Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Greens' recount doubles value of gifts to Labor, by Wendy Frew and Jano Gibson - The Sydney Morning Herald - 8th Septemeber 2008

The political donations tap remains turned to full bore in NSW, with the state Labor Party raising $9.5 million in the 14 months to June, more than double the amount first reported by the media when Electoral Funding Authority data was released last week.

Much of the money has come from companies seeking State Government approval for controversial housing projects or lucrative gaming licences, such as Rosecorp's luxury apartments at Catherine Hill Bay and Star City Casino's exclusive licence renewal.

The release of the data follows a Galaxy poll conducted last week on behalf of the Greens that found 82 per cent of respondents favoured a ban on developer donations.

When the authority released donor declarations on Wednesday, it was first thought the ALP had raised only $4.3 million. A closer examination by the Greens showed the party's coffers had received more than twice that amount, and that donations were running more than $100,000 a month ahead of fund-raising efforts in previous years.

The party's NSW branch declined to comment on the donations.

Some of Labor's biggest donations came from key players fighting for the right to operate casinos in NSW.

In October Tabcorp, the owner of Star City Casino, had its exclusive casino licence renewed for another 12 years. Three weeks after the deal was secured, Star City gave Labor a cheque for $112,200.

A Hong Kong billionaire, Stanley Ho, who was believed to have been lobbying the then premier, Morris Iemma, for a second casino licence, donated $200,000 to Labor. Anthony Chan, who has the same Hong Kong address as Mr Ho, gave Labor $100,000.

A controversial proposal from Rosecorp to build hundreds of apartments in the hamlet of Catherine Hill Bay, on the Central Coast, was approved last week by the then minister for planning, Frank Sartor. In the 14 months to June, Rosecorp - a generous donor of long standing - donated another $117,700 to the state Labor Party.

In October Mr Sartor took control of Johnson Property Group's $650 million housing project at Cooranbong, near Lake Macquarie, from the council. In the 14 months to June, this year, the company donated $140,150 to the ALP.

The minister is also the consent authority for the company's proposal to build a satellite suburb at Pitt Town, 60 kilometres north-west of Sydney, and its proposed redevelopment of the 60-hectare Sydney Adventist Hospital site in Wahroonga.

Duncan Hardie, of Hardie Holdings, had donated an estimated $455,000 to the state ALP, starting in 2001. He topped that up with $100,000 in July last year. Mr Hardie has received favourable treatment in the Government's housing strategies for the Lower Hunter and the Mid-North Coast.

Between them, ClubsNSW and the Australian Hotels Association donated $239,350 in the 14-month period.

V8 Supercars Australia, which despite widespread community and business opposition is set to get approval from the State Government to turn Olympic Park into a street-car racetrack, donated $15,000 to the ALP.

In the months before last year's federal election two dinners at which the then federal Opposition leader Kevin Rudd was the star attraction yielded a war chest of $751,638 for NSW Labor.

Mr Iemma and senior state ministers hosted a series of "intimate dinners" that generated more than $120,000.

One of the four functions, involving Mr Iemma and the then treasurer, Michael Costa, on July 18 last year, raised $65,000. Among the 10 organisations that paid to attend were Star City Pty Ltd and ClubsNSW.

Two days earlier a dinner at which Mr Sartor was the attraction brought in $30,000. Paying for the privilege of dining with Mr Sartor were representatives from 11 companies, including The Village Building Co.

Three months before Mr Sartor had controversially rejected the advice of an expert panel and approved the rezoning of land owned by Village under a Canberra Airport flight path. (Credit: Fairfax)

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