Labor tops next year’s cash splash

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“Labor MLAs all make a donation of around $25,000 a year with the Chief Minister contributing close to $30,000. It is a similar story with the two Greens MLAs in the Assembly,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.

JUST over a year out from an election and the Labor Party coffers are looking much healthier than those of the Liberal Party or the Greens. However, the three incumbent parties completely outstrip any of the other political parties registered to run in the next election.

Michael Moore.

The 2018/19 Annual Returns have been released on the ACT Electoral Commission’s website and they make interesting reading for anyone following ACT politics.

The Labor Party has declared receipts of $1,204,159.05 in the 12-month period. Granted, a small percentage of this is “in-kind” donations such as space for a meeting. However, well over a million dollars has been amassed in the past year. This is in marked contrast to all other political parties. The reasons will become clear later.

The Liberal Party also has declared some “in-kind” donations. However, its receipts totalled close to half of Labor at $609,520.46. The Greens were running third with receipts totalling $450,187.74 and the Liberal Democrats declared less than $3000.

So where does the rest of the money come from?

Elections ACT pays $8 a vote to political parties achieving more than 4 per cent of the vote. This is up from $2 a vote in 2012. For the Labor Party in the ACT this funding amounted to $337,394.64. 

In the case of the Liberals, in the return in 2018/19 the amount received was $246,728.35 and the Greens declared receipts from ACT Elections and the Federal Election Commission totalling $300,227.90 – of this, Elections ACT contribution was $44,859.70. An examination of the 2017/18 Annual Returns shows similar amounts from ACT Elections to each of the parties.

The biggest income for the Liberal Party, apart from Elections ACT, came through a declaration of $196,204.23 through LJ Hooker Commercial. The Liberals also had a wide range of smaller donors adding to the Party coffers. The MLAs contributed around $10,000 each with Alistair Coe donating just over $11,000.

Labor MLAs all make a donation of around $25,000 a year with the Chief Minister contributing close to $30,000. It is a similar story with the two Greens MLAs in the Assembly.

Most interesting in the Financial Returns are the “Associated Entities”. For the Labor Party these are the “1973 Foundation” and the Canberra Labor Club. These “entities” include Labor’s investment arm – which has the wherewithal to provide them with considerable income leading into next year’s election.

The ACT Labor Party relies heavily on the “1973 Foundation Pty Ltd” with declarations of $331,527.00 for the 2018/19 returns (and $789,403.48 declared in 2017/18). The ACT Election financial returns also reveal Labor’s “1973 Foundation” received $724,957 from JB Were (Investment Income and Sales Proceeds combined) and from G8 Education (Rent) a declaration of the sum of $631,695.08.

Electoral returns are essential to our democracy as they do add transparency to the income of political parties. 

At one end of the spectrum are those people who are donating less than $1000 (which does not have to be declared). There are also many personal donors who provide more than $1000 because they believe in the work and ethos of a political party. 

Additionally, it is not hard to understand the commitment of MLAs to their party in recognition of the support they receive at election time. The 2018/19 declarations also reveal that the wife of one of the Federal Members donated $30,000 to the campaign.

In 2015 legislation was enacted that removed the previous cap on donations of $10,000 in a single financial year. ACT Elections points out “there is no longer a limit governing the amount that can be donated to a political entity in the ACT”.

It is also the case that there are no residential requirements placed on donations to ACT political parties and associated entities.

Funding of political parties is complex. However, it is also important that the community understands what is going on, who has influence and what they might hope to achieve. Next year is an election year for the ACT and the returns may be expected to be much more interesting.





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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.

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