The NSW Greens have campaigned for many years to ban developer donations to the NSW Government. In 2003, Greens MP Lee Rhiannon introduced the Anti Corruption (Developer Donations) Bill to the NSW Parliament, to amend the Election Funding Act. The bill was not passed, giving the major parties in NSW continued access to developer donations to fund their election campaigns - well over $2 million for the ALP and $1.3 million for the Liberals in one year alone! In 2008 Greens MP Sylvia Hale tried to move similar legislation but again the major parties blocked the bill.
NSW Local Government
The Greens Charter of Political Reform serves as a model for the 58 elected Greens Councillors in NSW, as well as future Greens Local Government candidates. By adopting the charter, Greens councillors would undertake:
Greens NSW Policy
The policy of the NSW Greens aims to make the electoral system fairer and more transparent, prevent corporations and other vested interests from disproportionately influencing government policy decisions and election outcomes, and to limit conflicts of interest arising from political donations and from Members of Parliament taking up employment in areas related to ministerial portfolios.
The policy of the Australian Greens allows the Greens to accept donations from corporations and organisations that are deemed by the party to be ethical, in accordance with Greens policies. To date their have been 14 such donors.
We will continue the Democracy4sale research project to better inform the wider community about the need to reform the current system.
Revised November 2006
The Greens NSW believe:
1. The electoral system must be adequately funded by government;
2. Government policies, election outcomes and political decision making must be, and must seen to be, independent of donations or favours from the private and non-government sectors;
3. The separation of government and the private sector should include restrictions on retiring MPs in their work in the private sector;
4. All citizens should have equal access to and influence on political decision-making, government policy or election outcomes; and
5. Transparency in funding and lobbying activities is essential to a healthy democracy.
The Greens NSW will work to:
6. Make the electoral system fairer and more transparent;
7. Prevent corporations and other vested interests from disproportionately influencing government policy decisions and election outcomes; and
8. Limit conflicts of interest arising from political donations and from Members of Parliament taking up employment in areas related to ministerial portfolios.
The Greens NSW will:
9. Campaign for adequate, fair and transparent funding of elections;
10. Implement a system where all donations to, and electoral expenditure by political parties, candidates or elected representative be promptly disclosed on a public website maintained by the electoral office;
11. Prohibit donations to political parties, candidates, associated entitites or elected representatives that are from corporations;
12. Allow political donations only from individuals who are citizens or permanent residents of Australia and from bequests;
13. Cap donations from an individual to a candidate, associated entity or all branches of the same political party at $10,000 per individual per annum unless the individual is a member of the political party.
14. Allow uncapped bequests;
15. Maintain public funding for state election campaigns;
16. Prohibit payment of electoral expenses or electoral advertising by entities other than identified, registered political parties or candidates;
17. Treat as a pecuniary interest, subject to a conflict of interest test, all donations to political parties, candidates or elected representatives;
18. Introduce legislation which prevents, for a period of 2 years, retiring MPs from entering employment, consulting or otherwise assisting for benefit, any industry or organisation in the private or non-government sector which could be seen to be obtaining unfair advantage from such an arrangement with an ex MP;
19. Establish a compulsory code of conduct for MP's and Ministers addressing these issues, to be administered by the State Electoral Office; and
20. Review the operations of the NSW Electoral Commission and establish an enhanced audit function to monitor compliance, and increase funding for this purpose
Manufacturers of gaming machine, casinos, betting firms, race horse breeders.
Hotels or pubs, hotelliers and hotel lobbysists such as the Australian Hotels Association.
All manufacturers of finished products not mentioned in other specific categories, heavy industrial firms.
Donations made from one division of a party to another division, e.g. from the federal party to the state party head office, from a local branch to the state party office, or from sitting councillors.
In 2004 The Greens introduced a Private Member's Bill to ban developer donations.
Download the Greens Ban Developer Donations Bill (pdf)
Lee Rhiannon introduced the bill in November 2003, a debate took place during early February, then on 11 March 2004 Lee gave her speech in reply. A vote was then taken and the bill was defeated. To see how the MPs voted, go to the bottom of this hansard transcript.
Bill introduced, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Ms LEE RHIANNON [13 November 2003, 2.57 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I am proud to introduce the Developer Donations (Anti-Corruption) Bill on behalf of the Greens. Our democracy in New South Wales is quite literally up for sale; its very essence is being destroyed by massive developer donations. Members of Parliament are elected to represent the people but, increasingly, members of Parliament are representing their corporate donors first and their constituents as an afterthought. Nobody believes that developers give something for nothing. Nobody believes that developer donations are about altruism. In fact, it is a misnomer to even call them donations. They are not donations, they are purchases. Developers are buying influence, they are buying access, and they are buying government policy. When it comes to planning policy the Carr Labor Government has been bought and paid for. The Carr Labor Government represents its developer mates, not the people of New South Wales.
