- Parliamentary Business
- Senators & Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
MATTERS OF PUBLIC INTEREST
- Parl No.
Mason, Sen Brett
- Question No.
Kroger, Sen Helen
MATTERS OF PUBLIC INTEREST
- System Id
Table Of ContentsDownload Current Hansard View/Save XML
Previous Fragment Next Fragment
- Start of Business
- Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Bill 2011
- Therapeutic Goods Amendment (2011 Measures No. 1) Bill 2011
- Aged Care Amendment Bill 2011
- Customs Amendment (Serious Drugs Detection) Bill 2011
Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Further Election Commitments and Other Measures) Bill 2011
- Second Reading
- In Committee
- Third Reading
- Customs Amendment (Export Controls and Other Measures) Bill 2011
- Customs Tariff Amendment (2012 Harmonized System Changes) Bill 2011
- Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (MRCA Supplement) Bill 2011
- Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Bill 2010
- Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Further Election Commitments and Other Measures) Bill 2011
MATTERS OF PUBLIC INTEREST
- The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT
- Building the Education Revolution Program
- Palliative Care
- Scouts Australia
- Parliamentary Standards
- Beams, Mr Alan and Mr Graeme
- Beams, Mr Alan and Mr Graeme
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Australian Labor Party
(Ryan, Sen Scott, Evans, Sen Christopher)
Live Animal Exports
(Sterle, Sen Glenn, Ludwig, Sen Joe)
Live Animal Exports
(Boswell, Sen Ronald, Ludwig, Sen Joe)
(Milne, Sen Christine, Ludwig, Sen Joe)
(Payne, Sen Marise, Arbib, Sen Mark)
(Furner, Sen Mark, Arbib, Sen Mark)
(Bernardi, Sen Cory, Wong, Sen Penny)
(Senator FIELDING, Ludwig, Sen Joe)
(Macdonald, Sen Ian, Wong, Sen Penny)
- Australian Labor Party
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL ANSWERS
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS
- Procedure Committee
- Senators' Interests Committee
- Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
- Economics Legislation Committee
- Community Affairs Legislation Committee
- Scrutiny of Bills Committee
- Public Works Committee
- MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
- AUDITOR-GENERAL'S REPORTS
- Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012, Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2011-2012, Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011, Tax Laws Amendment (2011 Measures No. 5) Bill 2011, Veterans' Entitlements Amendment Bill 2011
- Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Bill 2011, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2011
- REGULATIONS AND DETERMINATIONS
- Senator HUTCHINS
- Senator HURLEY
- Senator FIELDING
- Evans, Sen Christopher
- Abetz, Sen Eric
- Faulkner, Sen John
- Wong, Sen Penny
- Joyce, Sen Barnaby
- Sterle, Sen Glenn
- Arbib, Sen Mark
- Stephens, Sen Ursula
- Bishop, Sen Mark
- Farrell, Sen Don
- Pratt, Sen Louise
- Brown, Sen Carol
- Feeney, Sen David
- Brown, Sen Carol
- QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Senator KROGER (Victoria) (13:36): May I firstly say that this may well be the last opportunity that I have to address you, Acting Deputy President McGauran, as 'Mr Acting Deputy President'. I wish you well in all your future endeavours.
It would be fair to say that we all come to serve in this place with awe and an appreciation of the privilege and honour that has been both bestowed upon us. It is a privilege reserved for only a few and we come here with the hope and aspirations of our states and constituents. It is an honour that should never be treated lightly. And yet we have seen a change in the dynamics of this place—a steady incursion of other forces that seeks to undermine the democratic and upright values and principles of this great institution. We may well be witnessing a rising tide of self-serving interests and hypocritical standards, where something is all right for one party but not for another.
I am not so self-righteous as to suggest that I am a moral crusader or the standard-bearer of the moral high ground. I am not such a hypocrite. I acknowledge that we can all aspire to conduct ourselves better. After all, we are here but for the grace of the next national poll. But it is incumbent upon us all to draw the line in the sand between short-term political expediency and integrity and standing up for what you believe is right and ethical.
I have addressed this chamber before on the need for all political parties to be subject to appropriate levels of scrutiny for, after all, we should be beholden to those who elect us. With the clock ticking down to 1 July, when the Greens will provide the government a majority in the Senate, it is even more critical that there is transparency in the actions of all, as the hypocrisy germ seems to be an invasive species, especially attracted to the colour green.
Only last week the Greens leader asked a series of questions in relation to a pulp mill in Tasmania. Given the senator's known views on pulp mills, I thought the questions rather curious and decided to investigate further. Gunns Ltd, as we know, a publicly listed company on the Australian Stock Exchange, announced on 14 June this year its intent to sell the Triabunna woodchip mill. I understand that this was following extensive scoping, as you would only expect from a publicly listed company that seeks to get the best deal and price for its shareholders. It is what happens in a market economy. In the Australian on 15 June 2011 it was reported that Gunns told the stock exchange that they had entered an agreement to sell the Triabunna woodchip mill to Aprin Pty Ltd, a family owned logging and haulage company. This sale was:
... conditional on satisfactory progress in the implementation of the Tasmanian forests statement of principles.
