3rd February 2009
The Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho and his business partners donated more than $900,000 to the Labor Party in the lead-up to the last federal election, even though Kevin Rudd went to the poll with a policy to ban overseas donations.
Dr Ho made a personal donation of $200,000 to NSW Labor while Hungtat Worldwide on the Gold Coast, of which he is a director, gave $600,000. But the party returned $499,980 that Dr Ho's wife, Angela Leong, had donated.
Anthony Chan, who lists the same Hong Kong address as Dr Ho, tipped another $100,000 into NSW Labor coffers, and Hong Kong Kingson Investment gave more than $760,000 to the Labor, Liberal and National parties.
The Australian Electoral Commission's annual returns, published yesterday, show Hungtat Worldwide was the equal largest donor in 2007-08, sharing the top spot with Josephine Armstrong, of Perth, who gave $600,000 to the WA Liberals.
Between 2000 and 2006, Dr Ho donated $109,000 to NSW Labor, but as gambling revenue fell in Macau the billionaire diversified his interests. He now has extensive tourism and real estate interests in Australia as well as an indirect link to the budget airline Viva Macau, which began flying from Sydney in 2007.
Dr Ho is involved in a $1.3 billion redevelopment of Beijing's prime Friendship Store site in partnership with the Prime Minister's Chinese-Australian friend Ian Tang.
The Rudd Government is trying to ban overseas donations and lower the disclosure threshold from $10,900 to $1000, but the changes have been delayed by the Opposition, which argues there is no need for them.
The Labor Party's national secretary, Karl Bitar, said the party supported a "more transparent system of electoral funding and disclosure", but he did not comment on accepting overseas donations, instead pointing out that the party returned the donation from Dr Ho's wife.
"Given the size of the donation, the ALP conducted a due diligence assessment of this donation and decided that it should be returned," Mr Bitar said in a statement.
Mr Rudd refused to answer questions about the return of Ms Leong's donation. "All such questions should be directed to the national secretary of the Australian Labor Party," he said.
The funding disclosures also reveal that in the second half of 2007, unions spent $36 million trying to get rid of the Howard government. Unions donated $9.2 million to Labor and spent an additional $26.8 million on political campaigns.
Citigroup, ANZ and Deutsche banks donated more than $200,000 to the major parties and the property developers Leighton Holdings, Westfield and Walker Corporation gave generously. (Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)
Media Man Australia Profiles