Sunday, 20 May 2012

AEC takes the ground out from under Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's allegations regarding Thomson's campaign funding

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) today released its analysis of the information contained in the Report of the Delegate to the General Manager of Fair Work Australia – “Investigation into the National Office of the Health Services Union under section 331 of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009” (the FWA Report) dated 28 March 2012 against the reporting obligations contained in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act).
Part XX of the Electoral Act sets out the obligations of individuals and organisations for disclosure, the time at which disclosures need to be made, the thresholds that apply to disclosure and the types of expenditure and donations that must be disclosed. In broad terms:
  • Disclosure obligations fall on Mr Thomson as a candidate, the HSU National Office and the NSW Branch of the Australian Labor Party. The Electoral Act sets out separate reporting obligations for each of these entities
  • Reporting obligations on new candidates in relation to donations used for election purposes arise only after a candidate is pre-selected as a candidate for an election – in Mr Thomson’s case this was after 13 April 2007
  • Reporting obligations on candidates for political expenditure arise only in respect of amounts expended during the election period (i.e. after issue of the writ – which occurred on 17 October 2007 for the 2007 election) and apply only to certain types of expenditure generally in the nature of political advertising
  • HSU National Office has reporting obligations both as a donor and a third party incurring political expenditure. These reporting obligations arise over several years from 2006 to 2008
  • The relevant branch of the political party which endorses the candidate, in this case the ALP NSW Branch, is responsible for reporting on political campaign expenses
  • Thresholds apply to the reporting of details of donations and political expenditure. The thresholds that were in place during the period covered by the FWA report were $10,300 for the 2006-2007 financial year and $10,500 for the 2007-2008 financial year
The AEC has examined the disclosure returns made by all relevant parties in relation to the period covered by the FWA Report. The AEC notes that few of the individual transactions reported in Chapter 7 of the FWA Report exceeded the respective disclosure thresholds applying for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 financial years.
Accordingly detailed disclosure of the particulars set out in subsection 314AC(3) of the Electoral Act (e.g. the name and address of donors) would not, therefore, have been required on the returns lodged by either the HSU National Office or by the ALP NSW Branch. However, some items of expenditure that have been identified would have been required to be incorporated into the total of all amounts received or paid in the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 annual returns of the HSU National Office and of the ALP NSW Branch. Inquiries have been made to establish whether that has occurred.
In relation to the amounts listed at paragraph 197 of the FWA Report the following table sets out their status under the Electoral Act.
Disclosure to the AEC
Establishment of the Campaign Office
Under the threshold - Further information sought to establish whether disclosed by ALP NSW or HSU
Payments to Dobell FEC
Under the threshold - Further information sought to establish whether disclosed by ALP NSW or HSU
Campaign bus
Under the threshold - Further information sought to establish whether disclosed by the ALP NSW or HSU
Postage expenses
Disclosed by the HSU National Office
Payments to LBH Promotions
Under the threshold - Further information sought to determine whether disclosed by HSU
ALP advertising
Disclosed by HSU National Office
Radio advertising
Disclosed by HSU National Office
Printing expenses
Disclosed by HSU National Office
Accordingly, of the above amounts, the AEC is currently seeking further information about four items of expenditure which total $17,014.88. The other amounts identified at paragraph 197 of the FWA Report have been disclosed.
In relation to amounts expended on the employment of Ms Crisalee Stevens and Mr Mathew Burke, paragraph 119 of Chapter 1 of the FWA Report indicates that their salaries were included in the HSU National Office third party expenditure returns for 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.
There is no requirement under the Electoral Act for disclosure by Mr Thomson in relation to the Central Coast Rugby League as the payments occurred outside the disclosure period as defined in the Act.
Expenditure in relation to Dads in Education Father’s Day Breakfast, Golden Years Collectables and Central Coast Convoy for Kids each fall below the threshold established by the Act for reporting.

Media contact

Phil Diak | Director Media
AEC, Canberra
02 6271 4435
0413 452 539

Excerpt from the AEC report:

Amounts received

The “disclosure period” is defined in subsection 287(1) of the Electoral Act and paragraph (c) applies to Mr Thomson as he was not a candidate for the 2004 election. Mr Thomson was pre-selected as the ALP candidate for Dobell on 13 April 2007. Therefore, any “gift” that was received prior to that date (e.g. the services of Ms Stevens and Mr Burke) was not required to be disclosed by either Mr Thomson or his candidate agent. The schema in the Electoral Act does not recognise that the expenditure of funds to raise the profile on a person in an electorate prior to that person actually being endorsed by a registered political party could be categorised as being for the benefit of the registered political party that subsequently endorsed the person as their candidate. As already stated, the Electoral Act does not apply to the pre-selection of new candidates or expenditure that they have incurred before they are actually endorsed by a registered political party.

Expenditure incurred

Similarly the “electoral expenditure” that is required to be disclosed by a candidate or their agent is regulated by sections 308 and 309 of the Electoral Act. These provisions limit the disclosure requirement to expenditure during the “election period” which is defined in subsection 287(1) of the Electoral Act as the period between the issuing of the writs for the 2007 general election (17 October 2007) and the polling day on 24 November 2007. Further, the actual items of electoral expenditure which are required to be disclosed are limited to those items set out in subsection 308(1) of the Electoral Act. In general terms, subsection 308(1) limits any reporting obligation to expenditure incurred on electoral advertising which takes place during the “election period”.

An email received by North Coast Voices from one reader raises a concern about media reporting on the $17,014.88 which was under the reporting threshold:

[Address redacted]

The majority of newspapers have left an impression that there is something still "dodgy" about Craig Thompson and his electoral funding to the amount of $17000.
But I got a different impression when  I read this report

I just thought I would send it to you in relation to clarencegirl’s opinion piece on Oakshott and him already deciding something has to be done.

Anyway thank you
I love your blog

[Name redacted]

1 comment:

Patriciawa said...

And I love Clarence Girl's postings here! There is 'something dodgy' alright, but it's not about Craig Thomson! When will his critics admit that there is something dodgy about the whistleblower accusing him? Even if he can explain exactly what happened to his credit card and exonerate himself.......

Will They Eat Crow?

No, I don’t believe him!” said Reverend Tim,
As if full weight of judgement lay with him.
Thousands more watching shared his thought,
Nationwide jury in a kangaroo court.

Outrage required a penalty paid,
To be decided once a charge was laid.
Meanwhile the rack would do or pillory
In full sight of his friends and family.

His accuser, once colleague, is feted,
Whistleblower, congratulated,
With much to gain and nothing to lose
She stars in many media interviews.

She had long sought that in years before.
Has no need now to seek it, for sure.
So why have journalists no suspicions
As she’s taken up by politicians?

Where was research, the facts on this lady?
Her partner’s role, for a judge, seems shady.
The public should know if they’ve broken the law.
Isn’t that what our free press is for?

With that Fair Work Report now proven wrong,
Will the media sing a different song?
Are all his critics going to eat crow?
If they follow their leader, the answer is “NO!”