Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Chinese casino's big gift to NSW Labor, by Rhett Watson and Alison Rehn - The Daily Telegraph - 3rd February 2009

A casino king from Macau has emerged as a major donor to the NSW ALP, donating $900,000 to the party.

ALP chiefs returned $600,000 back to billionaire Stanley Ho, but still received about $4 million in donations, Australian Electoral Commission figures released yesterday reveal.

Mr Ho donated the money through his Queensland-based property company Hungtat Worldwide on September 11, 2007.

NSW Labor Party general secretary Matt Thistlethwaite said last night the money was returned because "at the time the party's finances were sufficient to fund our expenditure".

Meanwhile, the party accepted Mr Ho's personal donation of $200,000 on May 29 last year and two lots of $50,000 from Anthony Chan - on September 6, 2007 and October 31, 2007 - who lists his address as being the same as Mr Ho's in Hong Kong.

His donations to the Labor Party came as the state's only casino licence came up for renewal and the Government was said to be considering a second licence.

Eventually, Star City Casino, owned by Tabcorp, won the right to a monopoly in a $100 million deal with the Government.

A spokesman for Premier Nathan Rees said the political donation system was "transparent" and in no way linked to policy decisions. He also said Mr Rees remained committed to reforming the system through federal channels after abandoning his push to reform NSW policy.

Meanwhile, the Federal Labor Party returned an almost $500,000 donation to Mr Ho's wife Angela Leong on the eve of the 2007 federal election.

AEC figures reveal Labor received nearly $111 million funding, compared to $89 million for the Liberal-National Party Coalition.

On October 31, 2007 - three weeks out from the election - Ms Leong boosted Labor Party coffers by $499,980.

But the national branch of the Australian Labor Party returned her donation.

ALP national secretary Karl Bitar said yesterday that given the size of the donation, the ALP conducted a "due diligence assessment", and decided "it should be returned".

Other big donations to the ALP included more than $9 million from the unions - including $1.3 million from the CFMEU, $50,000 from the Australian Hotels Association and $63,000 from Coca-Cola Amatil. (Credit: The Daily Telegraph)

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