The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: I move: That this council notes the recent Australian Electoral Commis¬sion disclosure returns and other related matters.
This is a simple motion which asks that the council note the recent Australian Electoral Commission disclosure returns and other related matters, and I can advise that I shall speak today and seek leave to conclude when we return in three weeks.
The most recent Australian Electoral Commission returns are interesting from a number of aspects, but I particularly want to concentrate on the aggregate donations, receipts and payments for the two major political parties. For the year 2005-06 (the most recent disclosure period) the Australian Labor Party in South Australia disclosed donations of $4.9 million, while the South Australian division of the Liberal Party disclosed donations of just $2.7 million.
I think the facts of the 2006 election campaign—in terms of the relative expenditures of both the major parties—speak for themselves, and I am sure members will be aware that on the one hand there was a very well-resourced and funded campaign by the Australian Labor Party, while on the other hand there was a poorly resourced campaign by the Liberal Party. To give the facts again, during that election campaign the Liberal Party had, I think, one of what those in the industry call a retail ad (the more cheaply produced ads) which ran on television for just the last three nights of the campaign. It also had two or three relatively inexpensively-produced radio commercials on a theme that ran a few days longer than that—I think they started on the Thursday or Friday of the second last week of the campaign and ran for approximately five days prior to the electronic media close-down on the Wednesday before the election.
Having been associated with election campaigns in South Australia for many years, both as a member and prior to that as a party officer, I think the facts demonstrated that, in terms of electronic media output and expenditure by the central campaign, this was the most frugally funded (I think that is a kind way of putting it) Liberal campaign since the early 1970s. I paint that picture as background because in my view it is a danger to democracy when there is such a clear disparity between the government and the alternative government, or the two major political parties, in terms of their capacity to put a proposition to the electorate.
I accept that we within the Liberal Party and the state parliamentary party, and also the organisation, need to accept some responsibility for that; nevertheless, an important part of the democratic process is the capacity to mount an argument, put a case, defend one’s position and mount an attack during the critical four or five weeks of an election campaign period. Obviously, the electronic media (television and radio) is critical to that, and in that last election campaign what we saw was one side fighting with both arms tied behind its back in relation to its capacity to respond and mount an attack or argument.
The second background point I would like to make relates to the very clear understanding that we in the Liberal Party have regarding fundraising and fundraising responsibilities. For many years the Liberal Party has had a clear fundraising code and has always agreed to observe a number of condi¬tions in relation to fundraising, and these conditions are regarded as being absolutely fundamental to the maintenance of the integrity of the Liberal Party, its organisation and its parliamentary members. The Liberal Party does not accept funds that are donated subject to political conditions of any kind; under no circumstances will the Liberal Party accept funds which, even if only by inference, are intended to obtain the Liberal Party’s support for specific actions or attitudes. A donor has a right to put his views to the Liberal Party but a right to no more than that.
There are much more specific provisions in relation to the Liberal Party fundraising code which place very specific restrictions on what members of parliament, in particular, can or cannot do in relation to fundraising, and I can honestly say that in all my time I have never formed a policy position based on whether or not donations had been given by a particular organisation or individual. I will also say that, in my view, if there were ever to be any suggestion—indeed, any evidence—that that particular provision of the code was being breached in any way it would be an unacceptable breach of Liberal principles and an unacceptable breach of the fundraising code of the party.
The Hon. R.P. Wortley interjecting:
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Well, if you know who they are tell me.
The Hon. R.P. Wortley interjecting:
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: I do not know, but we can talk about that when we go through the donations list if you like. In my view it would be an unacceptable breach of Liberal principles and an unacceptable breach of the fundraising code and I, for one, would never agree to that. I have raised before one of the key issues in relation to the most recent disclosures—that is, for the first time in South Australia we have had introduced into South Australian electoral politics fundraising (I should say in terms of the size of the donation) a body which donates an extraordinarily large part of the total receipts of any particular political party. I am referring there to previous public statements I have made about ALP Holdings Pty Ltd which, in 2005-06, donated more than $1.6 million to the Labor Party. That was more than a third of the total receipts of the Australian Labor Party in that particular year, from ALP Holdings Pty Ltd.