The title of this bill has been chosen quite deliberately. The Greens believe that donations by large developers amount to corruption. The Macquarie Dictionary defines "bribe" as "anything given or serving to persuade or induce". To suggest that developer donations are not given in order "to persuade or induce" is akin to asking us to believe in the tooth fairy. Anyone who suggests that those donations do not persuade or induce the Labor Government to take certain action has not been paying attention. Section 8 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act defines "corruption" as follows:
Corrupt conduct is any conduct of any person that adversely affects, or could adversely affect, either directly or indirectly, the honest and impartial exercise of official functions by any public official.
Under that definition developers certainly have something to worry about. Section 8 also states:
Corrupt conduct is any conduct of a public official that constitutes or involves the dishonest or partial exercise of any of his or her official functions.
Does favouritism towards developers count as "partial exercise of official functions"? I am not a lawyer but I know the commonsense answer. Who are these big developers making these very large donations? They are the companies whose names we see every day on the sides of cranes, on construction hoardings, and in the real estate section of the newspaper. Some time ago my office began an extensive research project to work out how much developers are giving, and their identity. The results are published on my web site, www.lee.greens.org.au. I thank Dr Norman Thompson, who has voluntarily given many hundreds of hours of his time to do this research. It was painstaking research because our donor declaration laws are so weak. The record is often only the name of a company, with no way of working out who is behind the donation.
The research is quite remarkable. Over the past four years the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labor Party has received donations from at least 80 companies involved in the property industry. For instance, the Walker Corporation gave $165,000; McRoss, also associated with Lang Walker, gave another $122,000; Meriton donated $294,500; Multiplex donated $258,350; the Mirvac Group donated $98,000; Leightons gave $147,550; the Lend Lease Group gave $241,850; and Paynter Dixon Construction Pty Ltd gave $298,450. Eric Roozendaal must be flat out banking the cheques. It is little wonder that he needs to relax with a night at the Colosseum, where I understand he is going tonight. Of course, these are only donations to the New South Wales branch of the ALP. Hundreds of thousands of dollars also flow to the national office of the ALP and to their branches.
I understand that Lend Lease now has a policy of not donating to political parties. If that is the case, I congratulate that company on its change of heart. It is reassuring that some developers, whether they are convinced by the arguments or public relations considerations, are cutting the flow of donations. I hope that is a sign of the times. The people of New South Wales in general, and the communities fighting inappropriate development in particular, have a right to know just what the Labor Government sold in return for these massive donations. What did Labor give to developers in return? Was it private certification, State environmental planning policy 5, some harbour foreshore, hectares of endangered Cumberland plain woodland in Western Sydney, Aboriginal heritage at Sandon Point, the new coastal State environmental planning policy 71, or development applications that the various planning Ministers have called in and approved—hundreds and hundreds every year?
We can only surmise exactly what policies, what decisions and what parts of our State Labor has sold. However, we know one thing: the developers have bought access to power. I will always remember one episode of Stateline from a year or two ago in which Quentin Dempster interviewed Harry Triguboff, the owner of Meriton, the giant apartment builder. Quentin asked what access Triguboff has to the Premier. Triguboff replied along the following lines, "Oh well, I can always pick up the phone and ring him but I do not do it often." The most disturbing aspect of that interview, which I clearly remember, was the casual, offhand manner in which he said it, as if it was no big deal and only what any multimillion dollar developer would expect.
Nothing more dramatically illustrates the access that developers have to power in New South Wales than the obscene fundraising dinners that Labor holds. With tables costing tens of thousands of dollars they are priced well out of the range of ordinary people—the sort of people who are campaigning against Labor's development atrocities, but also the people who elected Labor to office, the ones who staff the polling booths. At those dinners big donors are lavished with attention. Ministers and members of Parliament are spread around the room, allocated to different tables. These dinners are selling access, plain and simple. And it does not come cheap. In the latest edition of the Sydney magazine, which is published by the Sydney Morning Herald, there is a fascinating interview with former Prime Minister Mr Paul Keating. In it Mr Keating takes a swipe at Labor's relationship with developers and fundraising dinners in particular. Mr Keating is quoted as saying:
Party fundraisers are at their beck and call, more's the pity. A handy implement for party fundraisers and politicians in NSW would be a hipflask of mace for all the cadgers and developers who cross their doors looking for government favours.
It is amazing how honest Labor leaders can become after leaving office, but I still very much welcome Mr Keating's contribution to the debate. As it happens, a Labor fundraising dinner is to be held tonight. It is billed as "A Night at the Colosseum" and features a State-of-origin great debate between Bob "The Gladiator" Carr and Steve "Maximus" Bracks. Interestingly, Graham Richardson was going to feature as the master of ceremonies until the Swiss bank account revelations forced him into hiding. The invitation offers an emperor's table of 10 for $11,000, with a senior Labor representative guaranteed, or an imperial table of 12 for $3,300.
The Hon. Rick Colless: Whom do you get for that—Costa?
