MP travel claims and elections: Were the rules broken or stretched?

In a series of Deirdre Chambers-like coincidences, at least three parliamentarians made claims for travel and travel allowances that coincided with election activities in Queensland and NSW towards the end of 2017.

Labor MP (and former Treasurer) Wayne Swan and Pauline Hanson One Nation Senator Brian Burston made claims for tax payer funded travel to or around Queensland on the weekend of that state’s election in November 2017.

The following week, Nationals Senator for NSW, John Williams, claimed travelling allowance for an overnight stay in Tamworth on the evening of the by-election in New England that saw Barnaby Joyce returned to Parliament after his disqualification in the High Court. Continue reading “MP travel claims and elections: Were the rules broken or stretched?”

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Choosing an Ombudsman: Revelations from the 1987 NSW Cabinet Papers

The choice for New South Wales’ Ombudsman in 1987 came down to a senior Departmental head and a solicitor with a familiar name in Labor circles; the latter promising a less contested relationship between the government and the Ombudsman’s Office after years of strife between the two.

Cabinet papers for the NSW Government, recently released under the “30 year rule” still applicable in NSW, offer an insight into the appointment of David Landa as NSW’s third Ombudsman.

While the selection panel narrowed the eventual choice to Landa, a prominent solicitor with strong Labor connections, and Trevor Haines, the then Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, an impressive shortlist was interviewed, with gender and (relative) youth no bar to inclusion.

However, reducing the eventual choice to Landa and Haines seemingly reflected a desire to create a more harmonious relationship between government and watchdog than existed during the term of George Masterman, QC, who held the post between 1981 and 1987. Continue reading “Choosing an Ombudsman: Revelations from the 1987 NSW Cabinet Papers”

Membership of Political Parties in NSW: 2014 – 2017

As part of the electoral disclosure regime in NSW, registered political parties are required to disclose funds raised from membership fees and subscriptions.

The following sets out the membership numbers for the years 2014-17 reported to the NSW Electoral Commission by each party represented in the NSW Parliament since 2015. Continue reading “Membership of Political Parties in NSW: 2014 – 2017”

ABC Presenter Featured Speaker at $85 a Head ALP Branch Dinner

Prominent ABC current affairs presenter and editor, Stan Grant, is the featured speaker at an $85 a head dinner scheduled for April, co-hosted by a branch of the NSW ALP, to honour former Labor leader, H V Evatt.

The speaking engagement has the potential to ignite controversy akin to that caused by former Trade Union Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon agreeing to deliver a lecture for a Liberal Party event in 2015 to honour Evatt’s contemporary and rival, Sir Garfield Barwick. In the face of widespread criticism, Heydon eventually withdrew from the Lecture, and later ruled against an application that he stand down from the Royal Commission. Continue reading “ABC Presenter Featured Speaker at $85 a Head ALP Branch Dinner”

Re Webster: Members of Parliament, Pecuniary Interests and Disqualification – A Background

At the heart of the High Court challenge to Bob Day’s qualification to contest the Double Dissolution election of 2016 lies the case of Senator James Webster in 1975. Contentious at the time in the midst of wider political controversy, and thought potentially capable of opening up to scrutiny all manner of contractual arrangements, including residential leases, held between MPs and the Commonwealth, the relevant clause was narrowly interpreted by a single judge of the High Court and benefit of the legal doubt given to the Senator.

Since then, it has been the subject of criticism, and may well be overturned in the course of current proceedings. In its submissions in the current case, the Commonwealth has argued that, while Bob Day would fall foul even if the case were applied, Re Webster was too narrowly decided. Herewith the background to the original case, and its aftermath. Continue reading “Re Webster: Members of Parliament, Pecuniary Interests and Disqualification – A Background”

“Some Time” Before Decision on Secret Lionel Murphy Records

After a thirty year wait, historians, lawyers, journalists and the general public will have to wait “some time” more before knowing whether they can have access to allegations put before a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry in 1986 into the conduct of former High Court justice, Lionel Murphy.

By the time it was wound up in September 1986, the Inquiry had distinguished at least fourteen separate allegations against Murphy.

With only the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives permitted to have access to this material until now, they have authorised the Clerks of their respective chambers to see the material so they can provide advice.

The conditions imposed by statute in 1986 mean that even the Clerks have to wait until the 30 year secrecy provisions expire on Sunday before getting access. Continue reading ““Some Time” Before Decision on Secret Lionel Murphy Records”

New Rules Net Liberal Party Extra $49,000 For Software Subsidy

After a cap was removed on a controversial public subsidy of the major political parties, 72 Coalition MPs claimed an additional $48,935 in the first half of 2015-16 over and above what could be claimed in previous years.

This was paid to the Liberal owned entity, Parakeelia Pty Ltd, the subject of recent controversy over its practice of funding the Liberal Party by way of public subsidy for electoral management software it developed and owns. Continue reading “New Rules Net Liberal Party Extra $49,000 For Software Subsidy”

The $5 Million “Software Subsidy” for Major Parties – And It’s Only Going To Get Bigger

Since 1996, an allowance has seen over $5.6 million in taxpayer funds made available to Federal Members of Parliament for “software reimbursement”, with members of the major parties directed to claim this allowance against software prescribed by their party.

A decade long cap on the allowance of $1500 per year has now been removed, thereby exposing taxpayers to greater charges by parties and reimbursement claims by MPs. Continue reading “The $5 Million “Software Subsidy” for Major Parties – And It’s Only Going To Get Bigger”

Political Party Membership in NSW – Figures for 2014-15

Updated to incorporate figures for Country Labor, and account for multi-year memberships in the Labor Party entities. Some minor errors of transcription since first publication have been corrected without notation, but thank you to commenters. If you have comments or queries, either leave them here or tweet me at @smurray38

While there has been much talk about the decline in party membership over the years, there has never been a sure way of ascertaining the state of play, given the reluctance of political parties to share the numerical health of their parties.

However as part of the funding disclosure requirements for the NSW Electoral Commission, NSW political parties are now required to disclose how much money is raised through membership and affiliation fees. Continue reading “Political Party Membership in NSW – Figures for 2014-15”

NSW Political Donations Reform – Background and Resources (Updated)

In May 2014, in response to the mounting revelations at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of breaches and circumvention of NSW’s electoral disclosure laws, particularly in respect of donations by prohibited donors, Premier Mike Baird announced a Panel of Experts to review the system of political donations. Continue reading “NSW Political Donations Reform – Background and Resources (Updated)”