10.20 Intervention in political and judicial processes

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In Australia it is a legal requirement that donations made by individuals or entities to registered political parties to the value of or greater than $10 000i are declared to the Australian Electoral Commission. The Australian Electoral Commission posts on its websiteii donor annual returns dating back to the financial year 1998–99. Tables 10.20.1 and 10.20.2 show the total amounts of tobacco money received by the three major political parties in Australia since then.

Table 10.20.1
Donations to Australian political parties by Philip Morris Limited, 1998–99 to 2009–10

PMI

Labor

Liberal

National

Liberal National Party of Queensland

 


Party direct ($)

Affiliated
($)

Total
($)

Party direct ($)

Affiliated
($)

Total
($)

Party direct ($)

Affiliated
($)

Total
($)

Total
($)

1998–99

41 610

41 610

62 800

62 800

25 000

25 000

 

1999–00

50 000

50 000

114 800

10 160

124 960

30 000

30 000

 

2000–01

61 800

2 720

64 520

63 000

8 500

71 500

32 500

32 500

 

2001–02

74 800

74 800

84 815

84 815

37 500

37 500

 

2002–03

72 720

72 720

74 365

9 900

84 265

30 500

30 500

 

2003–04

2 200

3 750

5 950

10 100

10 100

2 200

2 200

 

2004–05

     

102 600

1 100

102 600

35 500

35 500

 

2005–06

     

90 950

3 990

94 940

34 275

34 275

 

2006–07

     

87 900

4 150

92 050

30 100

30 100

 

2007–08

     

90 805

5 335

96 140

42 700

42 700

 

2008–09

     

110 175

17 060

127 235

25 950

25 950

5 225

2009–10

     

87 925

11 020

98 945

42 100

1 000

43 100

5 000

TOTAL

303 130

6 470

309 600

980 235

71 215

1 050 350

368 325

1 000

369 325

10 225

Source: Australian Electoral Commission, Donor annual return search7

Table 10.20.2
Donations to Australian political parties by British American Tobacco Australia Limited, 1998–1999 to 2009–2010

 


Labor

Liberal

National

 BATA

Party direct ($)

Affiliated ($)

Total ($)

Party direct ($)

Affiliated ($)

Total ($)

Party direct ($)

Affiliated ($)

Total ($)

1998–99

61 000

61 000

25 000 .00

20 000.00

45 000.00

10 000

10 000

1999–00

17 100

2 715

19 815

12 585.00

20 538.50

33 123.50

2000–01

122 025

122 025

130 543.50

130 543.50

2001–02

60 450

60 450

146 422.72

146 422.72

27 500

27 500

2002–03

26 150

26 150

15 000.00

15 000.00

114 200

114 200

2003–04

27 290

3 750

31 040

148 738.50

148 738.50

15 400

15 400

2004–05

     

159 267.05

159 267.05

2005–06

     

114 310.91

114 310.91

16 600

16 600

2006–07

     

161 409.00

161 409.00

3 300

3 300

2007–08

     

89 930.00

33 930.00

123 860.00

5 000

5 000

2008–09

     

132 810.00

130 385.00

14 650

8 120

2009–10

     

130 385.00

130 385.00

14 650

14 650

TOTAL

314 015

6 465

320 480

1 266 401.68

74 468.50

1 338 445.18

221 300

214 770

Source: Australian Electoral Commission, Donor annual return search7

 

In February 2004, the then leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) opposition, Mr Mark Latham, announced that the ALP would no longer accept donations from tobacco companies.1 The Liberal Party of Australia2 and the Australian National Party3 have continued to receive donations from Philip Morris Australia and British American Tobacco Australia on an ongoing basis, and have publicly stated that they see no reason to stop doing so. Neither the Australian Democrats4 nor the Australian Greens5 take tobacco company donations as a matter of policy.

Soon after Mr Latham's announcement in 2004, a Private Members' Bill was proposed by ALP MP Mr Duncan Kerr and seconded by Liberal Party MP Dr Mal Washer. If passed, the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Preventing Smoking Related Deaths) Bill (2004–05)iii would prevent political parties and individual candidates from accepting donations from tobacco companies. The Bill was first read in the House of Representatives on 16 February 20046 but was left to flounder quietly the following year in the absence of support from the then Liberal–National Coalition government.

Prior to the ALP's refusal of donations from tobacco companies, all three major political parties received significant contributions from Philip Morris Australia and British American Tobacco Australia. Imperial Tobacco Australia does not appear to have made political donations. In general, substantially larger amounts of funding have been directed by both tobacco companies towards the conservative parties (the Liberal and National parties) even prior to the ALP ban, which is likely to reflect preference by the tobacco companies for conservative politics, as well as the fact that the Liberal–National Coalition was in power for the entire period shown in the tables.

