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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1246

Mr KEOGH —Has the Minister representing the Special Minister of State seen a media report in which the Queensland National Party State President, Sir Robert Sparkes, is quoted as saying that his Party, if elected to Federal government, would retrospectively change electoral laws requiring publication of the names of major election campaign donors? I ask the Minister: What impact would this have on the disclosure provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act?

Mr YOUNG —This is a matter in which I think all members of this Parliament would take some interest because one of the major reforms of this Government in 1983 was to amend the Electoral Act so that any person making a donation of over $200 to any candidate or over $1,000 to any political party must have his or her name put on a register so that everybody in Australia could see who was making the donations to those standing for Parliament or to the political parties. At that time the Opposition opposed it because it said that there was insufficient evidence of corruption in our political scene that would warrant such an amendment. Our view at the time was that we should take precautions to see that that sort of corruption did not grow in our electoral system and our political system, so we were amending the Act accordingly. Of course, the 1984 elections were subject to those laws, and people complied with them to a very large extent although the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform has had a look at some aspects of it. By and large it worked, and it worked in the interests of the Australian people.

It raises the question as to why Sir Robert Sparkes, the State President of the National Party in Queensland and the campaign director for the push for Petersen for Prime Minister, would now want to bring in retrospective legislation that would repeal those laws so that the identity of anybody making a donation to the Petersen campaign between now and the next election would never have to be known to the people of Australia. Some people may say that this is not all that serious, but I draw the attention of members to the fact that we have seen some aspects of this expenditure. Two weeks ago we saw the insertion in every Sunday newspaper around Australia of bumper stickers which called on people to support Petersen for Prime Minister. I may inform the Parliament that that little exercise cost $315,000. One would not have thought they got very much value for their money. It gives honourable members some idea of the sort of finance that may be available to this push.

I draw the attention of honourable members to the claims of Mr Gore from the Gold Coast, who said that he could raise and had promised to him $25m to back this campaign. Mr Gore made these claims late last year in an interview, prior to its becoming known that the Queensland Government, by an Executive minute, made a decision that was never to be disclosed to the Queensland or Australian people-a loan of $10m to Mr Gore's company on the Gold Coast. So obvious questions are to be asked about the relationship between Mr Gore and the Queensland Government which can make a decision which it is ashamed to make public about the $10m loan at a time when Mr Gore is running around Australia saying that he has $25m to back the Premier.

Mr Gore is a very interesting fellow. Fourteen years ago he arrived on the Gold Coast with $400. He now claims he is worth $35m but that he is not selling out because in five years he expects to be worth half a billion.

Mr Nehl —Why do you hate people who do well at work?

Mr YOUNG —We can look at some of the claims of these people and what they expect. All I can say is that if Mr Gore has made that sort of money he must have paid a lot of tax, too. His taxation record must be interesting. He is just one of the people who say that $25m is available. Sir Robert Sparkes says he has $20m to add to it. They expect to spend $45m. That is an incomprehensible sum to the average Australian when we talk about spending money on an election campaign. We are dealing with people. It is all right for the Queensland Premier to say how much better he will run things, but today he got in his new car worth $135,000. If every Minister in Australia were to do that it would cost an extra $15m. It is a $135,000 car. One wonders where the practice matches up with the rhetoric of the Queensland Premier. He stayed in Tokyo at a hotel for $2,800 a night. That is not bad for a person who wants to be Prime Minister. He is setting an example on restraint.

The laws brought in by this Government coincide with the laws that have been brought in by almost every country in the Western world. People are entitled to see who is making major donations to political parties so that there is a certain amount of honesty in the political system. If people are to make donations which total up to $45m to make Bjelke-Petersen Prime Minister, the Australian people are entitled to know who the backers are. I think they should demand to know. When people such as Sir Robert Sparkes say `We will go through this campaign and, if we are successful, no one will know', what are they trying to hide? What are they ashamed of? Are there some more $10m loans hanging around for the use of the Queensland Government? Why did Sir Joh get $400,000 out of a television company for a libel suit when the highest amount paid out in Queensland previously was less than $30,000? The company said: `We have to operate in Queensland and it is in our interests that we pay Sir Joh $400,000'.

The people of Australia ought to be made aware that there is a vast difference between the rhetoric of Sir Joh and his practices, his lifestyle and the operations of the Queensland Government. If I were Sir Robert Sparkes and I was collecting the $45m from all those sorts of quarters I would probably be saying the same thing he is saying. I would not want the Australian people to know who was kicking in and why. Can honourable members imagine handing over this institution-the national Parliament and the national government of Australia-to that bunch, knowing the way that it operates? Can honourable members imagine the patronage that would go hand in glove with any such group operating in Canberra?

A lot of people in Australia expect everyone to be sharing in the restraint that has been called for by this Government. The Queensland Government is the worst offender in the way it throws its money around. Sir Robert Sparkes may continue on his campaign of saying that he will repeal the laws but we will make sure that everybody in Australia knows about the laws and complies with them, and sees the affiliation between this push from those few in Queensland and some of the business houses. The average family does not want Joh in government. We do not notice any of the average families in Queensland getting behind Joh to make him Prime Minister. It is members of the white-shoe brigade and all their mates that want Joh as Prime Minister so that they can manipulate him and get governments to make these executive minute decisions that will not be made public and will be in the best interests of their own companies. I do not think Australia wants too much of that sort of government.