Election Funding Reform

About this Item
SpeakersMcDonald Dr Andrew; Deputy-Speaker; Hartcher Mr Chris; Furolo Mr Robert; Williams Mr Ray
BusinessDivision, Urgent Motion, URG MOT

Page: 28359

Motion Accorded Priority

Dr ANDREW McDONALD (Macquarie Fields—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.35 p.m.]: I move:

      That this House calls on the Opposition to end the last-minute donation drive and comply with the spirit of the incoming election funding laws.

I know that members of the Opposition are now leaving the House in droves because they are too ashamed to listen to a discussion about their election donations. As the Premier said today, from 1 January there will be a new era of transparency in Australian politics. New South Wales has led the nation in reforming election funding. Ours was the first State to make these changes and we have gone further than any other State. This Government's reforms will cause a fundamental change in the political culture of New South Wales forever. The Government still supports the need for national reform, but it is intent on leading the way. Government members are proud that this Parliament has passed laws capping political donations and campaign expenditure. We have passed laws limiting political donations and banning donations from tobacco companies, some participants in alcohol-related industries and property developers. This is the logical next step for a government with a strong record of positive democratic reform.

It has always been Labor governments that have taken the lead on election funding reform. In 1981, Neville Wran introduced the Election Funding Bill, which was the first piece of legislation to regulate election funding and to provide for disclosure of campaign donations and expenditure. In 2008, the Labor Government further reformed the legislation to strengthen the disclosure provisions and to change the way in which donations are handled. This Government has introduced more reforms to ensure transparency and accountability in decision-making than any other government in the history of this State. We have banned all developer donations, ensured independence in planning decisions through the Planning Assessment Commission and the joint regional planning panels, and introduced new levels of declaration of interests and freedom of information about government decisions. This Government has also led the way with the most comprehensive reforms of election funding in a decade. The Government has had discussions with the Opposition, the Greens and crossbench members in good faith and it has made substantial changes to the reforms since the legislation was introduced in September.

Mr Chris Hartcher: You gave no notice of it.

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The member for Terrigal will come to order.

Dr ANDREW McDONALD: Like his party, the member for Terrigal should give up smoking.

Mr Chris Hartcher: Point of order: I do not smoke. The insinuation that I smoke or that I am on drugs—
    The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. The member for Terrigal will resume his seat.
      Mr Chris Hartcher: I refer to Standing Order 73.

      The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat.

      Mr Chris Hartcher: I want the member to withdraw.

      Dr ANDREW McDONALD: I withdraw the implication that he smokes. However, I do not withdraw the implication about his party. [Quorum called for.]
        [The bells having been rung and a quorum having formed, business resumed.]

        I knew members opposite would call a quorum during my speech today because they fought tooth and nail to block these crucial reforms as well as scrutiny of their continuing practice of accepting donations—which are soon to be illegal—from tainted companies. I expected that they would call a quorum during my reply, but I was wrong. They have offered every excuse to vote against these reforms and to avoid any scrutiny. I think it is because they are concerned about the state of Liberal Party finances. There is speculation that Arthur Sinodinos, chairman of the Liberal Party's finance committee, came under fire for his fundraising role, particularly before the Federal election. Even Julie Bishop has raised concerns about secret Liberal Party accounts. The answer is simple. First, we learned that the New South Wales Liberal Party hosted a fundraiser almost every day last week and then today it just got better, because last night the New South Wales Liberal Party held a fundraiser at the Point Piper home of Aussie Home Loans John Symond for just $10,000 a head.

        The Opposition leader and his party are addicted to donations. They cannot bring themselves to walk away. They sit there begging for one last donation—a $10,000-a-head fundraiser—which the Leader of the Opposition says was only $5,000 and therefore legal. We do not know whether it was $10,000 or $5,000—those opposite can clarify that in the House today. It may well be legal, but is it ethical? Is it ethical to take donations now that will be illegal in five weeks? While 6,600 people die every year from smoking-related disease those opposite continue to take money from tobacco companies.

