Anti-corruption chief warns of blurred lines between politics and business

The Crime and Corruption Commission has put politicians on notice that it will intervene if integrity slips any further and public funds are put at risk.

Oct 13, 2020, updated Oct 13, 2020
Deb Frecklington and Annastacia Palaszczuk. (Photo: ABC)

Deb Frecklington and Annastacia Palaszczuk. (Photo: ABC)

In an open letter to election candidates, CCC chief Alan MacSporran revealed the agency was already collecting data on political donations and was concerned that standards were slipping.

While the letter came as the Liberal National Party faced questions over its fundraising and networking activities, MacSporran made clear the Labor government was also at risk as a result of improper business dealings.

“The CCC’s own intelligence assessment indicates that the lines between government and the private sector are blurring, with overlapping networks of association involving consultants, influencers, lobbyists and executives,” MacSporran wrote.

“That’s why, in the lead-up to this election, the CCC is working proactively to assess and identify any activity or associations that may put the public interest at risk.”

Separate to the risks associated with parties accepting donations, MacSporran warned of governments crossing the line when trying to stimulate the economy during the recession.

“At such a time, partnerships between government and the private sector are indispensable to the productivity and economic future of Queensland,” he said.

“If not carefully managed, such partnerships can also open the doors to corruption.”

After the ABC revealed the LNP meetings, and questions over whether the developers had donated or were encouraged to donate through an organisation to circumvent the ban, Frecklington today insisted she had acted appropriately at all times.

Rather than the LNP being under investigation by the Electoral Commission of Queensland, or referring her to the ECQ, as had been suggested, Frecklington said the party had worked with the ECQ to ensure compliance with Queensland’s complex rules.

“Any donor who donates to political parties, must complete a declaration form, it’s on the ECQ (website) for all to see,” Frecklington said.

“I attend dinners all the time, I’m a politician, I attend supporters’ dinners, of course I do.

“It’s on the ECQ website that prohibited donors can attend fundraising events, they just cannot donate.”

The revelations came after Frecklington yesterday refused to rule out an LNP government lifting the ban on developer donations, and as the state leader prepared to join Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other party figures at a party fundraiser today.

An ECQ spokeswoman said it was commission policy not to confirm or comment on any examination or investigation.

“The ECQ considers matters regarding compliance with the prohibited donor laws to be serious, and actively monitors the activities of all electoral participants and disclosed donations to identify potential non-compliance,” the spokeswoman said.

The most the ECQ has done over previous breaches has required the money be paid to the ECQ instead of the LNP.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk demanded a full explanation from Frecklington and “why she was doing that when it is not allowed”. She suggested it was under investigation.

“It is a very serious offence for people to be engaging with property developers and to be getting donations from them when it is against the law to do so,” Palaszczuk said.

Palaszczuk refused to be drawn on whether political fundraisers were necessary to fund campaigns. Asked about a recent Labor fundraiser with corporate donors, and featuring former prime minister Kevin Rudd and herself, Palaszczuk only said there were no developers present.

“The party does very, very detailed investigations about people who are attending those events,” Palaszczuk said.

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Palaszczuk was quick to claim the ABC report was based on leaks from within the LNP, however the party issued statements denying key elements of the reports.

Frecklington said she stood by her integrity and sought to contrast that with the Palaszczuk Government’s record of Crime and Corruption Commission investigations and committee probes.

“The Labor Party has been plagued by integrity scandal after integrity scandal,” Frecklington said.

“The Premier of Queensland has been found in contempt of parliament, the first premier in Australia to do so.”

Greens MP Michael Berkman said the major parties were as bad as each other when it came to soliciting money from big business.

“Regardless of what’s going on with the LNP right now, it’s a disgrace that both major parties are still selling access to ministers and senior party officials, and taking corporate donations to fund their campaign,” Berkman said.

“It should be illegal for a corporations to pay money for access to a Government minister, and the only reason it’s not is because Labor and the LNP make hundreds of thousands dollars from these cash-for-access meetings.

“Queenslanders are sick of politics because the major parties are more focused on paying these big donors back than doing their job and representing ordinary people.”

Katter’s Australian Party leader Rob Katter said the major parties made, and changed, the rules to entrench their positions.

“You can weather them if you’ve been established for 100-plus years and have large stakeholders like the unions for support and are more sophisticated in how you do things,” Katter said.

“For the minor parties that are trying to build a brand and compete with those juggernauts they’ve only made it harder.”

While Labor relies heavily on union and business donations, and the LNP relies on donations from business and conservative organisations, KAP receives most of its money from shooters and firearms dealers while the biggest donation to the Greens this year was from a professional gambler.

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