ASIC company searches revealed that the current directors (at the time of the searches) were Labor MP Chloe Fox and other Labor identities such as Noel Paul and Susan Close. From the ASIC company searches, past directors include current Labor MPs such as Tom Koutsantonis, Bob Sneath and John Hill, as well as a long line-up of former Labor MPs, Labor Party state secretaries and union leaders. I note that Labor MP Ms Fox has certainly been telling everybody that she is not a director of ALP Holdings Pty Ltd. I am happy to hear what she says in relation to that but, at this stage, all one can be guided by is the ASIC company searches. If Ms Fox is in a position to indicate that those company searches are wrong in some way, then I am sure she can place it on the record. If I speak again on the issue I will be happy to include that clarifier, but she certainly has been and was currently listed (when the search was done in March/April of this year) as a director of ALP Holdings Pty Ltd.
It is true to say that similar bodies to ALP Holdings Pty Ltd have existed at the federal level for some time; both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party have had similar bodies. The Labor Party has had a body called John Curtin House Ltd, and the federal Liberal Party has had, I think, a body called Free Enterprise Foundation, or something along those lines, which operated at the federal level. The distinction that I make there, having looked at the John Curtin House Ltd contributions, is that the total contributions in terms of the total income is just about 10 per cent of the total amount of income that has been accepted by the federal Labor Party; whereas, in relation to ALP Holdings Pty Ltd, we are talking about (as I said) more than a third of the total income being accepted from ALP Holdings Pty Ltd to the state division of the Labor Party.
Back in March I called for Mr Rann to come clean and to indicate where the money for ALP Holdings Pty Ltd had come from, in terms of transparency and accountability. It will not surprise you, Mr President, that when the heat is on the Premier is gone, and there was no response from the Premier. He referred all questions to the state secretary, Mr Brown. I will have further to say on Mr Brown’s position perhaps on another day in relation to this issue because, frankly, in relation to this, the responsibility rests, ultimately, with the Premier, Mr Rann, in relation to his own party.
We have seen in recent times in the other states the shadowy world of political contributions, graft or corruption, because in those states there are the equivalents of an ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) or a Criminal Justice Commission or other commissions which have, in part anyway, revealed that shadowy world of lobbying, political donations and influence on government decision-making.
We have seen the recent controversies in relation to Mr Brian Burke in Western Australia. Those who saw Four Corners this week and a number of other recent revelations will have been well informed as to how business was being done by the Labor Party in Western Australia. Of course, we do not have an Independent Commission Against Corruption here in South Australia.
The Hon. R.P. Wortley interjecting:
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: The Hon. Mr Wortley says `Thank God’. One can only wonder why the Hon. Mr Wortley would be saying `Thank God’ to not having an independent commission. Perhaps at another stage the Hon. Mr Wortley will explain why he has that particular view and what he thinks he and his colleagues have to hide from an independent commission against corruption. But I will leave that to the Hon. Mr Wortley.
The Hon. R.P. Wortley interjecting:
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: There are no Liberal ministers—
The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Wortley should stop interjecting, and the Hon. Mr Lucas should stop responding to the interjections.
The Hon. R.P. Wortley interjecting:
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: I am indebted to the Hon. Mr Wortley for his contributions, but it does lead me to the connections between Mr Brian Burke and the Labor Party here in South Australia. It is worth noting that Mr Brian Burke’s connections to Mr Rann’s Labor Party in South Australia were placed on the public record back in 1995. Hansard shows that former premier Dean Brown put the following question to Mr Rann in 1995:
“What is more pertinent is that here is the Leader of the Opposition, a candidate in the 1985 election, one who directly benefited from $95 000 that was given to Brian Burke in a brown paper bag, which was then directly passed on to the Labor Party here in South Australia for the state election.”