        Mr CHRIS HARTCHER (Terrigal) [3.42 p.m.]: I move:

            That the motion be amended by leaving out all words after "That" with a view to inserting instead:

            this House:
                (1) calls on all parties to comply with election funding laws; and

                (2) calls on the Government to amend the Act to ensure New South Wales unions cannot each spend over $1 million on election campaigning.
        It was interesting to hear the member for Macquarie Fields in his swansong in this House because he failed to address the issue of the culture of donations that have flowed to the Australian Labor Party over the past 15 years. He talked about compliance with the spirit of the law. His argument is that you should comply with the spirit of the law that is going to come into force on 1 January. The New South Wales Coalition has complied with the law as it stands, and will comply with the law as it stands on 1 January. We are in full compliance. There is no suggestion, other than from the member for Macquarie Fields, that we are not in compliance.
          It is the history of donations to Labor, the culture of fundraising throughout the Australian Labor Party, that has caused a stench to permeate the political regime in New South Wales. On 8 September 2008 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Mr Roozendaal had been promoted to Treasurer. The article stated that he had been the party's chief fundraiser and had raised a reported $16.3 million in his four years as general secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labor Party. That is an extraordinary amount of money that did not come from afternoon teas or Johno Johnson's raffles; it came from systemic corruption of the political funding process by the Australian Labor Party.
            Dr Andrew McDonald: Point of order: The member for Terrigal knows that members cannot make imputations of improper motives to or personal reflections on another member other than by way of substantive motion. If the member wishes to allege that the Treasurer is corrupt—his words—he needs to move a substantive motion with that in mind.

            Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: I referred to the corruption of the political process by the Australian Labor Party. I withdraw the word "corruption" and I will say "rorting". The Australian Labor Party rorted the political process. That is what happened. That systematic rorting by Labor—the vast donation system it built up, with developer after developer attending its hundreds of fundraisers across New South Wales—led to Eric Roozendaal raising $16.3 million. There has been no mention of that and no mention of article after article in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian and the Daily Telegraph that exposed the endless fundraising from developers by the Australian Labor Party, until it got so bad that the party itself realised it had to take action and ban developer donations. Those developers were not coming to the Liberal Party. If you look at the election funding returns you will see the massive disparity in the donations that developers gave the Australian Labor Party as opposed to the State Opposition. The coincidence regarding part 3A and the decision-making process cannot be denied.

            The Australian Labor Party had to accept that it needed to end the culture that it had created over 15 years. It is like a criminal who has been caught breaking into a home and who now argues that we need stronger anti-burglary laws. The Australian Labor Party has been caught rorting the political system so it cries foul and says it has to change the political system it has so rorted. However, it has not changed one significant aspect of that system: it has not changed the endless river of gold that flows to the Australian Labor Party from affiliated unions. The Australian Labor Party has been very deliberate in its legislative program to target developers, who are now soft targets because Labor has given them a bad name. It has targeted the alcohol industry, which donates huge amounts of money to the Australian Labor Party, but it still allows each affiliated trade union—in an amendment specifically for trade unions—to spend up to $1,005,000 on political campaigning.

            Special sections were put in the Act to ensure that the Liberal Party and The Nationals were regarded as associated entities but the Australian Labor Party made an exception for affiliated unions—even those unions directly affiliated with the Labor Party. So we have this endless rorting by Labor. It is most significant to consider the fundraising that the current Premier has done through her business program, such as the Hon. Kristina Keneally's drinks—real dialogue, real opportunities. You can buy tickets to attend her drinks program.

            Dr Andrew McDonald: Point of order: I again raise Standing Order 73. The member is making an imputation of improper motives to or personal reflections on the Premier. He can do that only by way of substantive motion.

            Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: What did I say? I simply said the Premier had a drinks program to raise money. I am talking about the Premier's own leaflet. The member for Macquarie Fields is getting really desperate.

            Dr Andrew McDonald: Point of order: The member for Terrigal knows it is disorderly for members to wave around newspapers or props. The member for Terrigal is clearly using the pamphlet, which I have not seen, as a prop. I ask that you direct him to stop using it as a prop.

            The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order. The member for Terrigal will not use a prop.

            Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: I will read from the pamphlet, which states:
                Business Program

                Business Dialogue Boardroom

                Welcome Lunch—

            [Time expired.]

