House debates

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2010

Second Reading

7:30 pm

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Mackellar, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Seniors) Share this | Hansard source

It is indeed a slogan and in this context getting it right means coercing coalition donors into balancing up those donations to the Labor Party.

Disclosure returns are used by Labor officials to use intimidation to extract money from businesses. Donate just to the coalition and you are bound to get a call from the state secretary of the ALP suggesting that it would be appropriate for your business to donate equally to both parties. If a company failed to pay up, it could find itself blackballed for government contracts in Labor controlled states or the business would suddenly attract a great deal more attention from union officials. By lowering the disclosure threshold to $1,000 from the existing $11,500 those companies and individuals who had previously had some security through anonymity would now find themselves open to a return of such Labor intimidation.

The historical trend has been that the unions continue to provide massive support to the Labor Party, and now the Greens are starting to see their share of that money—money they hope will increase as they become more disillusioned with the Labor Party itself. Conversely, businesses have either split donations on a 50-50 basis or, after tiring of pressure from Labor officials, have simply withdrawn their support for funding of political parties entirely. Were this bill to pass in its current form, the flight of donors would not only be likely to continue but would also be likely to increase apace. Of course, that does not matter to Labor and the Greens, who have the rivers of gold from the trade unions.

Whilst I have said that donations do not influence politicians at the federal level, let us for the sake of argument suppose that there might be some influence peddling by big money, and if big money and the influence that it buys is the problem then consider this: the trade union movement are the biggest money influence peddlers in Australia. Nobody actually knows the total amount of money given by the unions to the ALP and, more recently, to the Greens. Certainly, the unions and the ALP alike like to keep quiet about the level of union affiliation fees—I guess we are a bit grateful to Rodney Cavalier for at least publishing some of them in New South Wales; he had access that the rest of us would never get. But what we do know from the limited information on the public record is this: between 1 July 2006 and 30 June 2009 unions helped the ALP campaign by $76.6 million through direct and indirect funding.


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