Friday, 15 July 2016

Yet another example of why Australia needs uniform 'real time' political donation disclosure laws

The full list of who made declarable cash donations to political parties or independent candidates and, which state parties and associated entities transferred money to their federal counterparts for use in the campaign preceding the 2 July 2016 federal election, won’t be known until 2018.

That will in all probability be less than a year before the next federal election.

Even then the accuracy of disclosures is open to speculation as at the period covering the previous federal election in 2013 indicates:

50 (54%) resulted in the disclosure return requiring amendment
35 returns (38%) required amendment to the reported total value of receipts
32 returns (34%) required amendment to the reported total value of payments
12 returns (13%) required amendment to the reported total value of debts
31 returns (33%) required amendment to the details of individual receipts, either by correcting the details disclosed or adding receipts not included on the return
6 returns (6%) required amendment to the details of outstanding debts, either by correcting the details disclosed or adding debts not included on the return.

Meanwhile, as we wait ABC News on 14 July 2016 supplied yet another example of why real time online publication of political donation declarations would be a wise reform:

A group of Sydney property developers have donated thousands of dollars to the ACT branch of the Liberal Party despite appearing to have no connection with the capital.

Developers are banned from making political donations in New South Wales, but are not in the ACT.

Since last month four companies registered to developers in Sydney have donated a total of $20,000 to the Canberra Liberals.

The ACT Labor Government said it had no record of any of the companies ever working, or applying for work, in the territory.

One of the developers, Tony Merhi, previously appeared before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) over allegations he had bypassed his state's ban on developer donations by donating to a Liberal Party slush fund.

Mr Merhi also sparked interest when it was revealed he began donating tens of thousands of dollars to the federal Liberal Party following the NSW ban on developer donations in 2009.

In response to questions from the ABC, regarding the donations and the possibility the Canberra Liberals were being used to avoid the NSW ban, the party released a short statement.

"The Canberra Liberals receive donations from many different individuals and businesses. All donations are permitted under ACT donations laws," the statement read.

Merc Shoppingtown, Toplace, J&M Nassif Property Group and Statewide Planning all made one-off $5,000 donations to the Liberals in June.
Details on the companies are limited, but Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) records showed they were registered respectively to Tony Merhi, Jean Nassif, John and Maroun Nassif, and Hoda Demian.

The ABC has been unable to contact any of the companies or their directors, other than Toplace, who declined to comment.
The NSW Electoral Commission said the "risk of money being moved between branches of political parties [was] not a new one"….

"The NSW Electoral Commission has advocated reform in this area, as has the Panel of Experts on Political Donations more recently," the Commission said in a statement.

But the Commission said if the ACT Liberal Party chose to transfer the money to their New South Wales colleagues there would be a cap on how quickly they could do it.

"The ACT branch of the Liberal Party can donate this financial year $5,900 to the NSW branch for state purposes and another $5,900 for local government purposes," the Commission said.

The ACT Liberal Party deputy leader Alistair Coe dismissed the issue as a storm in a tea cup.

Mr Coe said the donations were linked to the party's federal campaign.

"So our federal campaign does have different dealings with people right across the ACT and indeed Australia, so to that end those donations are linked to the federal campaign rather than territory politics," he said…..

Last week's update to the ACT's political donation disclosures also shows the Canberra Liberals received one of their largest ever individual donations, $30,000 from Paul Marks, as well as a $15,000 donation from the Victorian branch of the party.

Mr Marks rose to prominence last year when then federal Liberal MP Stuart Robert was forced to resign after it was revealed he held shares in a mining company linked to Mr Marks.


The party's financial dire straits were so bad during the marathon eight-week campaign the Liberals had to scrimp on their advertising earlier to afford a blitz during the final week, when political ads are thought to be most effective.  

One Liberal MP said they were regularly approached and offered donations on the proviso they were not redirected to Mr Turnbull's federal campaign. 

The Australian reported on Friday that Mr Turnbull, a multi-millionaire some estimate could be worth as much as $200 million, had dipped into his own pocket to fund $1 million worth of Liberal Party advertising.

Asked to confirm or deny the report, Mr Turnbull's office declined to answer and instead said all donations would be disclosed and made public. 

"Donations to the Liberal Party are disclosed in accordance with the requirements of the Electoral Act," a spokesman for the Prime Minister said. 

The Australian Electoral Commission says parties must disclose their donors identities each financial year, if their contributions exceed $13,000. But records for the 2016 election campaign will not be made public until February 2017.....  

No comments: