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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3763

Donations to Political Parties

Mr HUSIC (ChifleyGovernment Whip) (14:40): My question is to the Special Minister of State. Will the minister update the House on recent reports of multimillion-dollar donations to political parties? What challenge does this represent to the integrity of our electoral system?

Mr GRAY (BrandSpecial Minister of State and Minister for the Public Service and Integrity) (14:41): I thank the honourable member for his question. It reflects an interest that many members of parliament have in the integrity of our electoral system. It reflects a concern that this parliament has had since 1984, 28 years ago, the first time we legislated to create a disclosure regime for political donations—a regime that was put in place to ensure transparency, a regime that was put in place to ensure integrity and a regime that was put in place because it acknowledges the fundamentally important role played by individuals and organisations who wish to contribute to the political debate.

On my side of politics we have trade unions that make donations to political parties. Their donations are disclosed. I was asked in particular about donations of $1 million, and it is of course the case that in the last election the Greens party did receive a donation of $1.6 million from Mr Greg Wood. But I was caused earlier this week following media reports to peruse the total contributions of other individuals too. The House may wish to be aware that the contributions of individuals of substantial net worth are now at a point that should be brought to the attention of this place. High net worth individuals of course are at liberty to make decisions to support our political parties and our political processes, as is their wont. I was made aware that last year Mr Clive Palmer made a contribution in the order of $1 million to the coalition. I am aware that the total contribution now to the coalition from individuals—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I refer you again to page 553 of the Practice and the holding of previous Speakers that there should be no contrast between government and opposition. I would remind the minister that the Western Australian Labor Party received $160,000 in donations from Mr Palmer.

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Mackellar will remove herself from the chamber under the provisions of standing order 94(a).

The member for Mackellar then left the chamber.

Mr GRAY: While on the subject of the core of the question, which is individuals of high net worth making contributions, the total contribution to the coalition now from Mr Palmer is over $4 million—in the last few years, $4 million. I make the observation that never in the history of our parliament have we had an allegation of corrupt or inappropriate behaviour from any of us in this place about donors to the political system. I do make this observation.

Mr Christensen interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Dawson is warned.

Ms O'Dwyer interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Higgins will remove herself from the chamber under the provisions of standing order 94(a). The honourable Special Minister of State will be heard in silence for the balance of his answer.

The member for Higgins then left the chamber.

Mr GRAY: The amount now of $4 million in donations, as recently disclosed by the Australian Electoral Commission, is a point of note for all Australians. It is a very large number. It is a number which is important for us to understand—and the purposes perhaps behind it. (Time expired)