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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 790


Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Mackellar) (10:26): The report on the funding of political parties and election campaigns was a most contentious series of hearings and report. This is a very political report. The committee was split down the middle between the government and the Greens and the opposition, because this report is designed to benefit Labor, the Greens and their compatriots—the union mates and GetUp!.

In our dissenting report, we pointed out that the decision to lower the threshold for disclosure to $1,000 non-indexed was a requirement of the Greens in their alliance with the Labor Party to form government. It is designed to benefit both those parties, because it will penalise the coalition parties, who rely on small donations from individuals and small firms. Before the higher threshold was reached there was plenty of evidence around of the badgering of published donors who had donated to the coalition parties where both the Labor Party and the unions said, 'Where is our donation?'—or threats of another kind. We find this sort of thing is not conducive to and not compatible with participatory democracy, where it is important that individuals and firms, be they small or large, have both an obligation and a right to participate in having their point of view heard and may make a donation to their party of choice without expecting a penalty or to be abused by an opposing party.

The inquiry taught us some valuable lessons. It taught us particularly about GetUp!, which claims to be an independent body. We became aware that all the large donations it receives—for instance, $1 million from the CFMEU and other donations from ALP affiliates—mean that it is not entitled to call itself independent. Further, when I asked how many voting members it has, it claimed that it has 600,000 members. Yet, when you look at its constitution, the number of voting members by its own admission is less than 12. I also asked whether, if I clicked onto its website, I would be counted as a member, and its answer was yes.

On the question of the Greens and the donation of $1.6 million from Mr Graeme Wood, the founder of Wotif—and of course the purchaser, together with a partner, of the mill in Tasmania—we noted that disclosure of that $1.6 million had been 'put off', in the words of Mr Brett Constable, the Greens national manager, and that it was 'really out of respect for the donor'. We learnt that Mr Wood gave his reasons to the Financial Review on 30 July 2011 for his giving $1.6 million. He said:

I was a bit concerned that if the Coalition got in a lot of my investments in environmental causes would have been down the plughole. It will hopefully save me a whole lot of money in fighting other environmental wars or battles.

So much for the Greens and GetUp! saying they do not wish to peddle influence and they think it is wrong that donations to other parties would have a similar effect. The fact of the matter is that there was no evidence except that which I have read out that there is indeed an attempt to buy and peddle influence. The inquiry also showed the inconsistencies that exist with no willingness to attack the huge donations flowing from the trade union movement to the Labor Party and their friends. Trade union donations are a tax deduction and that makes available another pool of tax deductibility for union members, who can also donate a further $1,500 in addition to their union fees to the Labor Party cause.

The coalition is opposed to the thrust of this report where it benefits Labor and the Greens. There were some minor matters that were dealt with in the report to which we gave some support, but the overall thrust of the report is not full of integrity—a word that some like to use in association with these matters. Rather, it is one that is partisan. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: Does the honourable member for Banks wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a later occasion?