Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle has vowed to refer unsuccessful federal Liberal candidate for Macquarie, Sarah Richards, and her property developer partner to the states's corruption watchdog.
In a second extraordinary speech to NSW Parliament this month, the Labor MP said on August 21 the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) should investigate a "scandal" involving Matthew Bennett and the former federal election candidate.
Mr Bennett is the partner of Sarah Richards and was her campaign manager in this year's federal election.
Ms Doyle said she had "proof that he [Mr Bennett] participated in a fake SMS scandal" that sought to "smear" her before the state election, and that he "attempted to pique the interest in it of a journalist at a right-wing radio station".
The fake text purporting to be from Ms Doyle stated in part: "let's get out there and kick some right wing arse... all the best... Trish Doyle".
But Ms Richards and Mr Bennett have labelled Ms Doyle's speech the "rant" of a person they have never properly met, and challenged her to "stand on Macquarie Street steps and say exactly the same thing".
Ms Richards, also a Hawkesbury City Councillor, said the speech "was one done in a coward's court" and called on Opposition Leader Jodi McKay to take action.
She said she found the allegation that Mr Bennett received the fake SMS "alarming".
"We've had nothing to do with the Blue Mountains state campaign. I find it very concerning - if not alarming - she's made this allegation because Matt did not ever receive this fake SMS," she said.
In her speech, Ms Doyle said Mr Bennett had ties with an RMS contractor via a series of companies.
"Mr Bennett has met with community representatives seeking wider support for an alternative route that he purports to have designed himself for the Bells Line of Road-Castlereagh Road corridor proposal, which is to run through my electorate. He has boasted of having Chinese property investors ready to buy land along the alternative route he is proposing," she said.
In response, Mr Bennett said he had "heaps of Chinese clients, we've got heaps of Indian clients".
Bells Line of Road had been a concern of his since his three-year-old daughter, Lily, was killed on the road on her way to preschool 12 years ago, he said.
"Corridors have been my fight since June 15, 2007. My eldest daughter was killed by a truck and dog at Kurrajong... I have been pushing safety for Bells Line of Road since then ... I lobbied to get the funding for those traffic lights," he said.
"Corridors are not about me selling stuff to Chinese developers ... I'm here to fix Bells Line of Road."
Ms Doyle also told Parliament Cr Richards seconded a Hawkesbury Council motion "that related to property deals between the council and another company, Bennett Western Sydney, which is also owned by Matthew Bennett" in 2016.
"It is little wonder then that Sarah Richards also wants the State Government to raise the Warragamba Dam wall, an issue she has actively campaigned on," she said. "I have not yet established whether her partner, Mr Bennett, has an interest in dam building. However, I am sure all property developers in the area are keen to see flood-prone lands opened up for fresh development and would all stand to profit."
Mr Bennett said he had been acting on behalf of a client interested in buying a property from Hawkesbury City Council in 2016, while Ms Richards said the two didn't meet until 2018. When another issue arose in relation to the property afterwards, she said she removed herself from the chamber.
The Hawkesbury Councillor did not back down from supporting the raising of the dam wall.
"Being a divided electorate [Macquarie], you are going to have a divide on this issue," she said. "The people in the Mountains are never going to support the flood mitigation measures, but the people in the valley always will.
"You can't link the fact that I support protecting life and property in the Hawkesbury ... to a motion in 2016 when I didn't even know [Mr Bennett]."
Ms Richards described Ms Doyle's speech as "pure smear campaign".
"She is protected [by parliamentary privilege] but Matt and I have every right now to defend our characters, to defend the allegations, to defend the almost absurd way she has tried to construct elements of our lives as linking to other past circumstances."
Mr Bennett challenged Ms Doyle "to stand on Macquarie Street steps and say exactly the same thing".
"We have absolutely nothing to hide in this regard, especially from someone I have never met," he said.
But Ms Doyle was equally adamant in her August 21 speech.
"I was prompted to pursue this because of Matthew Bennett's involvement in the Liberals' fake SMS fiasco that sought to smear me, but I now realise it is a much bigger scandal," she said.
"At this time I note for the benefit of the House that I will be making a referral to the ICAC about these matters and asking it to tug even more firmly on the threads I have discovered."
- with Damien Madigan