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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1657

Senator LINES (Western Australia) (17:09): Following on from Senator O Sullivan, let me make it very clear that there is only one political party official in trouble with the law, and that is Damien Mantach, the former director of the Victorian and Tasmanian divisions of the Liberal Party.

Senator Bernardi: Mr Acting Deputy President, on a point of order: props are not appropriate in the Senate, and you would have observed that Senator Lines broke that rule within 30 seconds of commencing her address. I would ask you to draw her to order and, if necessary, remove the inappropriate material from her possession.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Williams ): Sorry, I missed it because I was looking to see who the next speaker was and how much time was left. Props are inappropriate in the chamber. Senator Lines, I ask you not to use the props.

Senator Smith: Mr Acting Deputy President, on a point of order: Senator Lines was a repeat offender, with the same prop, on numerous occasions this week.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I did not see the prop, as I was reading a piece of paper in front of me. I remind Senator Lines that props are inappropriate and are not accepted in the Senate. Please continue, Senator Lines, without the props.

Senator LINES: There is only one director of a political party in this country who is in trouble. He is in prison for a $1.5 million fraud, which he has pleaded guilty to, and he is awaiting sentence. The Greens and Senator Rhiannon are living in a world that does not actually match the reality. We know that the Greens in Tasmania got the largest single donation in our history, from Mr Cousins. To her credit, Senator Rhiannon has spoken out about political donations. But she did not have the courage of her convictions to follow that through. She wrote an article condemning political donations, and she did it as a ghost writer. Why wouldn't you just put your name to it? Once you are found out you look like a fraud, and that is very embarrassing.

Labor does stand for political donation reform. We are on the record, we put a bill into this place when we were in government. Unfortunately those opposite, when they were in opposition, voted it down. And there are very good reasons why they voted it down. We heard from Senator O'Sullivan today the list of donations that the Labor Party gets from unions. That is true. And do you know what? That is on the public record. But unfortunately the donations to the Liberal Party are not on the public record because they are channelled through all sorts of sneaky little clubs. I tried to do a bit of a search today and I came up with a few of them across the nation. In Western Australia we have the 500 Club, a very famous associated entity. You can put your money in there and you never get found out and it gets channelled through to the Liberal Party. We also have the Higgins 500 Club, which is the same thing: you put your money through there in secret and it gets channelled through to the Liberal Party. We have the Kooyong 200 Club, the Team 200 Club, the Warringah Club—and on and on it goes.

Recently, at ICAC in New South Wales, we heard about the Free Enterprise Foundation. We know that, since 2009, political donations to the New South Wales Liberal Party from property developers have been banned. But they found another way around that rule, and so they set up the Free Enterprise Foundation. The sole purpose was to channel donations from property developers through to the Liberal Party. Also revealed in ICAC were brown bags full of cash—money that I have never seen my life—handed over to candidates Cornwell and Owen. A brown paper bag was handed over to Mr Cornwell as he sat in the front seat of a Bentley. There was $10,000 in that brown bag! Then the same Bentley was used again. Mr Owen sat in the front and received $10,000. Who in their right mind would think that receiving money in a brown bag was okay? Who would think that? Why wouldn't the alarm bells of morality and ethics start to ring when you got that sort of money?

We saw that ICAC even claimed the scalp of the premier, Mr O'Farrell, in New South Wales. But it goes further. We had Senator Sinodinos in here having to step down from Australian Water Holdings, and we are still waiting for ICAC—

Senator Jacinta Collins: He stepped down from the ministry.

Senator LINES: Yes, sorry—he stepped down from the ministry. Thank you, Senator Collins. We are still waiting on ICAC on that. In 2009 he authored a letter that went to all Liberal MPs. He was not a senator then. It said:

This bill is designed to cause maximum damage to our party and our efforts to fund an effective campaign against Labor at the next election.

So he was well and truly letting all the Liberal MPs know that this was not something that the New South Wales Liberal Party wanted to be up-front about. Those opposite do not want to be up-front about political donations; otherwise, they would have signed up to our legislation when we were in government. They do not want that.

We heard from Senator Rhiannon. She is in here all by herself. I do not know where the other Greens are. Obviously they do not support her stand. The Greens have just done the dirtiest deal in 30 years with the government. They had an opportunity to put political donations into their wish list. What happened? They did not do that. I am not quite sure whether they asked the government for anything. I suppose time will tell. But it seems they just rolled over on this dirty deal on electoral reform—the biggest change in 30 years. Now they come in here saying, 'Oh, but we want political donation reform.' Seriously? The time to ask for that was when the government was so desperate to try to advantage its position in an election that it wanted to do this dirty deal on electoral reform. What did the Greens do? They obviously just rolled over. Political donations, it would seem, were not even mentioned.

The party with the record of acting on political donations are Labor. We are the ones who put the legislation before the parliament. We do not use scammy 500 clubs. We do not use the Free Enterprise Foundation. We do not have senators who in their former lives wrote to MPs saying, 'Avoid this legislation at all costs.' That is because we stand for reform of political donations.

As I said at the outset, the only political party with an elected official—maybe they were appointed to the Liberal Party; who would know?—who has been found guilty of political donation fraud is the Liberal Party. Mr Damian Mantach has pleaded guilty to a $1.5 million fraud. I understand from my Tasmanian Labor colleagues that actually he has not even been charged—the Liberal Party are not even going after him—with alleged fraud in Tasmania. This is just what happened after he left Tasmania. So that is where it sits. We have seen that Senator Sinodinos in a previous life as one of the directors of Australian Water Holdings made donations to the Liberal Party. We have seen the Free Enterprise Foundation. We have seen brown bags with $10,000 in them. No wonder the LNP do not want to sign up to reform of political donations!

Maybe when the Greens did the dirty deal on electoral reform they got something else, but it is absolutely breathtaking that the Greens would come in here over the past couple of sitting weeks and start to talk about political donations when their chance for reform was when they had the government on the ropes. But we know they are not very good negotiators. They have let the government off before. They then had a go, as we heard, at Labor when it is the Greens who hold the record for the largest single political donation in this country. We had Senator Rhiannon saying she did not write her piece and then she had to fess up and say that she did. How embarrassing! At least have the courage of your convictions and stand up for what you believe in. But, no. We see this feigned attempt. Suddenly now they want political donation reform. You know what? The time for that has passed. They should have asked for that a couple of weeks ago.

But the LNP have the most to hide—well and truly. ICAC New South Wales claimed the scalps of many Liberal MPs. We heard about all sorts of dodgy deals on how cash and other funds are channelled through to the Liberal Party. It is disgraceful. Labor stand for political donation reform. All of our donations are out there for all to see. They are not hidden through 500 clubs, 200 clubs and the like. They are there on the public record. We stand for political donation reform.