Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Donations to Political Parties
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) former Newcastle Lord Mayor and developer, Mr Jeff McCloy, lost his High Court case to overturn a New South Wales law banning developers from making political donations,
(ii) in its finding on the case, the High Court identified a more subtle kind of corruption known as clientelism, which is where officeholders will decide issues not on the merits or the desires of their constituencies, but according to the wishes of those who have made large financial contributions valued by the officeholder,
(iii) the High Court also stated that the particular concern is that reliance by political candidates on private patronage may, over time, become so necessary as to sap the vitality, as well as the integrity, of the political branches of government, and
(iv) in dealing with solutions, the High Court found that, unlike straight cash-for-votes transactions, such corruption is neither easily detected nor practical to criminalise, and the best means of prevention is to identify and to remove the temptation; and
(b) calls on the Government:
(i) to ban political donations to parties and candidates from for-profit corporations, and
(ii) to establish an independent agency, similar to the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption, which works to expose corruption and enhance integrity at the federal level.
The Australian Greens demonstrate their hypocrisy in this matter. Not only are the Greens the recipients of a $300,000 donation from the ETU and a $125,000 series of donations from the CFMEU; according to their 2013-14 disclosure, the Greens are the recipients of the largest corporate donation in Australian political history—from Wotif founder Graeme Wood, who gave them $1.6 million back in 2010. Mr Wood later said that the Greens' winning the balance of power in the Senate meant that he had received 'a good return on investment'. Given that the Greens went on to advance at every turn his bid for the purchase of the Triabunna woodchip mill, he is probably right. I also note that their website indicates that the Greens hold themselves to a higher standard than other parties, apparently requiring the disclosure—
Mr President, I raise a point of order. You know very well, and Senator Ryan knows very well, that it is improper to cast those kinds of imputations on the motives of senators in this case or in any other case. In this case, those ridiculous assertions were tested by this parliament's Privileges Committee and they were thrown out. Through you, Mr President, I ask Senator Ryan to withdraw that imputation.
Senator Ludlam, I do not think there is a point of order. He did not single out a senator; it was a collective of senators. It is a party and, in the past, that has not been ruled as unparliamentary language. The only comment I will make, though, is that these one-minute statements originally were to give some facts, and they should not be part of a political debate. Senator Ryan has 21 seconds in which to continue his remarks, if he wishes to do so.
I also note that the Greens' website indicates that they hold themselves to a higher standard than other parties, requiring the disclosure of donations to them every quarter. But their own rules do not apply in all circumstances. The quarterly disclosure rule was apparently waived for Mr Wood. The then national manager of the Greens, Brett Constable, said in a JSCEM hearing on 8 August 2011 that this rule was waived out of respect, so as not to draw undue attention to the donation. (Time expired)