Ms LEE RHIANNON: No, you do not get a senior Labor representative at your table. One can also purchase an individual ticket for $275. Could there be a better example of selling access? People who can afford $11,000 for a table of 10—$1,100 a seat—can spend the whole evening lobbying a senior Labor representative. Those who can afford a bit less can still get in the door and do their best to get the ear of power. Those who cannot afford at least $275, or those who think the whole thing stinks, can stand out in the street and join the Greens protest.
The Hon. Rick Colless: How much does that cost?
Ms LEE RHIANNON: It is free, of course. The back of the invitation for tonight's dinner is especially revealing. It features the logos of sponsors of the dinner—Multiplex, the developer; Stockland, the developer of the disastrous Sandon Point development at Bulli; St Hillers Pty Ltd, also a developer; Aussie Home Loans; the Tenix Group, a defence contractor; British American Tobacco, the global mass murderer; and the Manildra Group. Of course, it was only three months ago that Federal Labor returned a $50,000 donation from Manildra in light of the ethanol scandal. How hypocritical does that now appear?
The Hon. John Ryan: Is Manildra going?
Ms LEE RHIANNON: Yes, Manildra is going.
The Hon. John Ryan: That is called recycling.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: Yes. I wonder if the $50,000 that Manildra received back from Federal Labor will be used to attend the State Labor banquet. Labor certainly lives up to its side of the deal; its track record since 1995 demonstrates a long record of shameless capitulation to developer greed. Time and time again local communities have had inappropriate, destructive developments imposed on them. From Bega Valley to the Tweed, coastal communities and environments have suffered from developers moving in, exploiting weak planning laws and wreaking havoc. In the Illawarra the beautiful escarpment is under threat and public land and Aboriginal heritage at Sandon Point has been desecrated.
The Hon. Tony Burke: Point of order: My point of order relates to relevance. We were told that all of this information was disclosed on the New South Wales Greens web site. I have just been to the clean up politics link on the Greens web site, which says, "Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon's campaign donations page". When I clicked on the link I got the message, "The page cannot be found". In terms of misleading the Parliament, I am concerned about the speech we are currently hearing.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: To the point of order: Clearly, it is not a point of order. The web site is accessible. If the honourable member cannot use the web, or if there is a problem with a firewall, that is not a point of order.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Amanda Fazio): Order! The matter raised by the Hon. Tony Burke was in response to a comment made by Ms Lee Rhiannon earlier in her speech. I do not think it was a genuine point of order and I rule that way. Ms Lee Rhiannon may proceed.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: In Sydney, shoddy, lowest-common denominator developments have become the norm, maximising developer profits at the expense of quality design, residential amenity, community facilities and the environment.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: Point of order: My point of order relates to the definition of "public funding". Does the fact that the former staffer Dan Cass, the campaign director for the Greens in the coming by-election, used the parliamentary office facilities and parliamentary funds of the office of Lee Rhiannon disqualify the member from making this sanctimonious speech?
Ms LEE RHIANNON: To the point of order: Clearly, that is not a point of order. The member is trying to waste time. On the specific allegations, which I will answer at a later time, Dan Cass took holidays throughout that period. The honourable member knows that, but she is trying to stop me making this speech.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Amanda Fazio): Order! I am advised that pursuant to the standing orders no point of order is involved. Ms Lee Rhiannon may proceed.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: Recent days have seen a wonderfully illustrative example of the power of the donors. The Collex waste facility at Clyde was always a disaster—a disaster for waste management, for local residents and for the environment. The Government has pushed ahead regardless, with utter disrespect for the residents nearby. Earlier this week two courageous individuals won a stunning victory against Collex and the Government in the Land and Environment Court. I warmly congratulate John Drake and his colleague on the stand they took. Consent for the facility was refused.
Anyone at all familiar with the Land and Environment Court will understand what a remarkable event this is. The rules of the court are so biased in favour of developers and against objectors and residents that to achieve such a win is truly stunning. The case was reminiscent of the movie The Castle, with two local men representing themselves against a phalanx of high-priced lawyers and experts. It was a wonderful win for commonsense and community values. The only people for whom the Clyde waste facility is not a disaster are the ex-Woodlawn mine workers. They were left without their entitlements when the mine ceased, and in a despicably cynical move Collex and the Government linked the paying of the entitlements to the Clyde project.
The Woodlawn workers should get their entitlements. Labor should have legislated years ago to better protect workers entitlements. But it is a completely separate issue to the merits of the Clyde waste station. How has the Government reacted to the Land and Environment Court decision? Has it resolved to reconsider the project? Has it taken any notice at all of what the Land and Environment Court judge had to say? Absolutely not! Labor's reaction has been to foreshadow special legislation to override the court decision. What an absolute disgrace! What a treacherous betrayal of residents in a strong Labor voting area!
Why has Labor reacted in this way? Again, let us follow the money trail—maybe it has an answer. In 1998-99 Collex donated $33,450 to the Labor Party in New South Wales; in 2000-01, $52,200; and in 2001-02, $3,300. That is $88,950 over four years. That is why Labor is listening to Collex and not to residents. That is why it is prepared to overrule the judicial process. Labor is governing for its wealthy donors, not for ordinary people, not even Labor voters.
