February:
‘I believe it to be entirely politically motivated.’
In another letter, signed off ‘Dylan Whitelaw Esq JP’, Whitelaw asked for confirmation he would be covered by parliamentary privilege if he gave evidence (this was confirmed with him).
On 28 February, the Inquiry wrote to Whitelaw saying it had ‘resolved to summon him’ and asked for a ‘time and address to receive the summons’.
A process server reported they had attended Whitelaw’s address but had been unable to locate him.
‘I knocked on the door but did not receive an answer,’ writes the server"
Upon speaking to my client I was informed Dylan would be there in about 15 minutes and to wait. A motor vehicle stopped at the front of the premises but the occupant stayed in the vehicle.
I approached... and he only opened the door a fraction and was wearing a hoody, there was no light on inside so I could not recognise him.
I said “are you Dylan Whitelaw” to which he replied “I cannot help you”, then he pulled into the driveway across the road and sat there for a few minutes before leaving.
On 1 March, the day before the Inquiry’s final hearing – which he refused to attend – Whitelaw wrote to the Inquiry:
‘At all stages I have attempted to assist the committee where practicably possible.’
Regarding the Inquiry, Whitelaw wrote he had ‘received advice from family, friends, legal representatives, and my work circle... which has led me to the decision to be as cooperative as possible’.
‘I have also sought spiritual advice from my God,’ he wrote.
Charles Perrottet and developer Nassir also refused to give evidence, including via video link.
The inquiry could not summons either because Charles Perrottet lives interstate and Nassif was in “remote Lebanon”.
‘I will not be participating in your Labor/Green circus. I decline your invitation,’ Charles Perrottet wrote to the inquiry on 20 February.
His daughter, Ashlyn Nassif, 27, who is a lawyer and executive manager of Nassif’s Toplace, was arrested and charged with dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception after allegedly securing $150 million of loans from Westpac in 2021 based on falsified apartment pre-sales contracts.
The NSW Reformers, a far-Right faction of the NSW Liberal Party, allegedly used tens of thousands of dollars to stack branches across the state.
The first dossier filed with the inquiry, called ‘Chapter One: The Reformers’, sheds substantial light on the secretive group, including its use of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and shock-jock Alan Jones to recruit members.
The highly-detailed, 79-page document includes hard evidence about the group’s operations, drawn from a wide range of source documents, including since-deleted webpages and company filings.
‘The NSW Reformers... [was] formed with the sole and express purpose of recruiting or stacking branches to the NSW Liberal Party with the goal of installing their own people into council and Parliament...’
One since-deleted webpage says Christian Ellis created the group in 2018 as a ‘voice within the Liberal Party’ to ‘work as a united and coordinated Christian voice’ to ‘reform this great state’, including by having hard-Right policies around abortion ‘reflected in public policy’.
‘For years, we have seen the slow erosion of [Christian] values... as such we seek to reform this great state by adding a Christian voice to it.’
The dossier states the NSW Reformers ‘eventually reached every corner of NSW’, from ‘south in Albury to north in Coffs Harbour and all over Sydney’.
The NSW Reformers handled tens of thousands of dollars which was obtained from MPs, Senators, Ministers, Councillors, Liberal Party powerbrokers and wealthy benefactors.
As they put their members into branches, they would take executive and delegates' positions at that AGM.
It is alleged NSW Reformers used events on issues such as abortion to sign up members and the dossier lists 11 of the events, most from late 2019.
Featured guests included MP Damien Tudehope; MP Tanya Davies; former Attorney-General Greg Smith SC; MP Kevin Connolly; MP Nat Smith; Dallas McInerny of Catholic Schools NSW; and Kieren Jackson, director of the NSW Australian Christian Lobby.
The document states:
‘One particular high-profile event was held on 24 June 2018 which was called “Protecting Religious Freedoms for our Family and Faith”... co-hosted by Tony Abbott and Damien Tudehope.’
Whitelaw’s Facebook page contains a photo of him and Abbott, dated 26 May 2018, stating:
‘Great to catch up with the amazing Tony Abbott today at the Liberal NSW State Council.’
In December 2020, Whitelaw set a more recent picture of himself and Abbott as his Facebook profile picture.
The 2019 NSW Liberal Party AGM was the ‘first state-wide success’ of the group, with ‘core reformers’ – including Whitelaw – appointed to six positions, with ‘a further nine positions going to people that were influenced or supportive of the Reformers’, the first dossier states.
At the 2021 AGM (held in late 2022), eight “core reformers” and nine people “influenced by the Reformers” were elected.
The dossier states:
‘Importantly, the Reformers now made up 50 per cent of the Right-wing faction’s total State Executive members.’
That influence was magnified as numerous members were also appointed to the powerful Local Government Oversight Committee, which is involved in deciding who is “pre-selected” to run as Liberals in local council elections.
The NSW Reformers were allegedly behind stacking the 2021 Hills Shire Council, in a move that blindsided the Liberal mayor and six other Liberal councillors, who were ousted after failing to gain Liberal Party “pre-selection”.
Whitelaw was appointed to the NSW Liberal Party Convention Committee at the 2019 AGM and to the Local Government Oversight Committee at the 2021 AGM (held in 2022).
He became a key member of the NSW Reformers having been considered ‘up-and-coming talent of the NSW Liberal Party’ and was ‘brought into the key operations of the Reformers including administration and recruitment,’ the dossier states.
It states that before registering his own lobbying firm, Whitelaw worked for Christian Ellis’ lobbying firm, Beckington.
It says Whitelaw had also been employed by former Federal Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and NSW Liberal MP and President of the NSW upper house Matthew Mason-Cox ‘in the President’s Office’.
The dossier states NSW Reformers ‘reached every corner of NSW’ but had ‘attracted surprisingly little media coverage’:
The NSW Reformers have attracted surprisingly little media attention given the high-profile nature of their key decision makers and their aggressive and coercive tactics.
Why would the media turn the blind eye to an operation that used tens of thousands of dollars from elected officials to mass recruit hundreds of members in every corner of NSW for the purpose of replacing or bullying elected officials?
Anthony Klan is an investigative journalist and editor of 'The Klaxon'. You can follow him on Twitter @Anthony_Klan. This article was originally published on The Klaxon and has been republished with permission.
- VIDEO: The Liberal Party of hypocrisy
- CARTOONS: Liberal lurch to the Right leaves Leeser no option
- Slow implosion of Liberal Party accelerates under Dutton
- Slow implosion of Liberal Party accelerates under Dutton
- Dutton determined to revive the Liberal Party election machine
Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.