Swallow the money: Malcolm Turnbull’s donation disclosure delay is foolish and unconscionable

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has previously promised transparency. Photo: Louie DouvisThe case for political donations reform just got a giant kick-along, courtesy of the Prime Minister’s own bank account.
Nanjing Night Net

That is the inevitable result of the now unconscionable delay between what could be a million dollar-plus personal donation from Malcolm Turnbull to the Liberal Party and the public reporting of it.

Let’s be clear. There has been no breach of the law or rules here, just the technical application of a notoriously opaque system built by politicians to minimise scrutiny and delay accountability to voters for as long as possible.

The particulars though are extraordinary: A personally wealthy Prime Minister, no doubt increasingly desperate as his re-election hopes slip toward the cliff, reaches into his own pocket, reportedly handing over more than $1 million.

It can never be known if the extra campaign activities this money financed made the difference. What is known though is that the Coalition scraped home by a whisker – securing a bare minimum one-seat majority.

And it certainly helps explain why the PM was fuming on election night. Think about it. All that dough from his own coffers and yet right at that moment, it might not have been a win at all.

When news of these donations broke in The Australian well after the election, Turnbull, who has long bloviated on the virtues of greater transparency and letting the sunlight in, rushed for the darkness.

“What the honourable member is asking me to do is to make a disclosure in advance of it being disclosed under the Act. Any disclosures I make were made in accordance with law and to the Electoral Commission and are then disclosed by the AEC at the normal time. I comply scrupulously with the law and the honourable member would be well advised to look to his own party to ensure that they do so too,” Turnbull told the House of Representatives on October 17 last year.

This meant waiting until February 1, 2017 – or so it was assumed. But the delay turns out to be far worse, because if Turnbull donated personally – and he has not denied doing so nor corrected reports of multi-million dollar donations – it seems he’s done it after June 30, 2016, thus delaying mandatory public disclosure until 2018.

This makes a mockery of previous commitments to openness.

It is beyond foolish to imagine this will now go away. Hiding behind arcane reporting rules for years after the fact is not merely untenable, it is next-level hamfisted. What’s the logic? Wait until closer to the next election to revive the controversy all over again?

Meanwhile, the case for genuine reforms including lower donation thresholds, and real-time reporting, is now uncontestable.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Posted in 南京夜网