I have spoken at some length about Labor's development sins, but it is worth noting that lack of opportunity is about the only thing stopping the Coalition from showing the same faults. It is commonsense that developers will want to donate to a party that can actually deliver for them in the short term, so for the time being the Coalition has lost out in the developer donation stakes. Nevertheless, it has received some fairly hefty donations over the past four years: $111,500 from Lend Lease, $150,667 from Meriton, $261,500 from Multiplex and $74,833 from Stockland. When one is wondering why the Opposition does not take the Government on with regard to overdevelopment and strengthening the development instrumentalities in this State that are so weak, perhaps the answer lies here.
Oppositions cannot sell access to power or government policy, but they do have something to offer—silence. The Opposition's silence on the Sandon Point development in particular has been absolutely disgraceful. But then again Stockland has been generous—$75,000 worth of generosity. Sometimes money talks and sometimes it is whisper quiet. Of course, sometimes oppositions can support a Government decision. Yesterday John Brogden came out in support of the Government's disgraceful position on the Clyde waste facility, despite the widespread community support for the court's decision. Over the past four years Collex has given the New South Wales Liberals $32,742.
The Greens position on these issues is considered radical in this Parliament, but we are in step with public opinion. The public understands that politics is increasingly being conducted for the benefit of the wealthy donors and not them. If one were to step out into Macquarie Street, Hunter Street in Newcastle, Keira Street in Wollongong or any street in any town in New South Wales and ask passers-by whether the actions of governments and oppositions are influenced by the corporate donations they receive, one would get nearly 100 per cent agreement. It is one of those issues about which the major parties are in total self-serving denial, thus creating an enormous gulf between mainstream politics and ordinary people.
It is these sorts of issues that cause people to be so disillusioned with politics and so in contempt of their representatives. It is the Greens who are striving to reunite the Australian people with their parliaments by addressing the root causes of their disenchantment. This bill is the result of an extensive drafting and consultation process that took more than 12 months. It is bold and far-reaching. It seeks to completely reform the process for receiving and declaring all donations in State and local politics, to ban donations from large developers in particular and to make the ministerial call-in power accountable.
As the law currently stands, parties, candidates and groups in State and local elections only have to declare their donations once every four years following an election. Once every four years? What a joke! What goes down in four years? We know in this place. That deprives the public of any opportunity to assess whether their actions have been influenced by their donations, or even to discover where their financial support has come from. The bill would replace this with a system of continuous disclosure.
The Hon. Tony Burke: Like your web page.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: I am happy to give the member a lesson on the web later. All donations will have to be declared to the State Electoral Office within 21 days of receipt. The State Electoral Office will then have a further 14 days to make the donation record publicly available, both at its office and on the Internet. This way the public will get to see quite quickly what money has changed hands, and to compare it to the Government's actions during that period. It will end forever parties accepting controversial donations and not having to disclose them for up to four years.
As a further reform, all donations will have to be made and declared by means of a standard donors form approved by the Electoral Funding Authority. It will be an offence, with a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units, for a party, a person acting on behalf of a party, a group, a person acting on behalf of a group, an independent member of Parliament or a person acting on behalf of an independent member of Parliament, a candidate or a person acting on behalf of a candidate, to accept a donation that exceeds $1,000 if the donation is not accompanied by a completed donors form. This also applies to donations that, when added to donations received from the same source in the preceding 12 months, would exceed $1,000. In other words, there will not be any loophole where donors can give $999 repeatedly without having to disclose anything.
As a minimum, the donors form must require the donors to state the amount of the donation; details of all donations made by the donor to the recipient in the preceding 12 months; the donor's postal, residential and head office address; and, if the donor is a corporation, details of that corporation, including the names of all directors and a description of its basic activities. This last point is quite crucial, as our research has shown. All too often, under the current rules, the only information given is a nondescript company name and it can be almost impossible to work out exactly what that company does or who is behind it. Money can easily be passed through obscure shelf companies. Requiring the list of directors to be disclosed would greatly assist in joining all the dots together. The donors form will also require donors to state that they are not major developers. That is the mechanism that will be used to ban developer donations. It will be an offence for a major developer to make a donation, with the maximum penalty of 20 penalty units. That is how we can clean up the system and bring the planning system into balance.
The final feature of the donors form will be a requirement to state that the donor has not been convicted of an offence involving bribery or corruption. Again, it will be an offence for a person convicted of an offence involving bribery or corruption to make a donation, with a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units. Surely we can all agree that anyone who has actually been convicted of bribery or corruption is not an appropriate person to be contributing financially in our political system. The form will further require the donor to state that he or she is not making the donation on behalf of a major developer or a person convicted of a bribery or corruption offence. This is important. Money can easily be passed through third parties unless there is a mechanism to prevent it.
