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Thursday, 24 May 2001
Page: 27090


Mr DANBY (10:40 AM) —In the last few weeks it has been revealed that $100,000 has been given by the failed insurance company HIH to the Free Enterprise Foundation. The general public will, of course, be outraged at the enormous salaries that HIH executives paid each other and the great waste involved in their moneys being paid over principally to one political party, the Liberal Party. I raise the matter of the Free Enterprise Foundation and the Greenfields Foundation because the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters was to have held a public inquiry into these matters. Of course, this inquiry has been buried while the committee has chosen to pursue matters which probably are the most politically biased of any reference that has ever been made to a standing committee.

Apart from the issue of the $100,000 donation to the Free Enterprise Foundation, we need to consider what the issue is that parliamentarians should be concerned about with the Free Enterprise and Greenfields foundations. The issue that this parliament has long decided should be the main issue of public policy in these areas is that there should be public disclosure of political donations—that there should be transparency. These two organisations have been established in order to cover up these kinds of things—to prevent transparency and to prevent public disclosure. That is why, when this committee eventually revisits that inquiry into the disclosure of electoral funding. I am sure the opposition, with forensic interest, will attempt to see that these matters are brought to the public's attention and that matters of public disclosure regarding these two organisations are raised. A level playing field should exist in Australia on these kinds of issues.

What has happened in the meantime while this inquiry is not being considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters? Is it concerned with matters of great principle raised, say, by the former Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, in his memorable speech to the Labor Party centenary dinner—four-year terms and issues like that? Of course not. The committee has been involved, as I said, in one of the most biased references in an attempt to be useful to the government in attacking the opposition. What has been its record in the last few weeks and months while it has been conducting its current inquiry into the integrity of the electoral roll? It has attempted to influence the Queensland elections at a time when there was a judicial inquiry—the Shepherdson inquiry into matters relating to the integrity of the electoral roll. It has run interference for the Minister for Sport and Tourism on a matter involving the Penrith City Council elections, so pithily explained by Senator Hutchins yesterday. The minister for sport, the Liberal campaign manager for the Penrith City Council elections, claimed that she did not know about front parties being run by people out of her office, she did not know about people living in her house at certain times; she did not know about them being registered in different telephone books at different addresses. She knows so little that she will eventually be known as the Sergeant Schultz of the Liberal Party.

The Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, in complete defiance of what has normally happened under previous Liberal chairpersons who have been much fairer in their running of this committee, has repeatedly used his casting vote to prevent the minister for sport being called before the committee—in fact, to prevent any matter being considered in an even handed way. We have also had the disgraceful accusation raised by Mr Lynton Crosby, from the Liberal Party national office, that more than 130,000 innocent Queenslanders are guilty of electoral rorts because there were more than four people with different names registered at different houses. Of course, it would never have occurred to them that this could involve students, people with Asian surnames or people living in nursing homes. To accuse Queenslanders of this is an absolute disgrace.

I conclude by making this point: I am concerned about the Liberal Party's expressed interest and therefore this committee's possible continued interest in stopping younger people from registering to vote during the five days after the electoral roll is closed. This would disenfranchise more than 70,000 young Australians and it is something that this parliament should definitely oppose.