Monday, July 7, 2008

Political donations linked to developers, contractors

CORPORATE donors to the Victorian Labor Party are almost invariably companies with lucrative public contracts or development, gaming or alcohol interests at the mercy of Government discretion.

An investigation by The Age has also revealed a correlation in the timing of developer donations and key planning decisions. These projects include the $600 million Martha Cove marina at Safety Beach, the redevelopment of the Lombard paper warehouse in Flemington, and the $650 million Burwood Heights residential and commercial precinct.

While there is no proof that money has bought influence, there is little doubt that many in the property industry are encouraged to believe that financial contributions to the governing party help their cause.

It seems that donations also buy access and time for big and small contributors alike. "Yes it gives them (companies) a bit more time in the sun," a Labor insider well versed in raising cash admitted.

The Age investigation - which coincides with federal and state inquiries into political funding and disclosure - also found that:

- Between 2000 and 2007, donors to the ALP either had, or later won, government contracts totalling more than $15 billion.

- Of the 44 corporate donors to the Victorian ALP in 2006 and 2007, more than three-quarters were in property, infrastructure, alcohol or gaming, and/or had contracts with the Government.

- In the same year, half of all contributors to Labor's fund-raising arm, Progressive Business, were involved in the property or infrastructure industries. They included Connex, Yarra Trams, Connect East and Keane Australia, the company overseeing the introduction of the troubled myki transport ticket system.

- Of the 56 named contributors to Progressive Business in 2006, 75% had some direct contractual or planning relationship with the Government.

- An ALP insider has confirmed the party deliberately targets companies in "regulation high"and "issues rich" industries: development, infrastructure, gaming, alcohol and, in the past, tobacco.

- A source said the party also encourages annual donations rather than larger one-off amounts. This helps with budgeting but also reduces suspicion about the timing of large gifts.

The Age has quizzed a number of companies about their policies on donations. Many chose not to comment, including Grocon director Daniel Grollo, the Reading entertainment group, and Watsons Consulting, which is involved in the Martha Cove and Wyndham Harbour projects.

Train operator Connex acknowledged a $30,000 donation to the Victorian ALP in 2003-04, but stressed it had not made any direct political donations since. However, the company remains a member of Progressive Business...

Read the whole article here -

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