Denison independent MP and pokies reform activist Andrew Wilkie supported calls to change the way political donations are declared.”There is a clear need for reform of legislation regarding political donations because donations risk buying outcomes as surely as brown paper bags full of cash doâ€¦”
Prompted by the MPâ€™s remarks, VEXNEWS approached the federal MP to encourage him to personally implement the same high standards of disclosure for which he argues there is a â€œclear need.â€
He argues that campaign donations can secure outcomes from politicians as if they were bribes. An outrageous and unsupported claim but one that will be invariably snapped up by journos who should know better. Perhaps the MP judges others by his own standards, so we figured we should ask him whoâ€™s been donating to him and seeing whether thatâ€™s had any effect on his decisions. We asked Mr Wilkie:
Further to your statements about the need for greater disclosure of political donations and so on, I write to ask you to provide us with the full list of donors to your federal and state campaigns in 2010.
Could you please break the list down in the following way:
Name, Address, Contact Phone Number, Amount
What measures did you put in place to establish the bona fides of individual donors? Were any of them associated with other political parties?
We wanted to see if the feisty Taswegian was willing to eat his own cooking. We feared weâ€™d have to praise him if he did disclose the identity of the 82 donors to his federal campaign and unknown number of contributors to his state campaign. They contributed many tens of thousands of dollars so we thought an appeal to the former whistleblowerâ€™s previous enthusiasm for letting the world know things might succeed.
But, alas, no. He wasnâ€™t giving up the secret identity of his donor cabal. He did respond though in a very timely manner so weâ€™ll give him credit for that and extra credit for shamelessness. Wilkie exclusively told VEXNEWS:
The Federal donor disclosure threshold in Australia is $11,500.Â While I support a lowering of that threshold and other reforms, donors have made their contributions under the existing law and I have no right to breach their privacy by revealing their personal information.
So essentially what heâ€™s saying is the donors he relied on expected their identities to be kept secret, that was part of the deal, the implicit bargain between candidate and cash provider to candidate. We can respect his view but it cannot be reconciled with his public statements and positioning.
Youâ€™ll note he didnâ€™t answer our question about how he established whether his 82 federal campaign donors and unknown number of state campaign donors were fit and proper persons to be slopping out the loot to him. Itâ€™s Tassie, so perhaps he knew them all or they were cousins.
We asked the question â€“ also ignored â€“ about whether other political parties helped him because it was rumoured at the time that several Liberal donors had also backed him in to help the maverick candidate pinch one of Laborâ€™s traditionally safest seats.
Yes, I am choosy about who I accept donations from and would never accept donations from a gambling organisation.
Like our spiritual mentor, channel 7â€™s Mark Riley, we havenâ€™t met an impertinent question we didnâ€™t like so we also asked:
Also, are you willing to take donations from developers, banks or mining companies? If not, why not?
No reply on that one, giving Clive Palmer and the hyper-profitable Commonwealth Bank a clear run at the Office of National Assessments turncoat turned member of the Parliamentâ€™s Intelligence Committee, should they desire that.
Again channeling Mark Riley, we inquired:
You appear to have made a profit on your federal campaign. What did you do with the money?
I understand that you urged donors to donate to “Andrew Wilkie” personally, did you set up a separate campaign account or just bank the donations in your own bank account?
He sort of replied, in a non-reply kind of reply:
I did finish ahead financially at the 2010 Federal election.Â But, that was my fourth election campaign and on balance Iâ€™m seriously out of pocket.
Weâ€™ll take that as polite code for, I pocketed the money myself, thank you very much. Nice work if you can get it.
We also asked whether heâ€™d disclosed his state election expenses and revenue and he insisted that independent candidates in Tasmania donâ€™t have to. Those familiar with the matter in Hobart say that while there are no state disclosure laws, they are roped in by the federal Electoral Act and should be disclosing under that. Weâ€™re not sure of the legal situation on that one but the moral one is clear enough: if Andrew Wilkie thinks that a much tougher donation regime ought exist, shouldnâ€™t he be living up to those same standards himself, whether the law strictly demands it or not.
Before his next pious pronouncement, he would do well to consider that and just hand over the list of donors to us before we find it another way.