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Lifting the veil on trusts

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Senator Andrew Murray Australian Democrats Accountability and Electoral Matters Spokesperson

9 March, 1998 MEDIA RELEASE 98/130

LIFTING THE VEIL ON TRUSTS - Truth in political donations - — ,

Although the government has announced electoral reform on tax deductibility of political donations, it is silent on stronger accountability measures.

Political parties cannot be treated as purely private bodies with full rights to confidentiality if the political system is to remain free from corruption.

Australian Democrats spokesperson for Accountability and Electoral Matters, Senator Andrew Murray says concealed political donations via trusts are a major issue.

“The privacy considerations of Trusts as donors to political parties are secondary to the public interest when it comes to preventing potential corruption in public life,” Senator Murray said.

“The Democrats are much more concerned about undisclosed interests between donors and recipients, than over the tax thresholds of donations.

“The principle of tax deductions for donations to non-profit institutions such as community, religious, sporting and charitable organisations is well established and there is no reason why this should not apply equally to political parties.

“The major difference however, is that the source of these donations is of particular relevance to political influence and must be openly declared,” he said.

The Democrats recommend political parties receiving donations from Tmsts or Foundations be obliged to return or forfeit the money donated unless the following is disclosed:

* a declaration of the beneficial and ultimate control of the trust estate, including by trustees, * a declaration of the identities of the beneficiaries of the trust estate, including in the case of individuals, their countries of residence and, in the case of beneficiaries which

are not individuals, their countries of incorporation or registration, * details of any relationships with other entities, * the percentage distribution of income within the trust, * any changes during the donations year in relation to the information provided above.

(Senator Murray’s Minority Report is available on request.)

For comment or further information, contact Senator Murray on 041 995 8038 or Di Graham on (02) 6277 3709

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