A major developer is defined in the bill as a person or corporation who has, in the past five years, lodged a development application or applications relating to the carrying out of development on any one or more parcels of land if the estimated cost of carrying out the development totals $5 million or more. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation requires those submitting development applications to include an estimated cost of carrying out the development, and it is this estimated cost that will be the relevant figure.
An exemption is contained in the bill if the developer intends to occupy at least 75 per cent of the total floor area of any buildings on the land for at least 12 months after the development has been carried out. In other words, if a manufacturer is building itself a new factory on land it already owns, it will not qualify as a major developer. If a wealthy individual is building himself or herself an expensive new house, that person will not be a major developer, and so on. This is important because the essence of being a developer is the development of land for sale, not for self-use. An intention to occupy at least 75 per cent of the total floor area must be evidenced in writing and submitted with the original development application.
One final important aspect of the definition of major developer is that, if a corporation meets the definition of major developer, each and every director of that company is also defined as such. This is needed because generally a corporation and its directors cannot be considered independent players. The interests of one are generally the interests of both. The ability of the directors of major developer companies to make political donations would be an enormous loophole.
The Developer Donations (Anti-Corruption) Bill also seeks to amend the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act to make accountable the ministerial call-in power. Currently, the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning can call in any development application in New South Wales and make himself or herself the consent authority for the application. The Minister can arbitrarily remove the development application from a council at any time, without ever having to account for that action. It is a discretionary power that is wide open to abuse and almost tailormade for the granting of political favours. Is some community-oriented council giving you a hard time? Just call the Minister and remind him about your fat donation and get him to call it in. Magic—problem solved. The call-in power as it currently stands is so corruption-prone that reform is desperately needed. The call-in power is widely used, despite its relative obscurity. In March 2002 I asked the then Minister for Planning how many developments he had acted on as the consent authority. The answer, when it was grudgingly given, was that in the preceding three years he had acted as the consent authority on around 1,200 development applications—around 400 per year on average. This is a widely used and widely abused power, and it is about time that some light was shone upon it.
The bill amends the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act to require the Minister to publish in the Government Gazette any use of the call-in power, and to allow either House to disallow that use in the same manner as a regulation. This would achieve two important things. First, Parliament and the public would be automatically made aware every time this dangerous and fundamentally undemocratic power is used. Second, the ability of Parliament to disallow its use would make the Minister far more cautious—knowing that at any time he or she might be required to provide Parliament with a defence of his or her actions. If the Minister can mount a good case, fair enough, and the call-in will probably stand. But if it is exposed as arbitrary, as favouritism, as corruption, then the public at large will have been done a great favour and it will be one more step towards cleaning up the planning process in New South Wales.
Why target developers? Why not any of the other categories of donors who are corrupting politics in New South Wales? Why not poker machine interests, clubs, tobacco interests or anything else? The answer is that, while this bill is cleaning up the process of receiving and declaring all donations, at this point in New South Wales's history developers simply are the biggest donors and the biggest problem. Planning policy is central to the future of New South Wales. The loss of native habitat, bushland and public open space, and the loss of our coastal communities and cities, would be devastating. Planning controls the amenity issues of noise, sunlight, privacy and design, and the sustainability of our community facilities and services. The Greens believe that the links between wealthy interests and government policy are nowhere clearer or more dangerous that in planning—with disastrous consequences for New South Wales.
If this bill is passed, it will restore public confidence in the planning system. It will allow the community to feel confident that planning issues are being considered on their merits, not on financial influence. Removing the distorting financial influence of big developers will inevitably affect the whole planning system—rules, laws, policies and individual decisions will come to better reflect the community's wishes. New South Wales might finally get the planning system it deserves—one based on community needs, not developer greed. I commend the Greens bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. Don Harwin.
Thursday, 11 March 2004
Parliament House, Sydney
Ms LEE RHIANNON [4.44 p.m.], in reply: I thank the members who took the time to consider my bill and debate it. Some members have indicated they will not support the bill. I will make some brief comments on the concerns they raised. I was pleased to hear the member Don Harwin acknowledge that we must tackle the issue of donations, though I am not sure if this reflects the thinking of his Federal colleagues. Recently, according to the Australian Financial Review, Treasurer Peter Costello held a $10,000-a-head dinner for 10 executives at a banker's house in Hunters Hill. That same week the Millennium Forum held a fundraising lunch for the Liberal Party at the Wentworth Hotel. This is identical to Labor's frequent cash-for-access events at swanky hotels. Mr Harwin's main concern seems to be that the Liberal fundraisers are not as successful as Labor Party ones. I presume that this is what he means when he talks about the lack of a level playing field.
The Greens are not motivated by their inability to match the Labor Party's donations. Our concern is the fundamental injustice of a system that gives big donors more access to the Government than ordinary people. Whatever the Liberals' motivation, we welcome their support for our overall campaign against political donations. I congratulate Mr Harwin on a thoughtful contribution, which looked at a number of different alternatives to our bill, such as the Canadian system. The Greens share his interest in alternative models using public funding but we felt it was too ambitious to propose such a system in this bill. Given Mr Harwin's comments, we hope that he and his Federal colleagues will support parliamentary inquiries into alternative regimes for funding political parties and election campaigns.
