Thursday, March 5, 2015

Stand Up - Fight Back! #March4


On 4 March 2015 tens of thousands of worker and their supporters marched in Melbourne, Australia in defence of working conditions and government services. The rally against Tony Abbott's Coalition government was organised by the Victorian Trades Hall Council .



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Monday, February 2, 2015

Live tweeting @TonyAbbotMHR at the National Press Club

Live tweeting @TonyAbbotMHR at the National Press Club - haven’t had this much fun since watching Asian Cup final and Queensland elections on Saturday night!






































Here endeth the sermon!

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Video: ALP Celebrates in Mentone


On the night of the Victorian State election 2014 local campaigners from the seats of Mordialloc and Sandringham gather in Mentone to celebrate Labor's victory. Candidates Tim Richardson and Christina Zigouras thank their supporters.



Tim Richardson won back the seat for Labor with a two-party-preferred swing of 3.5%.

Christina Zigouras gained the second largest 2PP swing to Labor in the State of 8.2%.

The electorates are next to each other and worked closely during the campaign. An historic night all round!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What's the bottom line we should demand of our State Parliamentarians?


A couple of Letters to the Editor in Melbourne's Bayside Leader local 'free' weekly newspaper. It's part of Rupert Murdoch's Herald Sun chain.

A case of old media meets new media, perhaps.

'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' or perhaps just a little bit disgusted with how low the bar is set in Sandy. A pity that politics drives us to clichés.

Don't miss the rest of my coverage of the Sandringham Campaign for the 2014 Victorian State election.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Victorian Election: Sandringham Sandbelt Seat Not So Safe Anymore


The people of Sandringham have been enjoying an unusual election season with a highly visible and focused Labor campaign and a strong independent candidate. ALP candidate Christina Zigouras’ energetic and responsive approach has been in stark contrast to Murray Thompson. After 22 years, our Liberal member did not even turn up to local candidate forums. Locals who looked forward to vigorous debate found that he has added no-show to his customary go-slow.

Independent Clarke Martin has been a tireless advocate for a return to a standalone 7-12 high school in Beaumaris, a passion shared by former student Christina.

No doubt Murray Thompson "is a nice bloke" who does a creditable job helping constituents with their problems. However, the role of a State parliamentarian must be much broader. Our member should articulate a strong vision and concrete policies for the electorate and the State and show leadership on both local and statewide issues. He/she should be actively engaged with the community not just a pipeline to the bureaucracy.

Our issues have much in common with other sand-belt electorates: public transport and traffic congestion; funding of education and training; lack of consultation and inequitable outcomes of residential rezoning processes; protection of bayside coastal areas. There has been lots of media analysis of the Frankston train line. However, few journalists have even noticed that two of the worst level crossings earmarked for removal by Labor are in our electorate, namely Cheltenham and Mentone.

We should not be taken for granted just because we live in a so-called safe blue ribbon seat. Our democracy deserves much better. We need a vigorous voice in Sandringham!

Click for more on the 2014 Victorian State election

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Friday, November 21, 2014

The Next Leader of the Victorian Liberals, Not!

There is already speculation about who will replace Denis Napthine as leader of the Victorian Liberals after the 29 November election.

Our local Liberal member is rumoured to have had only one supporter for leader when Napthine was elected, himself. It is a pity that he did not choose to join Ted Baillieu by retiring this time. After 22 years of cruising in a so-called safe seat, he has become an invisible, unaccountable representative. Thompson did not attend any of the candidates' forums for Sandringham. His excuse was that he did not need to debate the other candidates as he was having his own meeting on 21 November. Well, that day has arrived and it's impossible to find any public announcement of his secret gathering for electors. His expensive, glossy mail-out today made no mention of when he will face the people.

Democracy deserves much better. Sandringham deserves to have a new face in Spring Street. The Labor candidate Christina Zigouras has been energetic, highly visible and genuinely responsive throughout the campaign.

We should not be taken for granted just because they live in a blue ribbon seat.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Governing by Stealth: Low Flying Pollie in Sandringham

It's always good to be published in a Murdoch paper, especially during a State election. So here's my letter to the Bayside Leader published 18 Nov 2014:


Here's the digital version:

Sandringham is not a marginal seat now but after the election it will be ("Frankston train line voters could sway result", November 11). Christina Zigouras will make it a marginal Labor seat. Two Frankston line level crossings with the worst congestion are in our electorate at Mentone and Cheltenham. Daniel Andrews has committed to their removal.

There has been the usual deafening silence form the local Liberal member. As it gets more desperate, we can expect the Napthine government to copy Labor's program of removing 50 level crossings, just as it is playing catchup on schools.

Incidentally, has anyone seen Murray Thompson lately? He was a no-show at the Bayside candidates forum last Friday and the Bayside education forum on Monday. Our democracy deserves better than a sit-down sitting parliamentarian. It's time for 22 years of inaction to come to a close.

