Senate Estimates Hearings
Finance and Public Affairs Legislation Committee
Senator Mitch Fifield
Mr Paul Pirani
Senator Penny Wong
22 February 2010
E & OE
Subject: Canberra Labor Club Donations to the ALP
At the outset I’d just like to confirm some donation figures, which would have been registered with the AEC.
Firstly, if you could confirm that the ACT branch of the Labor Party received $238,552.86 from the Canberra Labor Club in the 06-07 financial year?
PAUL PIRANI (AEC Chief Legal Officer):
Senator, I don’t have all those figures in front of me, given how many returns were published but I am aware that it was a large figure. I cannot confirm though I’d have to take it on notice to confirm the actual amount.
OK. And also, that the ACT Branch of the Australian Labor Party received $558,128 from the Canberra Labor Club in the 07-08 financial year?
Senator, I’ll have to take that on notice.
Sure, thank you. And also, that the ACT Branch of the Australian Labor Party received $550,232 from the Canberra Labor Club in the 08-09 financial year.
Again Senator, I’d have to take that on notice to confirm the actual figure.
Sure, thank you. And also, that the ACT Branch of the Australian Labor Party received $662,067 from the Canberra Labor Club in the 09-10 financial year.
The same response, Senator.
Sure, thank you for that. And if you could also take this on notice what that total would add up to over those various return years. You might want to take my word for it but no doubt you will check and take it on notice but it comes to the total of $2,008,979.86.
Senator can I say that we publish the returns on the internet and we have got a search engine on the internet that enables you to search by a particular donor or a particular party etc, and you get cumulative amounts over those years. But we’ll take it on notice and confirm that the information that you’ve asked is correct.
Thank you for that. I think my maths is OK but obviously I’d enjoy the comfort of the AEC’s confirmation of those figures. And obviously donations over that period in excess of $2 million is very significant, and naturally one gets to thinking what the source is of such revenues may in fact be.
The Canberra Labor Club consists of the Western Creek Labor Club, the City Labor Club, the Belconnen Labor Club and the Ginninderra Labor Club. And the website of the City Labor Club says that “the Club has been designed to spark a new vitality into Canberra’s city district. The focus is towards superior dining facilities, and lounge style comfort in a relaxed atmosphere, as well as a gaming lounge.”
And I think we all know that a gaming lounge is a euphemism for ‘pokie palace.’ A place where the one-armed bandit resides. So I don’t think it’s a huge leap of logic to suggest that this figure, in excess of $2 million, to the Australian Labor Party, comes of pokies revenues. Obviously, I wouldn’t expect you to confirm that, as officers at the table.
But my question to the Minister at the table:
Given this Government’s frequently stated concern about gaming given Jenny Macklin and Bill Shorten’s press release which says that:
“problem gambling is a serious issue and the Australian Government believes more must be done to help problem gamblers and their families, particularly by reducing the harm caused by poker machines. Research shows that three-quarters of severe problem gamblers have problems with poker machines. Problem gambling can destroy families and ruin lives”.
And given the signed agreement with Mr Wilkie says that:
“the parties agree that problem gambling, especially through poker machines, is an important issue which must be addressed by all governments.”
And given the Prime Minister’s press release of the 2nd of September last year, says:
“I have agreed with Mr Wilkie that the Commonwealth will work to achieve major reforms in the area of problem gambling, particularly the implementation of full, mandatory pre-commitment technology.”
Minister, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Australian Labor Party accepting $2 million in pokie profits must represent breathtaking hypocrisy.
Now, I’m the last person to get in to the business of saying who you should and who you shouldn’t take money from. But the ALP makes an art form of being particularly sanctimonious about these sorts of issues. So Minister, do you think that the ALP taking $2 million in pokie profits from the ACT Labor Clubs does represent breathtaking hypocrisy?
Well first, in relation to the amounts and the source of those donations, I’m not going to accept the spin that you put on it, Senator. I would like to see the detail of what’s being asserted before I respond on that. I think that in terms of taking donations, we’ve been very upfront about where we don’t take donations from, some of those have not been matched by the opposition. And certainly we didn’t call for donations to the Labor Party in the context of the Queensland floods unlike the Coalition. But more generally the assertions that you’ve made, you’ve referenced a range of comments made by Ministers and the Prime Minister, the agreement of the Government with Mr Wilkie is on the public record.
Minister, don’t you think there’s a bit of a disconnect between the Government’s stated concern and the Government’s intention to pursue pre-commitment, and a lazy $2 million coming in from the Canberra Labor Clubs from the pokies?
I’ve answered that question, you’re simply re-asserting the same question you put to me, Senator.
Minister, do you think it would be an unfair statement that perhaps for the ALP in Canberra, the light on the hill is a flashing poker machine?
I think everyone knows you’re trying to get a grab up on television. And that’s a matter for you. I’ve answered you’re question and I don’t intend to add to it.
So Minister, you’re personally comfortable as a Minister in this Government with –
I’ve answered the question, Senator. I have answered the question. You want to have a debate, let’s have a debate an MPI in the Parliamentary Chamber. We can talk about the donations from tobacco companies which you continue to receive. We can talk about the ethics of a party that chooses to use a natural disaster to seek donations to themselves.
Well the Government’s committed to poker machine pre-commitment, but perhaps there’s a pre-commitment that the Australian Labor Party could make in relation to Canberra Clubs, Minister? But I’ll leave it there.