Not judging ?water people

By PETER CATON

A PLEDGE of support from the Murwillumbah business community for Tweed-based Hermes Far Eastern Shining Pty Ltd has been watered down.

Murwillumbah and District Business Chamber president Phil Youngblutt yesterday moved to reassure many socially-conservative customers of businesses in the town that the chamber simply supported any signed-up member. He stressed it was not up to the chamber to "judge anyone".

Mr Youngblutt said The Luffley Cafe in Murwillumbah's main street, one of a number of businesses associated with the water people, was a paid up member of the business chamber.

"As such they have been no problem and it's not up to us as a chamber to presume to judge people."

Mr Youngblutt said the organisation's activities as business people had been absolutely A-1.

"They have made considerable contributions to local charities, the last being $9000 to the art gallery.

"If it's later proved they are doing things that are unlawful, that's a different matter.

Mr Youngblutt took aim at State MP Neville Newell, who on Wednesday accused the business chamber and associated National Party members of "drinking from the same glass as the water people".

"One thing they (Hermes Far Eastern Shining) have done is woken up Noddy (Neville Newell)," he said.

"If while he's awake, could he try doing something about the train in Murwillumbah?"

Mr Youngblutt further hit back at Mr Newell saying he had never attended a chamber breakfast despite being invited, although his federal Labor colleague, Richmond MP Justine Elliot, had.

Tweed Nationals chairman Murray Lees, a chamber director, described as "bizarre" Mr Newell's calls for the Nationals to "come clean" on whether the water people are putting money into National Party campaigns for upcoming NSW and local government elections.

"I had never heard of these 'water people' until recent Daily News reports. They are not Tweed Nationals and have never offered us any donations," he said.

"Likewise the Murwillumbah Business Chamber is independent of any political organisation. I am the only Tweed National among the ten chamber Directors.

"The Chamber membership is diverse and includes Mr Newell's ALP colleague Justine Elliot who we welcomed as a speaker at our May breakfast."

Hermes Far East Shining general manager Wadan Kurare was reassured of chamber support at a business breakfast earlier this week.

Members loudly applauded Mr Kurare after he declared his group would "keep walking forward with our heads up" and secretary Bob Robertson said the chamber appreciated the group's work in the town.

NSW Minister for Fair Trading Dianne Beamer has announced an urgent investigation following Daily News investigations of the activities of the group.



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