As I emailed Christina Zigouras: Love a cliché - “deafening silence”. Squibbed “under the radar” and “low flying”. We should call him Stealth - low flying, off-the-radar that no one sees coming. But he hardly breaks the sound barrier.

This is not meant to be personal. Murray's a nice bloke. It's about performance or lack of it as a parliamentary representative.

I might be biased but I'm also peeved about living in a so-called safe Liberal seat where the bar is set so low. {Cliché alert!] Campaigning in Sandringham is like sparring with the invisible man.

Ad for @Christina4Sandy:




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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let's Marginalise Our Missing Liberal Member for Sandringham

According to the Herald Sun yesterday:

Four marginal seats on the Frankston railway line that changed hands at the last election will play a crucial role in deciding who will govern Victoria for the next four years.

Well it's time the media take more notice of voters in so-called safe seats. In the seat of Sandringham, an invigorated and resurgent ALP is putting on one of its strongest campaigns.

My online response to the Herald Sun spells out just one of the issues that we are taking up to the Napthine government:

Sandringham is not classified as a marginal seat now but after the election it will be. Christina Zigouras will make it a marginal Labor seat. Two Frankston line level crossings with the worst congestion are in our electorate at Mentone and Cheltenham. Daniel Andrews has committed to their removal.

There has been the usual deafening silence form the local Liberal member. As it gets more desperate, we can expect the Napthine government to copy Labor's program of removing 50 level crossings, just as it is playing catchup on schools.

Incidentally, has anyone seen Murray Thompson lately? He was a no-show at the Bayside candidates forum last Friday and the Bayside education forum on Monday. Our democracy deserves better than a sit-down sitting parliamentarian. It's time for 22 years of inaction to come to a close.
Christina Zigouras with Daniel Andrews at Mentone station

If you're in the electorate and haven't received our pamphlet yet, please contact us:

christina.zigouras@vic.alp.org.au

P O Box 267 Black Rock VIC. 3198

ph: 0408 067 006

Every polling booth, including the pre-polling at Shop 3, 116 Balcombe Road Mentone, will have Labor people with How-to-Vote cards. Please ring us if there are any glitches.

Public transport is only one of many issues that have been ignored by the local Libs. Labor is committed to making Beaumaris a stand-alone 7-12 secondary college. Now that there's the sniff of defeat, the government has discovered areas such school funding and residential rezoning. I can just say to Murray - too late mate!

Christina is online at Facebook, Twitter and her website.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bronwyn Bishop Implicated in Dodgy Political Donations Slush Fund


The political donations money laundering scams have left more very dirty hands in New South Wales. In fact, revelations reach the heart of Tony Abbott's Liberal/National coalition government. The latest to be exposed is the Speaker of Australia's House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop.

Kate McClymont reported yesterday on the latest ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) hearings for the Sydney Morning Herald. First the connection to Abbott's chief of staff Peta Credlin:
Previously suppressed emails before a corruption inquiry raise serious concerns about a major donor to the Liberal Party being rewarded with extraordinary access to senior party figures.
The emails are from the former chief fund-raiser of the NSW Liberal Party Paul Nicolaou to Peta Credlin, one of the most powerful figures in the federal government.

The emails reveal that, in March 2011, while the Coalition was in opposition, Ms Credlin used a major donor to the Liberal Party, Brickworks, as part of Tony Abbott's campaign against the carbon tax.

...Brickworks was one of the largest corporate donors to the Liberal Party, giving $384,000 in a nine-month period from July 2010 to April 2011.

As well as its brand Austral Bricks, Brickworks also lists property development as a core business.

The ICAC has heard that Brickworks used the Free Enterprise Foundation, a shadowy Canberra-based organisation, to channel $125,000 in illicit donations to the NSW Liberals for the March 2011 state election.

Then the Bishop link:
[Bronwyn Bishop] was a director of the Dame Pattie Menzies Foundation Trust, which received $11,000 from the Free Enterprise Foundation on December 9, 2010, which it then directed to the NSW branch of the party for use in the 2011 state election.

EFA: Political Disclosures 2010-11
Dame Pattie Menzies Liberal Foundation

In fact $27,000 was passed on to the NSW Liberals, including a $2000 donation to the Dame Pattie foundation (DPMLF) from Australian Corporate Holdings, a company connected to Sydney property developer Sydney Fischer.

The tangled web spins even wider, as many of Dame Pattie Foundation's directors are key 'off-books' players, to use an ICAC phrase.
ASIC: Current & Historical Company Extract
Date/Time: 08 September 2014 AEST 01:56:50 PM
But let's start with the Secretary, Simon John McInnes. According to Kate McClymont:
In July 2010, Mr Nicolaou, who was getting a 6 per cent cut of all donations he collected, emailed Simon McInnes, the finance director of the NSW Liberal Party boasting: "Please note! Another $50k for us via Free Enterprise Foundation from Brickworks."