            Mr ROBERT FUROLO (Lakemba) [3.49 p.m.]: I am pleased to speak in support of the motion. One of the highlights since being elected as a member of Parliament has been the opportunity to be involved in the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. My time as Chair coincided with the Premier referring to the committee an inquiry into the public funding of election campaigns. Many members would be familiar with the work of the committee, which handed down the largest report in the past two terms of this Government. The recommendations of the joint committee, which comprised members from the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Greens, are important in that its work laid the foundations for reforms to election funding. Throughout the inquiry all committee members, whatever their political persuasion, realised that an agreed position of capping donations was fundamental to reforming the electoral system. Recommendation 4 states:

                The Committee recommends that the Premier incorporate in legislation to reform the electoral and political finance regime a cap on all donations from individuals, set at $2,000 per political party ...
            That recommendation was important because it reflected the evidence presented to the inquiry from the Independent Commission Against Corruption, political parties and participants. Everyone accepted the need for caps on donations because of the community perception that decision-making could potentially be influenced by donations. On the one hand, we have acceptance of the view that large donations to political parties have the capacity to influence decision-making; on the other hand, we have $10,000-a-head dinners or lunches organised by the Liberal Party and, even worse, $50,000 tickets for events held by The Nationals. This creates the perception in the community that the outrageously large donations mean that someone is owed something and that some decision can be influenced. On the one hand, we have a political party that is happy to accept huge donations from the corporate sector and its rich mates in the eastern suburbs—

            The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The member for Lismore will come to order.

            Mr ROBERT FUROLO: On the other hand, as a result of the Government's significant reforms, that same party will put its hand out for public funding. Those opposite want to have their cake and eat it too. They are prepared to take huge—outrageously large—donations from the corporate sector and their big business mates and, after the election, they will put their hand out for public funding as well. The Government has introduced these reforms to remove the need for political parties to fundraise to this extent. One argument for increasing public funding for political parties and candidates is to remove the need for large-scale donations and fundraising. On the one hand, the Liberal Party and The Nationals are rattling the pan, trying to get as much money as they can from their rich mates; and, on the other hand, they are trying to tap the taxpayer on the shoulder and get some money there as well. They want to have their cake and eat it too. That behaviour is not in the spirit of the legislation.

            The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The member for Wagga Wagga will come to order.

            Mr ROBERT FUROLO: It is unfortunate that political parties seeking to govern this State are putting their hands out to their rich business mates asking for all the money they can get before the new rules come in. They will then put their hands into taxpayers' pockets and ask for public funding as well.

            The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Wagga Wagga to order.

            Mr ROBERT FUROLO: It is outrageous that they are asking both sides to contribute to their campaigns.

            The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The member for Lismore will come to order.

            Mr ROBERT FUROLO: It discredits both the Liberal Party and The Nationals when they seek to raise money in the climate of election funding laws that make public funding significantly more attractive.

            Mr RAY WILLIAMS (Hawkesbury) [3.54 p.m.]: I have expressed many times in this Chamber my absolute contempt for the amount of money that unions donate to the Australian Labor Party for campaigning. That practice has never been addressed and it has now been set in concrete because affiliated unions will be able to donate up to $23 million to the Labor Party before the next State election, on 26 March 2011. In a front-page story in the Sydney Morning Herald of April 2008 Andrew Clennell identified that between 2002 and 2008 the Transport Workers Union had donated some $750,000 to the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labor Party—to Sussex Street—for campaigning.
              During that time the New South Wales Government awarded the Transport Workers Union some $752,000 in grants for training programs. That money came from the New South Wales taxpayer. The New South Wales Labor Party has had publicly funded campaigns for years. They are funded directly by the New South Wales taxpayer, through the affiliated unions, which in turn direct that money straight back to the New South Wales Labor Party. I appreciate the support of the Minister for Industrial Relations; he has confirmed that that is exactly what happens. We are debating fundraising by the Liberal Party so it is worth placing on the record the Australian Labor Party's current fundraising efforts.

              The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! Government members will come to order.

