Committees - Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters - Report

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:48): I also want to say just a few words on the Second interim report on the inquiry into the conduct of the 2016 federal election: foreign donations, by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, and the recommendation that Senator Leyonhjelm has just been talking about. The committee, as I recall, has recommended that foreign donations to political parties, to associated entities and to third parties who take part in election campaigns should be prohibited, or words to that effect.

It is interesting to note, however, that, whilst the majority report made this recommendation, there was a dissenting report by the Labor Party and the Greens to effectively ban foreign donations to political parties but not to the unions or to third parties—namely, conservation groups or GetUp! So, whilst it was inappropriate, according to the Labor Party, to have donations to political parties from foreign sources, it was okay for foreign sources to donate substantial money to the unions, to the conservation groups and to GetUp!, all of whom directly or indirectly support the Labor Party or the Greens political party. What a surprise that the Labor Party and the Greens, in a dissenting report, would oppose that!

I would love to have someone just explain to me why, if foreign donations are inappropriate for the major political parties, they are okay for the third-party groups that support the Greens and the Australian Labor Party. You see, the Australian Labor Party does not these days put much money into election campaigns; it all comes from the unions. Some of it comes from members' funds; some of it comes from sources we do not know. They could be foreign; they could be elsewhere. GetUp!, who support the Greens political party and the Labor Party indirectly through the Greens political party, get huge donations from overseas—and this is all on the record—and that is okay, apparently, according to the Greens and the Labor Party. That is okay, but, if someone wants to donate to the Liberal Party and the Labor Party, that is not possible.

As I say, these days, the Labor Party are not the main campaign arm and certainly not the main campaign funders for the Labor Party in any election. Those are the unions. That brings to mind, of course, the commitment by the Queensland Labor Party—so they say in this chamber—to put One Nation last. I will believe that when I see it in their preference allocation. But of course, whilst the Labor Party might do that, the unions, who are the main campaigners and the main funders for the Labor Party in the Queensland election, will not be putting One Nation last; they will do what they have done in the last few elections. They will have signs, and campaign loudly and strongly—and belligerently, I might say—to put the LNP last. The Labor Party senators here say, 'No, that is not going to happen. The Labor Party is going to put One Nation last.'

Senator Moore, I notice you are in the chamber. You are a Queensland senator. You might use this opportunity to get up and assure the Queensland voting public that not only will the Labor Party put One Nation last but your principal campaigners, the people who fund you—that is, the unions—will also follow suit. Because I will bet you that you cannot say that, and that when we have the state election in Queensland you will find the major Labor Party campaign, funded by the unions, will be saying, 'Put the LNP last.' If I am wrong, I would love you, Senator Moore, or one of your Queensland colleagues, to get up and say, 'No, not only will the Labor Party be putting One Nation last but so will our main campaign arm,' which these days are the unions.

We all lived through the last federal election, where we saw all the polling booths manned by paid union officials. In my city of Townsville, where I was working with volunteers from the LNP, we were competing with foreign—that is, non-Townsville—unionists, bussed in from the south, or flown in from the south—

Senator Moore: Southerners!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Southerners, indeed, yes. But they were not locals. They were on the local polling booths. LNP polling booths were being manned by volunteers, local volunteers, from Townsville. But who was manning the Labor Party booths and, I might say, then Senator Lazarus's booth? It was the CFMEU, the CPSU and, in Lazarus's case, the MUA. They were all there. They were all being paid. They were not there as volunteers, like the LNP supporters. They were all there supporting the Labor Party, with campaign slogans that said 'Put the LNP last'—not 'Put One Nation last', put the anti-immigration parties last, put other parties, even Palmer's party, last, but 'Put the LNP last'.

I really look forward to any Labor Party person with any semblance of standing in that organisation coming in here and assuring me that not only the Labor Party will not be preferencing One Nation before the LNP but the unions will not be preferencing One Nation before the LNP. If the Labor Party want to preference One Nation, that is fine. I do not care. There is nothing wrong with One Nation, if the Labor Party want to preference them. It is about the dishonesty of the Labor Party saying, 'We are putting One Nation last because we do not like them,' and getting up in the chamber here and hurling some abusive, unparliamentary comments at Senator Hanson and her colleagues—unnecessary, but that is what the Labor Party do—and saying they are totally opposed to One Nation, but, come the Queensland election, I will bet you any money you like that the unions who support and run the campaign for the Labor Party will have signs saying, 'Put the LNP last,' which means, by implication, that the Labor Party will be preferencing One Nation before the LNP. If I am wrong, I would love someone of standing in the Labor Party in Queensland to come in and tell me I am wrong—that not only will they be putting One Nation last but the unions will be as well.

As I say, I have nothing against One Nation in particular. They are not the best political party. The best one, of course, is the LNP in Queensland. There is no doubt about that. But I just cannot control my mirth at the hypocrisy of the Labor Party. In spite of all their abuse of One Nation—inappropriate abuse, more often than not—you will find that, at the Queensland state election, the Labor Party in Queensland will be preferencing One Nation over the LNP. One might ask, 'What about their honesty, what about their commitments, what about their integrity?' Well, we will see at that time.

I have diverted slightly from the subject before the chamber, but I return to that report and I ask why it is that the Labor Party and the Greens think it is okay to ban donations from foreign sources to the Labor Party and the Liberal Party but not to the conservation groups, GetUp! and the unions, who are the main funders and supporters of both the Greens and the Australian Labor Party in any election.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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