What’s in a threshold? Parties hide big backers
Royce Millar, Josh Gordon, Craig Butt
February 2, 2012
MILLIONS of dollars in campaign funding is unaccounted for in Victoria as political parties exploit Australia’s lax disclosure to hide the identity of financial backers.
Calculations by The Age based on yesterday’s annual returns to the Australian Electoral Commission show that in the case of the ruling Liberal Party, just a handful of donors are publicly identified. A mere $485,000 out of the party’s total income of $18.5 million for election year 2010-2011 can be sourced to corporate, industry or individual donors.
The Liberals have accounted for about two-thirds of their income, the ALP about half. Donations to the Victorian Liberals appear to be increasingly obscured either by being under the federal disclosure threshold of $11,500 (for 2010-2011) and/or through contributions given anonymously through increasingly important fund-raising clubs.
Nationals and Greens have detailed more of their annual receipts, although all parties appear to have made use of the the federal threshold to obscure the identity of backers.
Only a handful of donors to the Liberals have been identified, among them leader Ted Baillieu ($25,000) and outgoing chief of staff Michael Kapel. Industry and corporate donors include the Australian Hotels and Hospitality Association ($70,000) and British American Tobacco ($12,000).
A big gap also exists in Victorian Labor’s returns with less than half of the $21.8 million in total receipts itemised.
Notable among the donors disclosed are the Electrical Trades Union ($295,000), Labor’s controversial fund-raising arm Progressive Business ($824,000) and developers the Deal Corporation ($20,000) and Albert Dadon ($15,000). Despite publicly backing John Brumby, the Electrical Trades Union also tipped $100,000 into Green coffers for the 2010 campaign.
While federal Liberal and Labor parties disclose donations in detail, including small contributions, the state parties do not.
Mr Kapel’s $18,000 to the Liberal cause raised political eyebrows yesterday, after last week’s announcement that he had been appointed as Victoria’s Commissioner to the Americas, a taxpayer-funded role worth more than $200,000 after factoring in benefits.
Health Minister David Davis and Corrections Minister Andrew McIntosh also made direct donations large enough to be declared, with Mr Davis – who was in a recent legal battle that was funded by his party – donating $26,000 and Mr McIntosh contributing $18,000.
Shepparton-based fundraising body the Murray 250 Club chipped in $20,000. The club’s secretary and treasurer, Bill Parsons, was last year appointed to the board of Goulburn Valley Health, a position believed to pay between $10,000 and $20,000 a year. Another club, the Deakin Executive Forum, also contributed $31,000. The club’s treasurer, Andrew Conway, was appointed to the board of Eastern Health last year…
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