              Mr RAY WILLIAMS: I happen to have been presented with a very interesting piece of literature entitled "Business Dialogue, Real Opportunity". It should be called "Donations dialogue for the Australian Labor Party". I will read onto the record the fundraising membership levels under the Australian Labor Party's Business Dialogue. The document reveals the various levels of membership. A person can obtain platinum membership for $110,000. That entitles members to business and boardroom lunches with senior Ministers in the New South Wales Labor Government. A person who cannot afford the $110,000 to become a platinum member can be an event partner for the small sum of $59,850, which entitles members to private boardroom lunches with senior Ministers in the Labor Government. I assume the Premier would be present—surprise, surprise, there is a photo of her in the Business Dialogue. People with that level of membership can have access to the Premier and to Sam Dastyari—it would be interesting having access to the playmaker in Sussex Street. There is also a twilight networking forum with the Hon. David Campbell.

              Dr Andrew McDonald: Point of order: Yet again, the member is using the pamphlet as a prop. He is waving it around and referring to it as a prop. That is disorderly.

              The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. The member for Hawkesbury is referring to the pamphlet. He is not using it as a prop.

              Mr RAY WILLIAMS: No, I was reading from some notes. Reading through the document, I note that one can get Premier Keneally and Eric Roozendaal in a package deal. It is called the State Cabinet Budget Dinner, which is for those with platinum membership of $110,000, or event partner membership for $59,850—GST inclusive, of course. If those two memberships are out of one's league, for $36,850 there is the option to become a business partner, which entitles members to three places at the boardroom meeting lunch with the Premier and the Treasurer. Another level is associate partner, which costs only $22,000 for seven business dialogue lunches and twilight policy forums with the Premier and the Treasurer. The bottom level is executive partner for $13,750 and members can have business dialogue lunches with the Premier and the Treasurer and twilight meetings with the Hon. David Campbell. The list goes on. [Time expired.]

              Dr ANDREW McDONALD (Macquarie Fields—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.59 p.m.], in reply: I acknowledge the members who have contributed to this debate. The bottom line is that political life will change from 1 January next year. Political life is changing now. Members opposite need to face reality and they need to comply with the spirit of the incoming election funding laws. They need to give up smoking and they need to give up their addiction to tobacco donations. They need to face reality. The people of New South Wales deserve that much. I remind members opposite that Peter Jackson and Peter Stuyvesant are not individuals; they are major corporations that are responsible for a very significant burden of disease in our community.

              Many of the members opposite who spoke in this debate referred to union donations. I refer them to advice provided by constitutional expert Professor Anne Twomey of Sydney University. Professor Twomey's advice states that campaign finance reforms are more likely to be unconstitutional if they restrict the ability of unions to represent their members. Professor Twomey was commissioned to report into the constitutional issues surrounding campaign finance reform in 2008. The Twomey report at page 24 says:
                  While limits could be placed upon "associated entities", which are really just fronts for parties, it would be difficult to constrain the political activities of genuine bodies such as businesses, unions and lobby groups.
              Professor Twomey went on to say:
                  In the 2007 federal election campaign, significant amounts were spent by unions and business groups on advertising concerning industrial relations. It would be hard to regard these bodies as no more than "fronts" for political parties, as the issues upon which they advertised went to the core of their purposes for existence. It would also be difficult to argue that they should be silenced during election campaigns as their views form a legitimate part of the public debate.
              Every member of this House knows that the Right to Work campaign is what won the 2007 Federal election. Let us be clear on why Mr O'Farrell has raised the concerns about unions. He and his party are addicted to donations from the big end of town—the rich who can afford it. They do not want to even the playing field by allowing workers to donate through their union. They are looking for any excuse to vote against these important reforms.
                The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! Opposition members will come to order.

                Dr ANDREW McDONALD: According to the Liberal Party's own disclosures to the New South Wales Election Funding Authority, the party raised over $7.6 million in the 2009-10 financial year—$3.6 million more than any other party. The Liberal Party's coffers are filled with gold from the big end of town. This figure counts union affiliation fees received by Labor as donations, and such fees will no longer be able to be used for campaigning under our proposal. If these fees are excluded from that figure, Barry O'Farrell's Liberal Party raised over $5.3 billion more than any other party in the 2009-10 financial year.

