Friday, 9 May 2014

In light of matters the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption is uncovering, perhaps Warringah Club activities need to be revisited

In light of the fact that the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is currently investigating allegations that in the years leading up to the 2011 state election senior Liberal Party fundraisers were hiding prohibited donations (using associated entities and at least one corporation set up as a slush fund) with the co-operation of certain Liberal state and federal politicians; it may be time to look at the extraordinary conclusion drawn by the NSW Election Funding Authority in 2010 – that the Warringah Club aka The Sydney Small Business Club and the NSW Liberal Party were unaware of their legal disclosure obligations.

The Sydney Morning Herald 5 November 2010:

THE political fund-raising arm of the federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has been found to have breached electoral laws, while one of his principal donors has also failed to make required disclosures, according to documents lodged with the NSW Election Funding Authority.
After a five-month investigation, the authority found that the Warringah Club, which raises money for Mr Abbott's campaigns in his seat of Warringah, had broken the law by not disclosing the sources of its donations.
''The club failed to lodge a declaration [as required] and the matter is to be further investigated to determine whether to pursue prosecution,'' the authority's funding and disclosures director, Brian DeCelis, wrote to the NSW Greens, which raised an official complaint about the Warringah Club in May.
But Mr DeCelis also found that the club and the NSW Liberal Party, which lodged false declarations relating to the club, ''did not understand their disclosure obligations'' and therefore would not be prosecuted for knowingly making a false statement.
During the investigation, the Warringah Club submitted an amended list of donors showing it had given $93,000 to Mr Abbott's Warringah Federal Electoral Council in 2004 and 2007, and $10,000 to the NSW Liberal Party in 2007.
Donors to the Warringah Club include the property developers and long-term backers of Mr Abbott, John and Stanley Roth, who gave $10,440 in November 2008 and $2300 to the Warringah Club in 2009.
However, in a letter on May 19, to the NSW Planning Department in support of its planned residential and retail development on the site of Kirrawee Brickworks, the Roth family company Henroth Investments listed no political donations in 2008.
It disclosed $36,500 in donations made in 2009-10 to organisations including the Warringah Club, but applications under Part 3A of the NSW Planning Act require the declaration of donations made up to two years prior. Nor did the Liberal Party of NSW disclose the receipt of the Henroth donations in its 2008 declaration…..

The Sydney Small Business Club (The Warringah Club) – an associated entity of the NSW Liberal Party and Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s support group – is hardly new to either state or federal financial disclosure systems as it has been submitting associated entity returns in New South Wales since at least 2000-01 and in some years the amounts disclosed are substantial.

By way of example:

In 2012-13 The Sydney Small Business Club reported $14,000 received and payments of $5,644.00
In 2011-12 the Club disclosed it received $29,230.00 and made payments of $42,358.00 and in 2010-11 declared $116,234 received and made payments of $157,187.
In 2009-10 the Club declared $43,800.00 in receipts and $14,935.00 in payments and in 2008-09 it reported $29,050.00 received and $11,115.00 paid out.

In 2010-11 the Liberal Party of Australia (NSW Division) disclosed to the Australian Electoral Commission that it had received a $50,000 donation from The Warringah Club, a donation amount which was repeated in 2011-12.

The Liberal Party of NSW last month declared a four-year-old donation of $25,000 from the Warringah Club, a fundraising entity associated with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, as well as amending its most recent returns to declare more than $100,000 in political donations including in-kind support to Joe Hockey’s Federal Electoral Committee.
The amended returns were received by the Australian Electoral Commission on April 5, 2014, as the Independent Commission Against Corruption was preparing to begin public hearings into political donations channelled to a company associated with a staff member in the office of Terrigal MP Chris Hartcher, uncovered during Operation Spicer. It is not clear what prompted the additional disclosures....

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