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), another $2000 donor to the DPMLF was John Donan, also mentioned in McClymont's article. John and Dick Donan (who also gave $2000), of the Manildra Group, have form as well:
Manildra, the only ethanol supplier in Australia which is set to make a motza from the mandate, has donated $1.2 million to NSW political parties over last 12 years, including $635,000 to Labor, $400,000 to the Liberal party and $132,000 to the Nationals.

The first named director, John Pegg, is obviously close to the new NSW Premier Mike Baird. He is part of the three-person '2015 Committee' set up in July 2014 by Baird to clean up party finances:
"Those three will operate and take responsibility for the financial affairs of the division, including fund-raising between now and the election – at least," Mr Baird said.

"We must have confidence in our processes. It's something we must not shy away from. We have to be determined to shine the light on ourselves."

Mr Pegg should start in his own backyard. Pegg is a former secretary of DPMLF so he should know about its operations.

Anyway, back to the Speaker. Bronwyn Bishop is still listed as a director and should have resigned from this slush fund years ago. Her role as Speaker of the House of Reps should have caused her to review her directorships, especially of conduits (or should that be sewers) like this foundation. They exist for one reason only - to circumvent transparency concerning political donations and to hide breaches of the law. Pegg, McInnes and Campbell have all been called before ICAC. Maybe it's Bishop's turn.

[Incidentally, the original address of the foundation was the same as the NSW Liberal office: Level 9 140 William St. Woolloomooloo NSW 2011. Hardly arms length!]

It seems the devil is in the detail of dodgy donations. Let's keep digging. What price good government?

Thanks to @kate_mcclymont and a very special hat tip to Clarencegirl at North Coast Voices for her help and encouragement.

This post is part of a series about political donations in Australia:

Foundation 51's Cosy Links with the Country Liberal Party

Dare We Call it Whitehousegate

In search of slush funds and off-books moneys in the NSW Liberal Party

Townsville Money Trail: Political Donors in Queensland's Deep North

Nathan Tinkler & Co: Political Donors Anonymous

Bronwyn Bishop Implicated in Dodgy Political Donations Slush Fund


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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nathan Tinkler & Co: Political Donors Anonymous

The Boardwalk #1

In 2012 political donations to parties in Queensland were capped at $5000. Donations from related corporations were treated as one from a single entity. Anonymous donations of $200 or more were banned.

However, there was a get-out-of-jail-free card. Gifts to political parties were uncapped so long as they were not for campaign purposes. Later that year the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) explained in its report ‘The regulation of political donations and gifts in Queensland’:
‘Political parties, state candidates and third parties are required to establish state campaign accounts. Only electoral donations that fall under the cap are able to be deposited into the account and only electoral expenditure is allowed to be paid out of the account. Any electoral donation that exceeds the cap can only be deposited into a general administration account. There is no cap on general donations that are unrelated to election campaigns.’
Queensland’s Liberal National Party must have had a large administrative bill in 2012. Money was flooding in, even from interstate.

Controversial Newcastle mining and ‘magnate’ Nathan Tinkler was grilled at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) earlier this year about political donations in New South Wales, in particular to Liberal Party slush fund Eightbyfive. Political donations by property developers were banned in NSW in 2009. His defence, according to the Sydney Morning Herald: 'I've given more to worse people'.



The Daily Telegraph summarized the money trail:
ICAC alleges $66,000 was paid through the back door in order to subvert electoral funding laws which prevented developers from donating to politicians.

ICAC revealed yesterday Mr Tinkler made $214,000 in allegedly illegal political donations ahead of the 2011 state election — $50,000 to the Newcastle Alliance, $45,000 to the National Party, $66,000 to EightbyFive and $53,000 to the NSW Liberal Party through the Free Enterprise Foundation — at the same time he was lobbying for [a] coal loader in Newcastle.
It seems that Tinkler may have form in Queensland as well. At least two companies linked to him gave gifts to the Liberal National Party during the 2012 State election period: International Ports and Logistics Ltd ($22,500 contribution) and Boardwalk Resources Pty Ltd  ($22,500 donation).

The LNP return to the Electoral Commission of Queensland (First Half 2012) gave the address for both companies as 366 Queen Street Brisbane Qld 4000. International Ports and Logistics used the following address on its own return for the same donation: C8 The Boardwalk Newcastle 2300. Aimee Hyde, Corporate Counsel at Tinkler Group from April 2011, completed the form giving the date of the donation as 21 March 2012, three days before the State election.