Our bill has a more modest aim: to curb one of the worst excesses of the current donations system. The public has a deep-seated hostility towards donations, particularly developer donations. Development issues are also the subject of almost daily decisions by local councils and State governments, and those decisions directly and materially affect developers. The potential for donations to influence development processes and policies is more acute than in almost any other industry or sector. This is why the Greens and the public see the need for this bill. Mr Harwin says we are unfairly singling out one industry, but we say that developers have singled themselves out. Their donations are of a different order of magnitude than those from any other industry.
In the lead-up to the last State election, five of the top 10 donors to the ALP were developers. Likewise, four of the top 10 donors to the Liberal Party were developers. Developers are the only industry, apart from hotels and clubs, that gives more than $1 million a year to political parties. As a whole, developers give twice as much as clubs and hotels. The size of some developer's donations is staggering. Over the past five years the big names like Australand, Leighton, Lend Lease, Meriton, Mirvac, Multiplex, Walker and Westfield have each given hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then there are other more mysterious donors like Cienna from Neutral Bay, Memo Corporation, Shimao Holdings from Hong Kong, and the Toga Group, which runs the Medina serviced apartments. If developers choose to put themselves in the spotlight by pouring millions into the coffers of the parties that determine their profits, they should accept the consequences. Lend Lease has admitted that such donations tarnish their image as a good corporate citizen and has stopped making donations.
Mr Harwin cited the Legislation Review Committee's view that banning developer donations trespasses on personal rights and liberties. The Greens believe that it is developer donations that trespass on our rights and liberties. Democracy-the idea of one vote, one value-is thwarted by these donations. While developers use their donations to gain access and influence, those affected by developments are left on the sidelines. Surely that is a more important trespass, and our bill would remedy that. To those who believe the corporate spin that donations are aimed at supporting democracy, I refer them to an exchange on the ABC's Stateline program between a journalist and the Australian Hotels Association's John Thorpe:
Thorpe: Look, democracy is not cheap. And your firm and your company-everybody's involved with assisting political parties because at this stage we need to keep these people in place to have the democracy we have today.
JOHN THORPE: Look, what helps is this-you attend as an observer, as I did, at the ALP national conference. Yes, it costs money. But we did get interviews with ministers, we did get interviews.
The Hon. Don Harwin went some way to acknowledging this, but said that our bill is not the answer. He said that our bill would only apply in New South Wales. The Greens say: Let our bill be an example for other States to follow. The Hon. Don Harwin also said that our bill could be circumvented. The Greens say: Give more resources to the Australian Electoral Commission to monitor compliance. The Hon. Don Harwin also said that our bill does not address the need for publicly funded elections. The Greens say: Let us have a parliamentary inquiry. Let us get some legislation to bring this in as soon as possible. This bill is just the first step. The Greens want to ban all corporate donations and change the funding system. But we see this as an evolving process. The Hon. Patricia Forsythe suggested that development is crucial to our community. The Greens have never argued against development per se, but we want community-driven development, appropriate development, and sustainable development. The Hon. Patricia Forsythe seems to be suggesting that all development is good.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: I said you seem to be suggesting that. Attitudes such as those of the Hon. Patricia Forsythe nearly lost Sydney its priceless historic precinct, The Rocks. Is she really suggesting that we should not try to keep developers in check? It was only thanks to the Greens' forebears in the green bans movement-I salute the courage and skill of Jack Mundey and his colleagues-that our heritage has been preserved in the face of big developers. The Hon. Patricia Forsythe seems unable to distinguish between growth and good growth-a failing she shares with her Federal colleagues. The Greens want community consultation and community input. Developer donations circumvent the community and drown out the voice of the people in ways that Sylvia Hale, Ian Cohen and I have illustrated in our speeches.
Jon Jenkins based his speech on inaccurate information from the web site crikey.com.au. The record has already been corrected but, for his information, the donations from overseas Greens parties were reimbursements for the cost of attending the Global Greens conference in Australia in April 2001. The Greens NSW do not accept corporate donations. Speaking of Crikey brings me to the contribution and the writings of Hon. Tony Burke, the future member for Watson and soon to be the beneficiary of a $25,000 bonus payment from the New South Wales taxpayer. That will wait for another day.
I do not know whether I can really call his remarks a contribution as they had very little to do with the bill. His opening comments were interesting. Perhaps he has detected an anomaly in the bill. If so, we would welcome any proposal from him to amend the bill. Of course, that will not happen, because the Labor Party likes things just the way they are. We will not get any thoughts on cleaning up politics. We will not get any useful amendments. Labor, including the Hon. Tony Burke, has a vested interest in defeating the bill because it receives the best part of $1 million a year from developers. That is the bottom line. And it puts Labor on the defensive.
