Is this the clumsiest political cover up on record? What does it say about the veracity of the Minister for Resources and Energy generally? Should the NSW North Coast bear this (and other questionable issues surrounding the Minister) in mind when they weigh his undertakings regarding mining in this state?
The NSW Parliament Hansard for the Legislative Assembly records these questions on 23 May 2012:
Ms LINDA BURNEY: My question is directed to the Minister for Resources and Energy, Special Minister of State, and Minister for the Central Coast. Why does the website of the lobbying firm Waratah Advisory list the Minister's chief of staff, Andrew Humpherson, as its principal with a contact number leading directly to his mobile phone?
Mr PAUL LYNCH: My question is to the Minister for Resources and Energy, Special Minister of State, and Minister for the Central Coast. Can the Minister guarantee that the mobile number listed for his chief of staff, Andrew Humpherson, on the lobbying website www.waratahgroup.net.au is not taxpayer funded?
After refusing to answer either question, the NSW Minister for Resources and Energy, Special Minister of State, and Minister for the Central Coast, Chris Hartcher, later the same day sought leave to make this statement to Parliament:
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: I seek to give a supplementary answer to a question I was asked earlier. My chief of staff, Andrew Humpherson, worked in his own consultancy business for seven months up to March of 2011. His website has been dormant and was not switched off due to an administrative oversight. He transferred his mobile phone number when he commenced as my chief of staff. His LinkedIn profile confirms that his government relations business discontinued in March 2011.
This is the LinkedIn entry to which the Minister referred:
This is what that same entry looked like when the Google search engine cached it for posterity on 5 May 2012 18:18:03 GMT:
Humpherson’s company Waratah Advisory was still displaying on the Internet on 11 May 2012 at 13:30:58 GMT according to Google Cache and stated on one page; As the Principal of Waratah Advisory, Andrew Humpherson has over 30 years experience in politics and public affairs roles.
Whois listed www.waratahgroup.net.au as being owned by PRATTENMOORE PTY LIMITED** with the contact person being Andrew Humpherson.
Unsurprisingly on 23 May 2012 at 05:03:55 UTC Humpherson appears to have requested deletion of this record below – less than an hour (EST) after his Minister gave that highly misleading supplementary answer to Parliament.
Snapshot taken on 24 May 2012
According to The Sydney Morning Herald on 24 May 2012:
A spokeswoman for Mr Hartcher said Mr Humpherson changed the profile after it was raised in question time because it was incorrect.
Thereby admitting that the alterations were made before Parliament adjourned for the day and a Hansard proof had been posted online which would have alerted NSW Voters to what was afoot.
Updated on 16 June 2011, approximately two months after commencing as Hartcher’s Chief of Staff, Humpherson still had this entry online at Zoominfo:
** Rather interestingly, Prattenmoore Pty Ltd with its registered office listed in Chatwood NSW is elsewhere described as an investment company. Waratah Advisory appears to be one of the business names under which this company operates.