Political donations again kept secret by Tasmania’s Liberal, Labor and Green parties

The latest “disclosure” of Tasmania’s political party donations was actually anything but.

People looking to find out where the island’s political parties originated would have been deeply disappointed, with very few details declared.

The Tasmanian branch of the Liberal Party has revealed where just $260,000 of the $3.4 million it received came from.

This equates to just 7.6% and is by far the lowest rate of any liberal branch in the country.

On the other side of the political aisle, the Tasmanian branch of the ALP declared the source of 15.4% of its funding.

The ALP’s second-worst leg is South Australia, where 26% of donations were reported.

Total donations received by Tasmania’s main political parties in 2020/2021.(Source: AEC )

These are dismal numbers that highlight what Tasmanians have known for years, which is that the state has the weakest electoral laws in the country.

The state has no policy restrictions on donations and is instead governed by Commonwealth regulations.

There are long waits for little clarity – only donations over $14,300 need to be reported each year.

Donald Trump speaks as Scott Morrison and Anthony Pratt watch
Businessman Anthony Pratt (center), with former US President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2019.(PA: Evan Vucci)

What do we know about donations

Of the $260,000 reported by the Liberal Party of Tasmania in 2020-21, $50,000 came from businessman Anthony Pratt’s Pratt Holdings company, $22,000 from New South Wales homebuilder MJH Group and the same amount from student accommodation builder Scape Australia.

The party also received $50,000, declared during last year’s election campaign, from a “Richard Smith”, whose address is registered in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

The Tasmanian Labor Party received more than half of its reported donations from someone named “Erin Bromfield”, who donated $103,750.

The party also received funding from the Health and Community Services Union, the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association and Sky Bus Australia.

The Tasmanian Greens have received a bequest of $54,497 from the estate of Elspeth Hope-Johnstone, artist, education leader, environmental campaigner and former ABC commissioner.

They declared where 25% of their donations came from in the official registry.

However, the Greens also proactively declared any donations over $1,500 on their website, totaling just over $90,000.

Skybus parked at Hobart's Wharf Precinct.
Skybus’ parent company, BTI Pty Ltd, donated $25,000 to Tasmanian Labor.(Facebook: Skybus)

Coming reform, we are told

Push for donations reform grew after the 2018 election campaign, where the gaming lobby waged war against Labor’s plan to ban poker machines in pubs and clubs .

Billboards and media advertisements funded by pro-gaming interests popped up everywhere, and the Liberal Party also took advantage.

They received $270,000 from the Tasmanian Hospitality Association and the Australian Hotels Association, as well as $50,000 from casino operator Federal Group.

Pro-pokies signs hanging on the exterior wall of the hotel.
Councils will investigate whether the pro-pokies signs comply with the regulations.(Facebook: Like Your Local)

During this campaign, Will Hodgman, then prime minister, pledged to review campaign donation laws.

Bar chart showing donations received and amounts detailed by Tasmania's main political parties 2020/2021
Total donations received by Tasmania’s main political parties in 2020/2021 compared to amounts with identified donors.(Source: AEC )

That review eventually recommended the threshold be lowered to between $1,000 and $5,000 and donations disclosed more regularly, but when Tasmanians went to the polls last year, they did so under the old system .

Premier Peter Gutwein called the election before tabling new legislation, but promised his party would voluntarily disclose donations over $5,000 within two days during the state’s election campaign.

The Tasmanian government has said the wait for reform is almost over, with new legislation proposing a donation threshold of $5,000 due to be introduced in Parliament this year.

A government spokeswoman said the bill, which will see donations disclosed every six months, “will increase transparency and fairness and is the right thing to do to ensure the public continues to have confidence in election results”.

Independent MLC Meg Webb said a change was urgently needed.

The government said it was taking its time to put the legislation in place, giving no guarantee that Tasmania would not yet lag behind the rest of the country when next year’s data is released.

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