Jonathan Swan, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 2012
Once big business would meet government officials behind the scenes to put their case, but now it is taking on politicians in the court of public opinion. Jonathan Swan investigates.
Working late one night, Kevin Rudd's former media adviser Lachlan Harris came over queasy as a scene unfolded on the office television. A geologist stood on red earth, talking about mining's importance.
The advertisement was simple and emotive and Harris recognised it instantly as the work of Neil Lawrence, the creative mind behind the Kevin 07 election campaign. ''It was just a moment when you realised just how tough a fight it was going to be,'' Harris recalled.
AAP, 25 March 2012
British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to hold an inquiry after an aide was caught offering access to the leader in return for donations to his Conservative Party.
Peter Cruddas, co-treasurer of the party, resigned today after his claims that he could secure access to Cameron, the leader's policy unit and other top ministers were exposed by undercover reporters working for The Sunday Times.
Jane Hansen, Sunday Telegraph, 17 March 2012
The new boss of the powerful hotels lobby is still working as the NSW Liberal Party's chief fundraiser despite Premier Barry O'Farrell's claims to the contrary.
Although Paul Nicolaou took on the role of AHA NSW chief executive in January, he said he would not be standing down as chairman of the Millennium Forum - the fundraising arm of the state's Liberal Party - until May.
Norman Thompson, New Matilda, 13 March 2012
On 16 February this year the Election Funding, Expenditure, and Disclosures Amendment Bill 2011 was passed by the NSW Legislative Assembly. It had been returned to the Lower House following the passage of an amended bill with the Greens voting with the Government earlier that same day.
David Murray and Linda Silmalis, The Sunday Telegraph, 11 March 2012
Billionaire James Packer has donated $250,000 to maverick Queensland MP Bob Katter's Australian Party ahead of the Queensland election in two weeks.
The donation was made by one of Mr Packer's most senior company executives, Michael Uzunovski, on behalf of Treysta Pty Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mr Packer's Consolidated Press Holdings, which has its headquarters in Sydney.
Media release by Senator Lee Rhiannon, 1 March 2012
A Senate inquiry into the federal regulation of lobbyists, reporting today, fails to make any recommendations for reform despite clear evidence that Australia lags behind countries like Canada and the US and widespread calls for the regulation of in-house lobbyists and the lobbying of all MPs, says Greens Senator and democracy spokesperson Lee Rhiannon.
The Greens’ dissenting report makes eight recommendations. They include establishing a Commissioner for Lobbying, regulating in-house lobbyists and the lobbying of all MPs, more detailed disclosure requirements and tougher sanctions (see below).
“This overdue review, which the Greens initiated, has been a whitewash. It shows the major parties’ desire to maintain the current scheme which is toothless and allows lobbying to continue behind closed doors, without public scrutiny,” Senator Rhiannon said.
Labor’s mining tax and the resources boom may have permanently and significantly changed the balance of political donations, with millions of dollars flowing from mining companies to the Coalition, Australian Electoral Commission data shows.
Mining companies began increasing their stake in the political process before the financial crisis, favouring the Coalition but also contributing to Labor. However, the mining tax saw an extraordinary increase in donations to the Coalition that has opened up a huge funding resource for the Liberals.
Mining company donations to state and federal Labor parties and the Coalition since 2004 show the extent to which Coalition benefited from the surge in mining company largesse after the Rudd government infuriated them with its RSPT proposal in May 2010.
But the largesse is predominantly from Western Australia. In Queensland, the ongoing support of Clive Palmer has been the primary mining contribution to the conservative cause, including a monster donation of $500,000 to the LNP by his Queensland Nickel. Other than Palmer, the federal Liberal Party took $100,000 from controversial miner New Hope — the target yesterday of a protest led by Alan Jones and Bob Katter — maintaining the Queensland representation in 2010-11.
Greens Senator and Australian Greens democracy spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said:
"Academics and non-government organisations have characterised the federal regulation of lobbyists as timid and narrow with serious exclusions, but none have been invited to appear at the one public hearing dedicated to reviewing the scheme.
"Labor and Coalition MPs on the Committee refused to agree to my request to invite any NGOs and academics who have made submissions critical of the scheme.
"The limited line-up feeds an impression that the Gillard government is resistant to an inquiry that recommends strengthening the scheme.
Josephine Tovey & Sean Nicholls, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 February 2012
Premier Barry O'Farrell says New South Wales now has the "fairest electoral funding system in the country" after an overhaul of the state's electoral funding laws passed early this morning, banning corporate donations and union affiliation fees.
The passage of the historic legislation, which is likely to be challenged in the High Court, was made possible after a surprise decision by all five NSW Greens in the upper house to support it.
Under the new laws, all parties will be restricted to accepting political donations from individuals only. NSW Labor will no longer be able to accept union affiliation fees for the purposes of administration - worth more than $1 million annually – and third-party campaigners will also only be allowed to accept donations from individuals, and not smaller interest groups, in order to conduct political campaigns in the run-up to elections.
Single corporations or individuals are still free to spend up to the $1.05 million cap.
Alex Roarty, National Journal, 7 February 2012
The Obama campaign's announcement late Monday that it plans to publicly support fundraising for an allied outside political group is the final, stark admission that the president can no longer afford to keep the lightly regulated but increasingly influential political organizations at arm's length.
Writing in a blog post e-mailed to President Obama's supporters, campaign manager Jim Messina said that outside organizations known as super PACs have already raised tens of millions of dollars for Republican presidential candidates, thanks in large part to a change in campaign finance rules that allowed uncapped contributions. If it wanted to keep up, he said, the Obama campaign needed to "face the reality of the law as it currently stands" and support its own outside group, Priorities USA Action.
"With so much at stake, we can't allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm," Messina said. "Therefore, the campaign has decided to do what we can, consistent with the law, to support Priorities USA in its effort to counter the weight of the GOP super PACs."
The decision is a significant reversal for the president, who had campaigned vigorously against the outside groups during the 2010 midterm elections. Obama had slammed them as tools of special interests corrupting the political system, citing claims that they might be using foreign money to fund their operations.