Both Labor and Liberal governments received donations from roads bodies in 2014-15, including from toll road operator Transurban, the Australian Automobile Association and the NRMA, political party donation data from the Australian Electoral Commission released this week has shown.
The 2014–15 annual financial disclosure returns from donors revealed that political parties received close to $200 million, with the Liberal Party receiving the most, nearly $76m, and the Labor Party next with close to $66m.
The Australian Automobile Association, the federal secretariat of the state and territory motoring clubs, gave $21,750 to the Liberal Party’s federal and NSW branches, as well as $10,000 to federal Labor.
The National Roads & Motorists’ Association gave $22,000 to the NSW Libs, $15,000 to NSW Labor and $15,000 to federal Labor.
Toll road manager and developer Transurban gave $17,940 to various branches of the Liberal Party.
Australian Greens spokesperson for transport and infrastructure Janet Rice said the donations would appear suspect to the community when roads projects were being advanced by governments without solid business cases.
“Road projects around the country have been pushed through by Labor and Liberal government despite dodgy business cases,” Ms Rice said. “Too often MPs decisions coincide with the interests of their big donors.
“The community wouldn’t stand for it when it happened to East West Link [in Melbourne], and they won’t stand for it with [Sydney’s] WestConnex, Perth Freight Link or Melbourne’s Western Distributor. When you follow the money trail, it’s clear that we have to have a more accountable system.”
Property developers were also big spenders, except for in NSW where donations from property developers have been banned since 2010 (though the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s Operation Spicer showed that members of the Liberal Party had found workarounds).
Of note, the Liberal Party netted $600,000 from Brunswick Property Vic Pty Ltd and $200,000 from Chinese-owned property developer Ever Bright.
The Greens are pushing for political donation reform to help restore confidence in Australia’s political system.
“The Prime Minister must clean up politics before the election. A federal ICAC would help to cork the flow of any dodgy dealings across the board,” Ms Rice said.
“We need a national ICAC and donations reform to restore confidence in our political system, and the Greens have bills before Parliament to secure both before the next election. All we need is support from the other parties, which so far they’ve refused.”