Tinkler apparently put up the Queen Street property for sale later that year. The address was also given to the Australian Electoral Commission for a Tinkler Group donation ($22,000) recorded on the Liberal Party of Australia disclosure form for 2010-11. However, the main AEC page shows the address at The Boardwalk.

Apparently the Tinkler Group website was taken down in December 2012, and his company Queen Street Capital was being wound up.

A tangled web indeed. Strange how everything and everyone is connected in this shadowy world. One of Boardwalk Resources’ directors is Peter Kane who is Group Managing Director of Guildford Coal. There’s more about Guildford in Townsville Money Trail: Political Donors in Queensland's Deep North.

Nathan Tinkler and his group seem to be centred in Singapore of late. Let’s hope he’s read the various laws on foreign political contributions to Australian political parties. Crikey is still following his every move:


The Boardwalk #2

During research into Tinkler’s donations, Boardwalk Marine Investments popped up as a donor in Queensland. It appears to be a quite separate entity. In May 2012 it gave $10,000 to Forward Brisbane Leadership (FBL) , an associated entity of the Liberal National Party of Queensland. This campaign, slush fund was closed after corruption allegations against the Queensland Premier Campbell Newman.

Another business, BMI Group Pty Ltd, also donated $6,200 to FBL in 2011-12, on top of $14,400 given in 2010-11. Both gave the same address: PO Box 2117 Fortitude Valley QLD 4006. They shared more than a post box. They had the same company accountant. I won’t give her name as she is not a public figure like Aimee Hyde. Hyde was mentioned at the ICAC hearings but without “suggesting she did anything wrong”.

The wonderfully named Straddy Services Pty Ltd, gave FBL $4000 in February 2012. No prize for guessing that it had the same accountant and same address.

The LNP reported a fundraising gift of $1,100 on 21 October 2013 from Bemcove Pty Ltd, also at the Fortitude Valley PO Box 2117. According to BMI’s website, Bemcove is the former name of one of its facilities now known as Acacia Ridge.

BMI says it is ‘at the forefront of both the property development and waste management industries’. Apart from the address, its only apparent connection with Boardwalk Marine Investments is their common initials. Straddy Services has no web presence except an address, 11 Tramican St Point Lookout QLD 4183, and brief company info. You have to pay to get more, if it exists.

The Big Picture

On the release of CMC’s 2012 report, Dr Rebecca Denning, its Director of Applied Research and Evaluation,
“explained that the vast majority of financing for political parties and candidates came from private sources, adding that this was considered to be a legitimate exercise of political association and expression.

Broadly, she said an effective regulatory framework aimed to reduce the risk of corruption and increase the transparency and integrity of the political process, as well as the accountability of and equity between key participants”.
To test if the framework is working well, try a search of the AEC and ECQ returns for the Free Enterprise Foundation. ICAC has barely scratched the surface.

Or take a look at Victoria where the laws are very loose. The National Party receives much of its funding through associated entities such as Doogary Pty Ltd and Pilliwinks Pty. Ltd. The AEC has investigated the nature of these ‘trusts’ and concluded that they “are not required to lodge associated entity financial disclosure returns”. Without such a return the $55,000 donation by Boardwalk Resources to the Free Enterprise Foundation in 2010-11 would have remained buried.

A quick check shows that the National Party of Australia (Victoria) received $788,030 from Doogary in 2010-11, an election year in Victoria. The Age reported that it was $200,000. That’s a lot of money if it is just returns on their investments. Two of Doogary's and Pilliwinks' directors are former National Party parliamentarians, Ron Best and Bill Baxter. Baxter is a former Victorian Minister for Roads and Ports and the current Victorian State President of The Nationals.

You be the judge!

The boardwalk examples from either side of the border raise many concerns including:
  • Who is making political donations in Australia?
  • Are many gifts really political donations that exceed the legal caps?
  • Are some single donors using multiple channels to cover their tracks?
  • How many contributors are using intermediaries to disguise their gifts?
  • Is anyone apart from corruption commissions monitoring the laws? Is anyone enforcing them?
  • Are the laws adequate to ensure transparency, honesty, accountability and enforcement?

For citizen journalist sleuths, the best places to start are:

The Australian Electoral Commission: Periodic Disclosures

Electoral Commission of Queensland: Funding and Disclosures

Electoral Funding Authority (NSW): Disclosures

This post is part of a series about political donations in Australia:

Foundation 51's Cosy Links with the Country Liberal Party

Dare We Call it Whitehousegate

In search of slush funds and off-books moneys in the NSW Liberal Party

Townsville Money Trail: Political Donors in Queensland's Deep North

Nathan Tinkler & Co: Political Donors Anonymous

[NB: No inference of wrongdoing should be drawn from any of this information. It has been double-checked and cross-checked where feasible. If there are any errors please leave a comment or contact the author.]

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