                The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The member for Terrigal will come to order.

                Dr ANDREW McDONALD: The fact is that Mr O'Farrell is petrified about these reforms, which he has claimed in the past to support. He is worried that it will stop the huge sums of money rolling into Liberal Party coffers from big business.

                Mr Ray Williams: Why don't you just apologise for the medical negligence?

                The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The member for Hawkesbury will come to order.


                The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Hawkesbury to order.

                Dr ANDREW McDONALD: Mr O'Farrell needs to prove that this event was within the incoming laws. It may well be legal, but is it ethical?

                Mr Ray Williams: It's not ethical; it's negligent.

                Dr ANDREW McDONALD: Is it ethical to take donations now that will clearly be illegal in five years time? The member for Hawkesbury talks about ethics. He would not know ethics if they came up and bit him. Is it ethical for the Coalition to remain addicted to tobacco donations when 6,600 people in New South Wales die every year from smoking-related disease?

                Mr Ray Williams: You're talking about your medical negligence, Andrew.

                Dr ANDREW McDONALD: The member for Hawkesbury needs to know that his sponsor is killing my patients, and I am mightily pissed off about his hypocrisy!

                Mr Chris Hartcher: Point of order: The member for Macquarie Fields has used unparliamentary language and he has failed to direct his remarks through the Chair. I ask that the unparliamentary language be removed from the record. For a professional person, that was disgraceful.

                The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The member for Macquarie Fields has been asked to withdraw his statement. Is he prepared to do so?

                Dr ANDREW McDONALD: I acknowledge that those opposite sponsor the people who kill my patients, and it upsets me.

                The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The member for Macquarie Fields is not withdrawing his comment, nor can he be forced to do so. The member for Macquarie Fields has the call.

                Dr ANDREW McDONALD: We need to know what members opposite have in their bottom drawer. We know that what they are saying is in their top drawer. They need to let the people of New South Wales know exactly what they are doing. They are acting within the law, but they are not ethical. I commend the motion to the House.

                Question—That the words stand—put.

                The House divided.

                Ayes, 44
                Mr Amery
                Ms Andrews
                Mr Aquilina
                Ms Beamer
                Mr Borger
                Mr Brown
                Ms Burney
                Ms Burton
                Mr Campbell
                Mr Collier
                Mr Coombs
                Mr Corrigan
                Mr Costa
                Ms D'Amore
                Ms Firth
                Mr Furolo
                Ms Gadiel
                Mr Greene
                Mr Harris
                Ms Hay
                Mr Hickey
                Ms Hornery
                Ms Judge
                Mr Khoshaba
                Mr Koperberg
                Mr Lalich
                Mr Lynch
                Mr McBride
                Dr McDonald
                Ms McKay
                Mr McLeay
                Ms McMahon
                Ms Megarrity
                Mr Morris
                Mr Pearce
                Mrs Perry
                Mr Rees
                Mr Sartor
                Mr Shearan
                Mr Stewart
                Mr Terenzini
                Mr Tripodi
                Mr Ashton
                Mr Martin

                Noes, 37
                Mr Aplin
                Mr Ayres
                Mr Baird
                Mr Baumann
                Ms Berejiklian
                Mr Besseling
                Mr Cansdell
                Mr Dominello
                Mrs Fardell
                Ms Goward
                Mrs Hancock
                Mr Hartcher
                Mr Hazzard
                Ms Hodgkinson
                Mrs Hopwood
                Mr Humphries
                Mr Merton
                Ms Moore
                Mr O'Dea
                Mr O'Farrell
                Mr Page
                Mr Piccoli
                Mr Piper
                Mr Provest
                Mr Richardson
                Mr Roberts
                Mrs Skinner
                Mr Smith
                Mr Souris
                Mr Stokes
                Mr Stoner
                Mr J. H. Turner
                Mr R. W. Turner
                Mr J. D. Williams
                Mr R. C. Williams

                Mr George
                Mr Maguire


                Mr GibsonMr Fraser
                Mr WhanMr Kerr
                Question resolved in the affirmative.

                Amendment negatived.

                Motion agreed to.