It would be reasonable to suggest that the sale of the mill was quite advanced—certainly from the public documentation on this matter. As we could reasonably understand, these agreements do not just happen overnight. Curiously, on 11 June Senator Bob Brown put out a press release promoting the bid of another consortium to purchase the Triabunna woodchip mill for an ecotourism venture and urging local, state and federal governments to support the proposal for this other consortium.
Since when was it ethically accepted for any senator to intervene in the legitimate activities of an ASX publicly listed company and try to influence the outcome of the sale of one of its entities? It begs the question: why would anyone be seeking to undermine a sale that had already been clearly brokered and was pending the conclusion of certain details? If this act wasn't of sufficient concern, then questions were asked by Senator Brown on 15 and 16 June in this place—only last week—that pose further serious questions over Senator Brown's modus operandi.
On 15 June Senator Brown asked a question without notice to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry seeking information on the progress of the Tasmanian forest agreement and an assurance that no public money would go to a private enterprise pulp mill in Australia. Senator Brown made what I thought was a not-so-discreet reference to the conditions that had to be finalised in relation to the forestry agreement tied up in the sale. Again on 16 June in this place Senator Brown directed another question to Minister Ludwig seeking an assurance that no money would be given to Gunns Ltd in relation to its mill or its business structure, including severance payments for workers related to the forestry agreement or otherwise. He then asked a supplementary question that one can only assume was to advantage the purchase of the Triabunna woodchip mill by the 'eco resort developers' over a 'consortium of loggers', using Senator Brown's words, by asking the government to:
... ensure that no money from the forest agreement process flows to the logging entities.
It would be reasonable to ask why a Victorian senator is raising concerns and matters pertinent to Tasmania. It is the hypocrisy, though, that the Greens engage in that is the issue here. That is what concerns me. Firstly, I am concerned that anyone in this place would seek to impose their personal, political prejudices on legitimate business practices with the intent to circumvent any outcome that is in the interests of the shareholders of that entity. But I am also concerned about the possible influence of individuals that are strong financial supporters of any political party and ways in which this may affect political considerations. The 'ecotourism consortium' that Senator Brown alluded to involves Mr Graeme Wood, founder of the travel company Wotif.com, whose wealth was recently estimated by BRW at $337 million. It is Mr Wood who gave the single biggest donation to any political party in the history of Australia, a donation of $1.6 million to the Greens, before the last federal election. Those who know me know that I am a staunch defender of individuals and corporations being able to legitimately donate to political parties, as, in our democratic system, anyone who wishes to support a party financially has a right to do so. But whilst I support that, I support it with the caveat that the process must be transparent. Democracy should always be subject to scrutiny.
What smacks of hypocrisy, though, is the Greens remonstrating about big business supporting major political parties and characterising that as an abuse of influence. After Mr Wood's donation, he commented that the $1.6 million donation was not necessarily a record he was out to set but that helping the Greens win the balance of power in the Senate was 'probably a good return on investment'. One can only imagine what he may have meant by that.
But the love-in, post Mr Wood's $1.6 million donation to the Greens, which I understand was personally negotiated with Senator Brown, has not stopped there. In January this year, Senator Brown published a press release entitled 'Graeme Wood gives Australian business a lead'. It does prompt the question: what other spin-offs are going to come from this largesse?
Senator-elect Ms Lee Rhiannon not only has had much to say on corporate political donations but has actually chosen to demonstrate on the very issue. Ms Rhiannon started a website called Democracy for $ale—
Senator Mason: Ha-ha!
Senator KROGER: I know; it is extraordinary, Senator Mason! But she sought to campaign on the reform of political donations because she believes that they subvert the political process. In only 2005, Ms Rhiannon protested outside a venue where a NSW ALP fundraising dinner was being held, with a huge banner that listed sponsors of the ALP and how much they had donated. The irony of this is that the amounts listed on the banner were in the thousands, whereas this single donation to the Greens was clearly in the millions. If you think this smacks of 'Do what I say not what I do,' then you wouldn't be wrong.
In a media release by the Leader of the Greens on 30 July 2009, Bob Brown said:
The Australian Greens say ending all large political donations would make a tremendous contribution to stamping out corporate influence in politics.
Clearly Senator Brown does believe that corporate donations make a difference to the integrity of the political process. So I ask Senator Bob Brown here today: is that what has happened in this case? Has Mr Wood's ground-breaking million-dollar donation made a difference to your political considerations? Why have you angled for a consortium of which Mr Wood is a partner to be considered as a buyer for the Triabunna woodchip mill when a sale is waiting for the t's to be crossed and the i's to be dotted?
It is not for me to question the wisdom of Senator Brown's actions, but it is incumbent upon us all to apply the same standards, and it is incumbent upon us all to apply the same standards that we apply to this chamber. If Senator Brown is a convert to the merits of corporate donations then he should come out and say so. As the old adage goes, you cannot have your cake and eat it too.