Saturday, 3 May 2008

800 face charges for donations

THE state's election watchdog has authorised the Crown Solicitor to prosecute 800 donors who made almost $8 million in political donations to candidates and parties for last year's NSW election but failed to declare them.

The 800 include many of Australia's biggest companies, which have given between $1525 and $543,000 each - and they face fines of $11,000 for each offence.

The action provides further evidence that the state's political donations reporting system is a shambles, as official records reveal that the Premier, Morris Iemma, has declared he got no donations for last year's election despite 26 donors - including developers and clubs - naming him as a recipient of almost $180,000 in their own declarations. This is $5000 more than Mr Iemma declared he received in political donations for the previous election in 2003.

The NSW Election Funding Authority found the donors' alleged breaches of electoral laws after its newly computerised database highlighted mismatches in donors' and recipients' declarations. The authority refused to disclose names, but sources say that the Manildra Group of Companies, the ethanol manufacturer, tops the list, after allegedly failing to declare more than $500,000 in donations. The Chinese developer Kingold Group allegedly did not declare more than $220,000 and NRMA Motoring and Services allegedly failed to disclose more than $189,000.

Beijing AustChina Technology allegedly failed to declare about $120,000. This is the privately owned, China-based communications company whose owner, Ian Tang, funded Kevin Rudd's trip to the US, Sudan, Britain and China in 2006 as well as other travel for the now Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and the Agriculture Minister, Tony Burke.

In donor declarations for the last election, Clubs NSW accounted for the most generous contribution of $47,650 in which the Premier was named, followed by Dyldam Developments Pty Ltd, which said it gave $17,999, and Holdmark Developers Pty Ltd, which reported giving $13,636.

After he became Premier in August 2005, Mr Iemma reported a plunge in his own fund-raising fortunes between the 2003 and 2007 elections. For the previous poll, he declared $172,210, but by last year, he declared nil donations to the funding authority as an individual candidate in his seat of Lakemba.

In their own separate declarations to the authority, donors reported differently, writing Mr Iemma's name in sections of the disclosure form where they had to name the "party, candidate or group of candidates" who received the donation.

Call to ban political donations after companies fail to declare

The Greens say the revelation that hundreds of companies failed to declare political donations to New South Wales political parties is proof that a a complete ban on donations is needed immediately.

The discrepancies were found when a new computer system revealed mismatches between donations declared by political parties and those declared by companies.

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon says tightening disclosure laws is not enough to fix the system.

She says it is proof that an immediate ban on political donations should be brought in immediately.


NSW Labor faces royal commission call
The New South Wales Greens have called for a royal commission into state planning decisions, following a number of allegations the Government overrode advice to deliver huge windfalls to ALP donors.

Ban on political donations a world first, says Labor
THE proposal by the Premier, Morris Iemma, to ban all political donations would not only be a national first, but an international first, the NSW Labor Party's general secretary, Karl Bitar, told a parliamentary hearing yesterday.

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