Senate debates

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Matters of Urgency

Donations to Political Parties

5:09 pm

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Yes, sorry—he stepped down from the ministry. Thank you, Senator Collins. We are still waiting on ICAC on that. In 2009 he authored a letter that went to all Liberal MPs. He was not a senator then. It said:

This bill is designed to cause maximum damage to our party and our efforts to fund an effective campaign against Labor at the next election.

So he was well and truly letting all the Liberal MPs know that this was not something that the New South Wales Liberal Party wanted to be up-front about. Those opposite do not want to be up-front about political donations; otherwise, they would have signed up to our legislation when we were in government. They do not want that.

We heard from Senator Rhiannon. She is in here all by herself. I do not know where the other Greens are. Obviously they do not support her stand. The Greens have just done the dirtiest deal in 30 years with the government. They had an opportunity to put political donations into their wish list. What happened? They did not do that. I am not quite sure whether they asked the government for anything. I suppose time will tell. But it seems they just rolled over on this dirty deal on electoral reform—the biggest change in 30 years. Now they come in here saying, 'Oh, but we want political donation reform.' Seriously? The time to ask for that was when the government was so desperate to try to advantage its position in an election that it wanted to do this dirty deal on electoral reform. What did the Greens do? They obviously just rolled over. Political donations, it would seem, were not even mentioned.

The party with the record of acting on political donations are Labor. We are the ones who put the legislation before the parliament. We do not use scammy 500 clubs. We do not use the Free Enterprise Foundation. We do not have senators who in their former lives wrote to MPs saying, 'Avoid this legislation at all costs.' That is because we stand for reform of political donations.

As I said at the outset, the only political party with an elected official—maybe they were appointed to the Liberal Party; who would know?—who has been found guilty of political donation fraud is the Liberal Party. Mr Damian Mantach has pleaded guilty to a $1.5 million fraud. I understand from my Tasmanian Labor colleagues that actually he has not even been charged—the Liberal Party are not even going after him—with alleged fraud in Tasmania. This is just what happened after he left Tasmania. So that is where it sits. We have seen that Senator Sinodinos in a previous life as one of the directors of Australian Water Holdings made donations to the Liberal Party. We have seen the Free Enterprise Foundation. We have seen brown bags with $10,000 in them. No wonder the LNP do not want to sign up to reform of political donations!

Maybe when the Greens did the dirty deal on electoral reform they got something else, but it is absolutely breathtaking that the Greens would come in here over the past couple of sitting weeks and start to talk about political donations when their chance for reform was when they had the government on the ropes. But we know they are not very good negotiators. They have let the government off before. They then had a go, as we heard, at Labor when it is the Greens who hold the record for the largest single political donation in this country. We had Senator Rhiannon saying she did not write her piece and then she had to fess up and say that she did. How embarrassing! At least have the courage of your convictions and stand up for what you believe in. But, no. We see this feigned attempt. Suddenly now they want political donation reform. You know what? The time for that has passed. They should have asked for that a couple of weeks ago.

But the LNP have the most to hide—well and truly. ICAC New South Wales claimed the scalps of many Liberal MPs. We heard about all sorts of dodgy deals on how cash and other funds are channelled through to the Liberal Party. It is disgraceful. Labor stand for political donation reform. All of our donations are out there for all to see. They are not hidden through 500 clubs, 200 clubs and the like. They are there on the public record. We stand for political donation reform.


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