Senate debates

Monday, 4 December 2017

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Donations to Political Parties

4:12 pm

Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) to a question without notice asked by the Leader of the Australian Greens (Senator Di Natale) today relating to political donations.

Senator Di Natale's question absolutely nailed a huge problem that this country is facing. The answer that was given again just demonstrates the failure that we're seeing from the Liberal-National government when it comes to dealing with political donations and with corruption issues—issues that so underline why we need a national ICAC, a national corruption watchdog. We have the extraordinary situation that there is this great outcry about donations from people linked with China, either through birth or maybe their company is still there, and it's got the most disgusting whiff of xenophobia. With what is going down with the outrage about Senator Dastyari—and I'm not excusing anything that has gone on there at all—

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting

but what we have to highlight here is the hypocrisy, because what we're seeing time and time again is—

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting

I acknowledge that we have Senator O'Sullivan here making interjections, and again showing how he doesn't take this issue seriously. We know, and it's on the record, that since 2012, $3 million has come to both sides, Liberal-National and Labor, when it comes to donations from the Yuhu company and their owner. But we're not hearing about their close links with a whole number of companies linked with China. Again, I'm saying that that is not the point here, but I did want to just deal with that first off, because it underlines the hypocrisy.

We had the case of the Hon. Stuart Robert from the House of Representatives, who was caught up with some very unsavoury deals. He was there for the signing of a big mining deal in China, but then we found out that the Australian company was a big donor to the Liberal Party—that's been swept under the carpet. The other one is the big fundraiser from Western Australia

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting

The big fundraiser, Senator O'Sullivan, that you prefer not to talk about. And we have Julie Bishop, and what is she doing? Not just doing the fundraising but taking big money from a whole range of—again—Chinese companies. This is the double standard of this government—they won't deal with where the money is coming from unless it's on the Labor side. But the issue with the bill that we're about to get about foreign donations—that they have at least acknowledged—is that it doesn't matter whether it comes from China, London, Sydney—

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting

Or if it comes from Russia, to keep Senator O'Sullivan satisfied. What we know is that it doesn't make a difference because, wherever the money is coming from, it has a corrupting influence on politics in this country. And we see that in a really stand-out way.

What we should be addressing is the different sectors. The hotels, clubs and alcohol sector over the past 10 years has given more than $8½ million to political parties. The property industry—the real estate agents, the property speculators and the developers—has given more than $40 million over 10 years. Tobacco—over $1½ million; gambling—nearly $4 million. I picked out those four sectors and gave the totals because they're the sectors that have been completely banned from making donations in New South Wales. That is really critical. What's more, that was upheld in a very important High Court case, when a very unsavoury developer, Mr McCloy, took the New South Wales government to court. The decision came down in 2015 with a very important finding: that it was not contrary to the Constitution for the bans on those sectors to stand. The Greens have a private senators' bill before the chamber about that very issue.

This latest scandal—and there will be more—underlines why we need a federal corruption watchdog. If we had a federal corruption watchdog, it could've investigated the issues to do with Stuart Robert and his unsavoury deals with mining companies, and it could be investigating the current scandal with Senator Dastyari. This is clearly the time: we need far-reaching political donations reform and we need a national corruption watchdog.

Question agreed to.