Rather than amend the bill or even enter the debate constructively, as the Hon. Don Harwin did, Labor used its only tactic when it comes to the Greens-mud slinging. Boilermaker Burke tried to equate individual donations worth a few thousand dollars from party members with massive corporate donations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nice try, boilermaker Bill-sorry, I mean Tony-but the public can tell the difference. Boilermaker Burke tried to suggest that because the Australian Greens took a donation from the Ethical Investment Trust we have a vested interest in developers. What interests would this trust be trying to push? What developments would it be lobbying us on? It is ludicrous to suggest that this bears any resemblance to developers donating hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, or that it bears any resemblance to developers paying tens of thousands of dollars a head to sit down to dinner with the planning Minister. But although boilermaker Burke thinks of himself as an intellectual he has not realised the trap he is in.
The Hon. Rick Colless: Point of order: The honourable member knows that if she wishes to make such statements about another member of this House she should do it by substantive motion. I ask her to withdraw the statement.
The Hon. Peter Breen: To the point of order: If there was a damaging imputation against another member and that other member is in the House, he is quite capable of defending himself. Given that he has not taken any objection to it I suggest that there is no point of order.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Amanda Fazio): Order! Ms Lee Rhiannon's reference to another member of this House is not in accordance with the standing orders. She should refer to members by their proper title. If she complies with the standing orders she may continue.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: The Hon. Tony Burke's attempt to smear the Greens about donations reveals that he thinks that donations are bad. And if donations are bad, who is the chief villain? His own party. He cannot have it both ways. If he wants to smear the Greens with muck, he has to look down and realise that he is already covered in the stuff himself. People in glass houses should not throw stones, and people who throw stones should do so under their own name. I am disappointed but not surprised that the Government has chosen not to support the bill. But I am surprised that nobody from the Government benches has chosen to engage the issue intellectually. The Australian Labor Party President, Carmen Lawrence, has raised the issue many times. She is prepared to debate the morality of donations rather than to engage in a knee-jerk reversion to mud slinging. In the Sydney Morning Herald on 4 March Dr Lawrence wrote:
It disturbs me, as it should all citizens, that there are some who are more equal than others.
Commenting on the public perception that large campaign donations may help to open doors, she wrote:
It's almost certain that they do. Corporations do not make large donations out of a charitable impulse or a commitment to civic duty.
We do not know how much is being spent to inform, persuade and cajole our decision makers.
It is time we subjected the process to scrutiny, and judged the decisions of our governments knowing who has been in their ears.
Why is the Government not listening to Carmen Lawrence? Is it too busy reading and writing pieces for Crikey to actually think about the political implications of the donations it receives? It is time to change. The Government may not recognise it but the Greens do. And the public does. Our bill is the first step along the road to a cleaner, fairer political system. I urge honourable members to support it.
Mr Breen (Reform the Legal System) Mr Cohen (Greens) Ms Hale (Greens) Revd Moyes (Christian Democrats) Revd Nile (Christian Democrats) Mr Oldfield (One Nation) Ms Rhiannon (Greens) Tellers, Dr Chesterfield-Evans (Australian Democrats) Dr Wong (Unity)
Mr Burke (ALP) Ms Burnswoods (ALP) Mr Catanzariti (ALP) Mr Clarke (Liberal) Mr Colless (Nationals) Ms Cusack (Liberal) Ms Fazio (ALP) Mrs Forsythe (Liberal) Miss Gardiner (National) Mr Gay (National) Ms Griffin (ALP) Mr Hatzistergos (ALP) Mr Jenkins (Outdoor Recreation) Ms Parker (Liberal) Mrs Pavey (National) Mr Pearce (Liberal) Ms Robertson (ALP) Mr Ryan (Liberal) Ms Tebbutt (ALP) Mr Tsang (ALP)
Tellers, Mr Harwin (Liberal) Mr Primrose (ALP)
To ensure that The Greens have made a full disclosure of all donations
we have received from small businesses and organisations, we have
provided a description of donors to The Greens.
Where possible, we have linked the donor name to their website.
|AMWU||Australian Manufacturer's Workers Union|
|Australian Ethical Investments||Ethical Investment company|
The donation was sponsorship of the Global Greens 2001 Conference. *
|Avant Card||Postcard business that has produced campaign postcards for the Greens.|
|CFMEU||Construction, Forestry, Mining, Energy Union|
|Environmental Audio Visual||Educational video company.|
|Fondation Du Sauve||France-based environmental foundation.|
This donation provided assistance for Greens from Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan to attend COP6 (the Sixth Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention) at The Hague, November 2000.
|Forest Futures Pty Ltd||A large nursery in Dunoon NSW which grows trees for state forestry.|
Substainable forest products. Has grown 30 million trees since the company started in 1992.
