Baird braces for ICAC by-election fallout

Premier Mike Baird

Two NSW electorates are set to go to the polls just months before a general election and as an ICAC probe claims more Liberal scalps.

Voters are tipped to punish the Baird government in two upcoming by-elections following the dramatic downfall of MPs Tim Owen and Andrew Cornwell.

The by-elections will be held in the Liberal seats of Newcastle and Charlestown just months before the state's general election in March.

The seats were vacated after former top-ranking RAAF officer Mr Owen and vet Dr Cornwell resigned from parliament after making damaging admissions to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

"Everyone in NSW, everyone in the electorates has the right to feel appalled, angered and betrayed," Premier Mike Baird said on Tuesday.

Mr Owen on Monday told the watchdog he returned $10,000 he received in a car from property developer and now-Newcastle mayor Jeff McCloy.

But on Tuesday Mr Owen sensationally told the commission that was a lie and he in fact had ploughed the money into his campaign.

Mr Owen was elected after a smear campaign against then-Labor minister Jodi McKay.

Dr Cornwell told the corruption watchdog last week he had received a $10,000 bribe from another property developer in a sham painting sale.

The by-elections are expected to cost taxpayers $1 million to run.

The Labor Party will hope to retake Charlestown and Newcastle which have traditionally been held by the ALP.

The Liberal Party holds Charlestown on a 10 per cent margin and Newcastle on a 2.6 per cent margin.

Newcastle Labor Councillor Tim Crakanthorp is the Labor candidate in Newcastle. In May, he beat fellow councillor Nuatali Nelmes in a rank-and-file vote.

Lake Macquarie mayor Jodie Harrison is Labor's candidate in Charlestown.

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