Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston

Co-publisher and editor-in-chief at No Fibs
Margo Kingston is a retired Australian journalist and climate change activist. She is best known for her work at The Sydney Morning Herald and her weblog, Webdiary. Since 2012, Kingston has been a citizen journalist, reporting and commenting on Australian politics via Twitter and No Fibs.
Margo Kingston
- 5 hours ago
Margo Kingston
Transcript of donor disclosure discussion between Jason Falinski and Andrew Leigh with Greg Jennett on the ABC TV news program Afternoon Briefing on 14 February 2022. Transcript by Margo Kingston.

Afternoon Briefing episode:

Jason Falinski: We have seen today that if we are not willing to have free and open discussion – we have seen that today with a with exposure today of donations to independent candidates from coal mine interests –

Greg Jennett: Just to be clear, this is Zali Steggall a couple of years ago I think? 

Jason: I’m not specifically pointing to a member of parliament, but we are talking about these campaigns –  these pro-climate candidates running in a lot of seats around Australia – have been taking money from coal interests that actually bought their coal mine from Eddie Obeid and then sought to divide those donations so that they wouldn’t be declared by the Australian Electoral Commission. And this only came to light years later after an audit by the AEC. If we do not have a well informed electorate, then we can’t have a well informed democracy 

Greg: And where should that go, as it’s too late for this Parliament to change anything. But with disclosure, with acceptance of donations –  

Jason: No, no, we have made changes, and one of the reasons that the audit took place was because of a bill that the Liberal Party and the Labor Party voted for just towards the end of last year which has made those audits possible by the AEC. If we hadn’t changed the law then maybe this donation still would be unrecorded and unknown. 

Note: Zali Steggall amended her return in February 2021, before Falinski said the law he spoke of was passed.

Greg: So a system at work. Andrew Leigh –  I’m using the Zali Steggall reference because that’s how it’s being reported publicly today as a case that looked at her donations regime a couple of years ago. Is that a system that’s checking the boxes? 

Andrew Leigh: … On donations it’s important that we have more transparency in the system. 

The Hawke Government introduced a $1,000 threshold in 1983. The Howard Government took that up to what’s now $14,000 in 2006. Labor would bring it down to $1,000. And we’d bring down the threshold for timely disclosure to seven days, which would mean you could never have a situation such as you had with the former Prime Minister giving a $1.75 million donation which wasn’t disclosed for some 500 days. 

Labor’s always stood for stronger transparency in donations disclosure. The Liberals have always stood against it. 

Jason: Greg, let me ask Andrew this question. Will the Labor Party preference these pro-climate independents who have today been shown to be hiding where they have been receiving their funds? It’s a simple yes or no question. If the Labor Party really is in favor of transparency, then surely they would have to put those sorts of candidates last on their list. 

Andrew:  Jason, I don’t do the preference deals for my Party as you well know –

Jason: Well will you argue for them being put at the bottom?

Andrew: But the reason that you’re raising this issue, which was first reported last year, is that you’re feeling under pressure in your seat because of your party’s position on climate change, and that’s why this issue is being brought up.   

Jason: And the reason you are diverting to that is because you can’t deal with the issue that we have, today, confirmation that people have been hiding donations. If the Labor Party is true to their principles, they would put them last on their preference card.

Andrew: As I understand it Zali Steggall has amended her return, there’s a question as to whether-

Jason: After an AEC audit –  

Andrew: Sure. There’s a question as to whether a donation from eight people consolidated into a single cheque is eight donations or one donation, the AEC’s asked something different, she’s amended her return – 

Jason: We’ve seen the limits of the Labor Party’s transparency.

Greg: You would accept, wouldn’t you, Andrew’s point Jason, that the reason you are exercised about this is that in your part of the world, these ‘Voices of’ candidates are a threat?

Jason: No Greg, I don’t accept that at all.  I want our democracy to operate as best as it possibly can. That requires we have a well informed electorate. When you have people hiding things from the electorate, then you don’t have a well functioning democracy. 

Andrew and I were in a hearing on Thursday last week where we heard about how some industry super funds are one administrative error away from being insolvent. How we heard that up to a quarter of a billion dollars has been transferred out of funds – hard working Australians’ retirement savings into the hands of trustees. None of this has been reported anywhere. APRA took very little action over that. That’s the sort of stuff that annoys me, 

Every three years I get to reapply for my job. I’m not going to be any different before or after that, other than the fact that I know I have to stand on my record and what I’ve been doing. What I want, and I thought every member of Parliament wanted, is an open and transparent system. 

Now if the Labor Party is true to their principles then they will put candidates who have clearly not been transparent last.