|French Greens||Support for delegates to Global Greens 2001 and the Rio+10 International Workshop.|
|Friends of the Earth||Friends
of the Earth (FoE) is a federation of autonomous local groups working
towards an environmentally sustainable and socially equitable future.|
This donation was a reimbursement of expenses associated with Global Greens 2001* and the Rio+10 International Workshop.
|Goldman Environmental Foundation||San Fransisco-based environmental group.|
This donations was support for delegates to Global Greens 2001* and the Rio+10 International Workshop.
|Green Forum Foundation||Sweden foundation. This donation was support for delegates to Global Greens 2001* and the Rio+10 International Workshop.|
|Search Foundation||SEARCH - Social Education and Research Concerning Humanity. Social research activities.|
This donation was support for Global Greens 2001*.
|The Green Institute||An organisation established to support the hosting of the Global Greens Conference* in Australia in 2001. The money was received from the Heinrich Boll Foundation to support delegates to Global Greens 2001* and the Rio+10 International Workshop. It has become a non-profit organisation, based in Australia, but working actively throughout Asia and the Pacific.|
|US Greens||Payment for Global Greens books and videos.|
|Video Foundation Australia||Educational video company.|
|World Expeditions||Sustainable travel company.|
|Farlaste Pty Ltd||Farlaste Pty Ltd is a single director company totally owned and directed by Chris Harris. In effect, this donation is one from Chris Harris who is currently a Greens councillor on Sydney City Council.|
* Global Greens Conference, 2001: In April 2001, the Australian Greens hosted the first Global Greens conference which attracted 800 delegates from 70 countries. This conference was organised by the Green Institute. It was preceded by the Rio+10 International workshop, a preparatory meeting for the Johannesburg Earth Summit. Both conferences assisted delegates from low income countries with travel and expenses.
Last updated: 20 June 2007
The Greens adopted a policy of continuous disclosure for the 2007 NSW State Election. We undertook to make all donations accepted during an election campaign over $1500 publicly available before the election, and called on the major parties to do the same. This process of continually publishing donations up to election day gave citizens valuable information before they voted on election day.
Some Greens Councillors are already doing it for the 2008 local government elections. See Greens City of Sydney Councillor Chris Harris' continuous disclosure page.
The NSW Election Funding Authority (NSWEFA) requires all candidates to report the details of political contributions over $200. The NSWEFA also requires political parties to publicly disclose donations above $1500. However, details of political donations made int he finals weeks of a campaign may not become available for up to six months after the election. This means the public is kept in the dark for a long time as to who contributed to various campaigns.
The Greens strongly believe government policies, election outcomes and political decisions must be independent of donations from the private and non-government sectors in Australia. For this reason we have never accepted donations from property developers, gaming interests, hotels, tobacco and large corporations.
MEDIA RELEASE: Tuesday, 13 February 2007
|Greens election challenge - declare political donations before the election|
Greens MP Lee Rhiannon joined the Greens candidates for Sydney, Balmain and Marrickville today to issue a challenge to the major parties and all election candidates to make public the names of the donors funding their election campaign prior to 24 March 2007 election day.
the current system voters have no way of knowing who is funding
candidates from the major parties before the election is held
The following charter has been proposed for NSW Greens councillors and candidates for Local Government elections. This charter is based on a similar charter proposed by Manly councillor Brad Pederson in 2006.
Greens Charter of Political Reform for all Greens NSW Local Government councillors and candidates:
1. All Greens council candidates will make a public commitment not to accept any direct or indirect donations from property developers or any associated entities. Immediately on announcing their candidature, all those aspiring to public office will be asked to sign a statutory declaration committing them to this principle.
2. That the true original source of all donations over $500 or equivalent in-kind contributions be fully disclosed. Before accepting any donation, the candidate or local Greens group will inform the donor that this information will be publicly disclosed.
3. That all candidates be asked to voluntarily fully declare their business and property interests before the election. These declarations are to be made available for public scrutiny within 7 days of formal candidature.
4. All auction fundraising donations over $500 or equivalent in-kind contributions will be fully disclosed before the election, indicating the name and address of the successful bidder.
5. All incoming donations over $500 or equivalent in-kind contributions will be declared within one week of receipt. Councils will be encouraged to administer an up-to-date public declaration that includes financial donations or donations in kind received by all candidates and encourage councils to put these declarations on public display at each polling booth.
6. Councillor candidates be asked to declare current or previous membership of any political parties within the last four years.
7. No political 'trust funds' or the like shall be established as a means to avoid declaring donations.
8. Councillors shall act with due diligence to ensure they are aware of any donations over $500 or equivalent in-kind contributions made to their local group or the state or federal party that could benefit their campaign. A candidate whose campaign team receives a donation, at the local, state or federal level, will not vote on a matter that delivers a financial advantage to that donor. The councillor should treat the matter as a conflict of interest, just as if the donation were made directly to that councillor.
9. All the information on donations, party membership and financial interests of a candidate is to be collated in statutory declarations, and signed by the candidate. Councils will be encouraged to put this information on public display at each booth on polling day, and thereafter have the material available for public access at the council during council office hours.