As of 2009–10, Australian political parties have received in total around $1.87 million in donations from British American Tobacco Australia, and $1.74 million from Philip Morris Australia since 1989–99. Since the ALP's rejection of tobacco donations in 2004, the Liberals and the Nationals have jointly received an average of $280 000 annually from the tobacco industry—see Figures 10.20.1 and 10.20.2.

/images/content/ch10industry/10.20.1.jpg

Figure 10.20.1
Donations to Australian political parties by Philip Morris Limited, 1998–99 to 2009–10

Source: Australian Electoral Commission, Donor annual return search7

/images/content/ch10industry/10.20.2.jpg

Figure 10.20.2
Donations to Australian political parties by British American Tobacco Australia Limited, 1998–99 to 2009–10

Source: Australian Electoral Commission, Donor annual return search7

In December 2005, under the Coalition federal government led by Mr John Howard, rules concerning the minimum value of donations requiring disclosure were changed and the reportable limit increased from $1,500 to $10 000.iv According to The Age newspaper, this has simultaneously lead to an increase in political donations from all sources as well as opacity in tracing their origins.1 For example, investigations by The Age showed that although the donor annual return filed by the Liberal Party for the financial year 2005–06 detailed income directly received by the party from tobacco companies, it could not be ascertained from the return that some of the Liberal Party's closely allied fundraising organisations such as The 500 Club and the Bayside Forum were also in receipt of tobacco money.1 Although these donations were declared by the tobacco companies in their own annual returns to the Australian Electoral Commission, the current system of reporting does not guarantee clear, one-stop disclosure of funding sources.

As the time of writing (August 2011) an inquiry into the funding of political parties and election campaigns is underway. The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is to enquire into and report by 30 September 2011 on options to improve the system for the funding of political parties and election campaigns.8 Interested persons and organisations were invited to make submissions addressing the terms of reference9 by Friday 24 June 2011. The report was tabled on the 9 December 2011.10 Although some Australian public health organisations were 'calling for an end to any direct or indirect tobacco company donations, whether from local or foreign companies, and for measures to improve transparency and accountability'11 the committee recommended against banning donations by any particular industry. It did recommend a lower threshold for the amount at which disclosure was required, and more frequent reporting.10

i Previously the limit was $1,500 – see discussion later in this section.

iv This amount is indexed with effect from 1 July each year based on increases in the consumer price index. The current disclosure threshold amount from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012 is more than $11 900.

References

1. Koutsoukis J. Big tobacco, big pay packet - big influence? The Age, (Melbourne, Australia) 2007:11 Feb. Available from: http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/big-tobacco-big-pay-packet-8212-big-influence/2007/02/10/1170524347049.html

2. ABC News. ALP to cut tobacco ties. (Sydney) 2004:23 January. Available from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2004/01/23/1030160.htm

3. ABC News. Nationals defend donations from tobacco companies. (Sydney) 2007:5 February Available from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/02/05/1840415.htm

4. Pauly J, Li Q and Barry M. Tobacco-free electronic cigarettes and cigars deliver nicotine and generate concern. Tobacco Control 2007;16(5):357. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/16/5.toc

5. ABC News. Parties urged to stub out tobacco firms' donations. (Sydney) 2006:7 March. Available from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2006/03/07/1586022.htm

6. Kerr D. Extract from House of Representatives Hansard 16 February 2004. Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Preventing smoking related deaths) Bill 2004: First reading. Canberra: 2004. Available from: http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/clac_ctte/completed_inquiries/2002-04/tob_adv_proh/documents_tor/1_read.pdf

7. Australian Electoral Commission. Political parties financial disclosure. Canberra: Australian Electoral Commission, 2011 [viewed 31 August 2011]. Available from: http://periodicdisclosures.aec.gov.au/

8. Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. Inquiry into the funding of political parties and election campaigns. Canberra: Parliament of Australia, 2011 [viewed 17 August 2011]. Available from: http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/em/political%20funding/index.htm

9. Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. Inquiry into the funding of political parties and election campaigns. Terms of reference. Canberra: Parliament of Australia, 2011 [viewed 17 August 2011]. Available from: http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/em/political%20funding/tor.htm

10. Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. Report of the inquiry into the funding of political parties and election campaigns. Canberra: Parliament of Australia, 2011 [viewed 17 August 2011]. Available from: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=em/political%20funding/report.htm

11. Action on Smoking and Health Australia. Ending tobacco-linked political donations long overdue, health groups tell inquiry [Media release]. Woolloomooloo: ASH Australia, 8 August 2011 [viewed 13 August 2011]. Available from: http://www.ashaust.org.au/mediareleases/110808.htm

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