That allegation or claim was never denied by Mr Rann in 1995.
Evidently, there was significant evidence of Mr Burke’s brown paper bag donations being distributed. There was also other evidence of brown paper bag donations going to the national secretariat of the Labor Party out of what was known as `the leader’s account’ in Western Australia. We do not know whether or not, over the past 10 years or so, money from Mr Burke and his more recent connections has been channelled through brown paper bags into the South Australian branch of the Labor Party. Certain¬ly, when we put that question to Mr Rann in March he issued no denial in relation to it and provided no rebuttal of that situation. That is the background, as I said, to the shadowy world of political donations and where we have seen many examples in other states of corruption and impropriety.
I turn now to the Australian Electoral Commission’s disclosure records for the past year. First, the results I will outline today have come from two weeks of company searches, web searches and discussions with people and associates of a number of donors to try to establish the true connections of various companies and their association with other aspects of government decision making in South Australia.
My contribution today will not do anything other than address the material I have been able to collect to this point and place it on the public record. In doing that, I do want to say that this speech will make no accusation of illegality or improper behaviour against any of the companies or individuals that are listed on the Australian Labor Party Financial Disclosure Return. Also, I indicate that a small number of the companies did give money to both major parties although, as the returns would indicate, in some cases significantly less to the Liberal Party and significantly more to the Labor Party, which is absolutely a discretionary decision that has been and will be taken by businesses for reasons that would be obvious to them at that time, and I want to make that quite clear.
In going through, therefore, the Australian Labor Party’s electoral disclosure return for 2005 06, clearly, the biggest donor by far—and I put this in a separate category—was ALP Holdings Pty Ltd donating $1.658 million. Exactly where that money has come from no-one knows. The Premier will not say and Mr Brown will not say. That is by far and away—in a separate category—the biggest contribution to the Aus¬tralian Labor Party. I then want to turn to the rest of the donations by individuals, companies or groups of companies. Putting aside ALP Holdings Pty Ltd, the largest contributor to the Australian Labor Party in 2005 06 (and this includes unions) was a group of companies associated with the Makris Group.
Earlier today my colleague the Hon. Mr Parnell indicated that the Australian Electoral Commission returns revealed that just $32 000 had been donated by the Makris Group to the Australian Labor Party in 2005 06. Indeed, when one looks at just the term `Makris Group’ and does not do company searches, web searches, newspaper searches and discussions with others with knowledge of the Labor Party and industry that is all that one sees. A company called Balgara Shopping Centre Management, listed at level 6, 32 Grenfell Street, Adelaide donated $70 000 to the Aus¬tralian Labor Party. Another company called Acanana Pty Ltd donated $50 000 to the Australian Labor Party, which is also listed at level 6, 32 Grenfell Street.
The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY: I rise on a point of order, Mr President. All the information the Hon. Mr Lucas is giving is on the public record. Under parliamentary privilege, he is trying to draw some connection against decent people and trying to insinuate that there is something shadowy.
The Hon. T.J. Stephens interjecting:
The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY: What’s your problem? The problem with the Liberals is that the business world has turned its back on them because they are incompetent.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable member cannot debate a point of order. The Hon. Mr Lucas is quoting a document. He is given the same privilege as anyone else. There is no point of order.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: There is no point of order, and I am not sure why the Hon. Mr Wortley is so sensitive about this issue. What does the Hon. Mr Wortley have to hide? I will repeat what I said, because the Hon. Mr Wortley chose not to hear—or perhaps the hair got in his ears! This speech makes no accusation of illegality or improper behaviour against any of the companies or individuals listed on the Australian Labor Party return or referred to by me, and that gives the lie to any claim that I am defaming anyone.
