CHEQUE?S IN THE MAIL

By ED SOUTHORN

LABOR MP Neville Newell has challenged his National Party opponent Geoff Provest to hand back any campaign funds from developers, after the Tweed MP claimed this week to have returned a "sizeable" cheque from a local development company.

Mr Newell told the Daily News yesterday that he had returned a cheque posted to his electorate office.

"It was a sizeable amount, the biggest individual donation, but I don't accept money from developers," Mr Newell said.

He said the donor, who had been active in the Tweed, had not requested any favours.

The Daily News was shown a copy of a cheque made out for $1500 that Mr Newell's staff said had been sent by the developer.

Mr Newell said it would be unfair to publicly reveal the developer's identity.

Mr Provest returned fire at Mr Newell, saying he had not been approached by any major developers in the Tweed wanting to contribute to his campaign.

But he did not rule out the Nationals head office having received developer contributions to assist with campaigning.

Mr Provest also said that after the 2003 state election, Labor's "top 10" NSW campaign contributors had been developers.

"No cheques have been sent to me and a lot of my donations are just mums and dads," he said.

"I'm not obligated to anyone."

Nationals leader Andrew Stoner, in town yesterday, told the Daily News that Labor was spending more than $15 million across NSW and the Nationals no more than $3 million on its campaign.

Voters will have to wait until after the election, when all candidates have to publicly declare their campaign donations, to get a clearer picture of how much money has been spent.

Even then the identity of donors can be hidden behind obscure company names.

Independents Julie Boyd and Gavin Lawrie and Green Tom Tabart said their financial resources were far less than the major parties'.

Ms Boyd said she has marginally exceeded her campaign budget of $1000 and Mr Tabart said he was spending around $5000.

Mr Lawrie has written to the Daily News claiming his campaign spending amounts to $1579 in donations and about $5000 to $6000 from his own pocket.

Mr Tabart said all parties and some independents could draw on government-allocated money from the last federal election, when each candidate then who polled above a minimum number of votes received about $1.90 per vote.

Mr Newell said his campaign had cost about $25,000 collected locally from small donations and fund- raising.

He said his TV advertising was funded by Labor's head office in Sydney, separate from the money raised locally, and he did not know the amount of the head office contribution.

Mr Provest said it was hard to estimate the cost of his campaign, although he claimed Labor was outspending the Nationals by "about five to one".

"A lot of it comes out my pocket and we have a team of volunteers," Mr Provest said.

He said his TV ads were funded by the Nationals NSW head office.

"We've had about four, five or six (TV) ads each night, but they (Labor) have had 20 or 30."

Ms Boyd, who has accused Mr Provest of having a "money tree", said her campaign costs so far had been about $600 for brochures, $160 for t-shirts and just under $300 for how to vote cards.

As well, like all the Tweed candidates, she had to pay $250 to register as a candidate.

Ms Boyd wants all candidates to itemise their campaign spending before polling day.



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