Hotels lobby boss is still Libs' fundraiser

Jane Hansen, Sunday Telegraph, 17 March 2012

The new boss of the powerful hotels lobby is still working as the NSW Liberal Party's chief fundraiser despite Premier Barry O'Farrell's claims to the contrary.

Although Paul Nicolaou took on the role of AHA NSW chief executive in January, he said he would not be standing down as chairman of the Millennium Forum - the fundraising arm of the state's Liberal Party - until May.

Having raised more than $20 million for the party during his time with the forum, Mr Nicolaou's admission has sparked fears about the level of influence the lobby will wield over the government.

It also contradicted Mr O'Farrell's claims in December that Mr Nicolaou had quit the role of chief party fundraiser before taking on his new duties at the AHA.

"Nicolaou was our fundraiser - not is," he said in a text message to The Sunday Telegraph at the time.

Brett Holmes, from the Last Drinks coalition, said Mr Nicolaou's decision to continue in both roles was a clear conflict of interest.

"It clarifies exactly what they (the AHA) are doing, to have a strong political influence to open doors and influence policy," Mr Holmes said.

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre echoed his concerns.

"To be so close to one political party, it doesn't pass the smell test and it doesn't look right," NDARC spokesman Paul Dillon said.

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