Donations shine light on major party ties to pokies, property developers


Tim Hollo, Greens Candidate for Canberra

With the annual returns released publicly today by Elections ACT, questions have again been raised as to the transparency of donations to the two major parties.

The returns also reaffirm the Canberra Liberals as a party for the big end of town, that receives thousands of dollars of donations from property developers and major corporations.

In 2017/2018, ACT Labor received $754,197 from the 1973 Foundation, their investment corporation. The source of these funds is opaque.

ACT Labor also received $33,241 worth of free room hire at pokies venues: the Gungahlin Lakes club, the Canberra Labor Club, the Dickson Tradies, the Statesman Hotel, and the Burns Club in Kambah.

The Canberra Liberals accepted more than $66,000 from consultancies, including almost $60,000 from Price Waterhouse Coopers, and at least $8,000 from property developers.

By way of contrast, the ACT Greens do not accept donations from property developers or the pokies lobby.

In 2015, the ACT Greens were the only party to vote against removing the $10,000 cap on political donations to ACT political parties—and against an increase to the amount of public funding for election campaigns.

Speaking at the time, Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury described this as “ACT Labor and the Canberra Liberals team(ing) up to water down the ACT's electoral laws.”

Resulting from agreements to form Government in consecutive ACT Assemblies, the Greens have:

  • ensured that legislation is in place requiring tighter timeframes for disclosures of political donations, particularly in election years;
  • led the process to establish an Independent Integrity Commission, and obtained a commitment for a legislative ban on political parties taking donations from property developers;
  • and presented a bill to recognise the Electoral Commissioner, the Auditor-General, and the Ombudsman as officers of the Assembly, ensuring that these three officers will be appointed by and report directly to the Parliament.

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury is the current chair of the ACT Assembly’s Select Committee on an Independent Integrity Commission.

Federally, the Greens have been pushing for many years for a Federal ICAC, for donations reform, and to close the revolving door between business lobbyists and parliamentarians and their staff.

“Big corporations routinely use donations to effectively buy influence, favours and policy, and Canberrans are rightly appalled,” Tim Hollo, Greens candidate for the new federal seat of Canberra, said today.

“As an absolute minimum, political donations should be capped and publicly disclosed. The ACT Greens do not accept donations from the pokies lobby, big developers or other vested interests. The other parties should match us at this election.

“This isn’t just about pokies and property developers protecting themselves. It’s about a political system which, far too much of the time, is geared towards corporate interests instead of the public interest. That has got to change,” Mr Hollo added.

The Australian Greens believe that integrity, accountability and openness in politics are vital to a healthy democracy.

To have an engaged public, voters need to trust what their politicians are saying and have open access to information. The Australian community has made it clear – they trust the Greens to stand by their values through thick and thin.

Correction: this post initially said that "ACT Labor also received $33,241 worth of free room hire at their associated pokies venues". This has been amended to reflect the fact that not all venues in the list are formally associated with ACT Labor.