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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1651

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (16:43): I move:

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

The need to reform Australia's political donation system by lowering the disclosure threshold, banning foreign donations, restricting anonymous donations and preventing donation splitting to avoid disclosure.

I stand in support of the motion on the need to reform Australia's political donation system by lowering the disclosure threshold, banning foreign donations, restricting anonymous donations and preventing donation splitting to avoid disclosure.

We have heard much in this place this week about democracy. We have heard much about how changing the voting system in the Senate would be good for democracy. But there was one issue that should have been dealt with in any proposal to change any voting system, and that was the system of political donations. I have outlined here on many occasions what happened in New South Wales, my home state. In Newcastle, a multimillionaire developer pulled up in a Bentley, dragged a Liberal Party member into the front of the Bentley and handed over a brown paper bag with $10,000 in $100 notes. That is the type of rorting that we have in our electoral system because of the lack of transparency and proper disclosure.

This week I have also gone through some of the trust funds that have been established under the name of the Liberal Party associated entities. An associated entity—

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting

Senator CAMERON: Here we have Senator O'Sullivan, who was up to his neck in an associated entity up in Brisbane. Maybe, if he wants to give full disclosure about all his activities in that associated entity one day in the Senate, democracy might be improved. In terms of whether we should change the voting system, the reality of the situation is that fundamentally we should change the system that allows the rorts by the coalition to go on.

The argument that we should just change the voting system and give the balance of power to the Greens—the Greens will have a huge capacity for balance of power under this, and we know what that can lead to. We know that it is going to be a real problem. People think the Greens stand for working people, but Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson believes that his party could double its vote by courting small business. He also backed a bigger national discussion about weekend penalty rates and suggested that they are outdated. We know what the Liberals want to do. We know that the Liberals wanted to introduce a GST. They wanted to introduce a GST so that ordinary working families, every time they went to the supermarket, would be paying extra through a GST to reduce corporate tax so that they could get bigger executive salaries for the top one per cent in this country. That is exactly what the Liberals were all about. Why were the Liberals running that? Check the money trail. The money trail shows that people who are out arguing this, from the Business Council of Australia, are the people who donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to the coalition for their electoral funding.

When you look at policies the Liberals take up, always look at where the money is coming from. If it is in relation to negative gearing, it is the white shoe brigade who are in there pushing the price of housing up to the extent that you are paying $905,000 for a tarted up fibro Housing Commission house in the western suburbs of Sydney, just outside Parramatta. What young person can afford that? What young person can bid or outbid the property developer who is in there pushing these prices up? I have heard a lot of talk about how Labor's policy would distort the market. The market is distorted so badly that the fundamental of housing—to give people shelter—is diminished because of the negative gearing policies that the coalition are protecting.

Let me get back to the Greens. When they sat down and did the dirty deal with the coalition to change the voting system in this country, they had an opportunity to deal with this issue of electoral funding. You have to wonder what the Greens stand for. What do they stand for, when you have Senator Peter Whish-Wilson out there saying that we need a bigger discussion about weekends versus weekdays? Talking about penalty rates, he says:

I think it's just a white Anglo-Saxon cultural thing that we've inherited. Society is different now. A lot of people are happy to work weekends and not work during the week.

I suppose, given that Senator Peter Whish-Wilson is a former senior vice-president of the Deutsche Bank, I can understand how this sort of thing comes in. This is all about transferring money from working people into the pockets of business and allowing business to make more profit with the theoretical argument that it will create more jobs. When I was a blue-collar worker, working on the tools in the Hunter Valley and in Sydney, I needed penalty rates. My family needed the penalty rates. I had to work on a Saturday and Sunday if I could to pay the bills and put food on the table and make sure I could send my kids on a school excursion. The penalty rates did that. That is why I will never, ever support any proposition that comes from people who are misguided and do not understand the importance of penalty rates.

We heard an intervention earlier from Senator O'Sullivan. I say to Senator O'Sullivan that the people who depend on penalty rates more than any other are people in rural and regional Australia, because their base rates are so low that they need that penalty rate to give them a living that allows them to put food on the table. The National Party, when they are in there being the lap-dogs of the Liberal Party, should think about what these issues do for their constituencies in rural and regional Australia. I never hear the National Party actually standing up for rural and regional Australia in this place. They never ask a question about rural and regional jobs; they never make speeches about rural and regional jobs; yet they skulk back to their electorates and try to pretend that they are looking after working people in their electorates. It is an absolute shocking rort that is going on there.

Look at the donations. Just look at some of the headlines over recent years. 'Illegal donations from developers fund New South Wales Libs win.' The key Liberal fundraising body took mafia money for access—mafia money for the Libs. Another heading was 'Donation disclosure reveals murky deal for Country Liberals'. And on and on it goes. Then you look at these schemes that they have got set up. The people who want to cut penalty rates and put a GST increase in place are the people who fund the coalition, and you cannot get any access to who is funding them because of the rorts that are going on.

Every Liberal who stands up here in this debate should say, 'I will be honest and I will be open, and I will open all the donations over $1,000 I have received to public scrutiny.' Will they do that? No, they will not. That is the challenge for every Liberal who stands up here and for every National Party member who stands up. My challenge is: you be open with the Australian public. Tell them where the money is coming from. We know what the cuts in penalty rates and the GST increase are all about. Follow the money with this mob, and that is where their policies come from. (Time expired)