Acanana Pty Ltd made a donation of $50 000 to the Australian Labor Party; and its address is also Level 6, 32 Grenfell Street. Another company or organisation, Gawler North Market, is listed on the return only with an address of GPO Box 2760. My information is that it is also associated with the Makris Group or is an associated entity of the Makris Group and Makris Group of companies. When one adds up the Makris Group specific receipts of $32 000, the Balgara Shopping Centre Management $70 000, Acanana Pty Ltd $50 000, Gawler North Market $30 000, a total of $182 000 is donated by those companies to the Australian Labor Party.
It might be surprising to some because, in terms of the quantum of donations, that is greater than the list of donations from all the individual unions—which I will list shortly and which made donations to the Australian Labor Party. I am also advised—and I think the Hon. Mr Wortley during question time might have interjected when the Hon. Mr Parnell was asking his ques¬tions—that the Makris Group had given funds to both parties. The Liberal Party return does not record donations from any of those entities.
I also understand that some of those companies or individuals might have donated moneys less than the disclosable amount to individual candidates and campaigns. I am told that, in addition to the $182 000 that is listed, other donations were made to Australian Labor Party individual candidates and campaigns that were less than the disclosable amount. As I understand it, there were similar donations to some Liberal Party candidates as well. I hasten to add that the group of companies to which I have referred, if we can take them at their word, have donated to both major parties but, clearly, one particular party to a much greater extent than the other; and that is entirely the prerogative of the company to make those decisions.
The second highest donor was the LHMU (Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union), which in three separate contributions during that year is recorded as having made a contribution of approximately $119 000 to the Australian Labor Party. The fourth highest contributor—at least, disclosed—was the SDA (Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association SA Branch)—Mr Farrell’s union—which made a contribution of approximately $108 000. The next highest contribution was from the AMWU (Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union) with a contribution of approximately $67 000. The next highest contribution was from companies associated with the Lowe Group, in particu¬lar, Westfield Shopping Centres, that made a contribution of almost $57 000 to the Australian Labor Party. The next highest contribution was from the Australian Hotels Associa¬tion, which made a contribution of $50 000. The next highest was from the Australian Workers Union, which donated approximately $41 000. The next highest was the Gandel Group, another property—
The Hon. R.P. Wortley: What’s that smell over there?
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: The Hon. Mr Wortley (who is very sensitive on this issue) keeps saying there is a smell to this. All I am doing is listing what is on the publicly disclosed returns of the Australian Labor Party. If he believes there is a smell, he may want to explain later what that smell is. All I am doing is sharing the information that he has got. The ninth highest contributor was the Gandel Group under two separate companies—Northgan Pty Ltd and Lewiac Pty Ltd—for a total of $37 600. The next highest was a New South Wales company, Strategic Contacts Pty Ltd, with $33 000. The next highest was the CFMEU with a contribution of just over $25 000.
Then another development group, the 12th highest, was the Walker Corporation, again an interstate company, which made a contribution of $25 000. The 13th highest group was the Adelaide Bank with $25 000, and it certainly contributed to both political parties, as did the AHA. The 14th highest group, both individually and through companies associated, was Mr Roostam Sadri, both individually and then through a company called MDS Australia Pty Ltd. If one combines those two it gives a total contribution of just over $24 000. Finally, the 15th highest is Babcock and Brown, with just over $24 000. I have listed only the top 15 contributors to the Australian Labor Party, and the cut-off point was roughly $24 000 or $25 000. Those who are interested can see a variety of other names of companies and individuals who made contributions of less than that amount on the Australian Labor Party website.
That is an interim update based on the company searches and web searches we have been able to do over the past two weeks, linking some of these companies together and looking at other aspects of the Australian Labor Party’s electoral disclosure for 2005 06. When the parliament resumes in three weeks I hope to be in a position to add something further in relation to ALP Holdings Pty Ltd if possible and SA Pro¬gressive Business, the fundraising arm of the Australian Labor Party, and any other information that might come to light. With that I seek leave to conclude my remarks later.