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:

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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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

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

Money to burn

It is easy to guess why cigarette company Phillip Morris gave the Liberal and National parties more than $100,000 before the 2013 Federal election. But why do other companies and business people make political donations of thousands of dollars? Often these gifts are given to individual candidates or group campaigns including those at local government level.

My political donations homework has shifted to our deep north in a desperate but futile attempt to get away from New South Wales corruption scandals. [I’ve been studying ‘Investigative Journalism in the Digital Age’, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) offered by the Knight Center for Journalism.]


There are six State electorates in the region: Burdekin, Hinchinbrook, Mundingburra, Thuringowa, Townsville and Whitsunday. The Liberal National Party holds all these seats, as you would expect having won 78 out of 89 at the Queensland 2012 State election. It also holds the Federal seat of Herbert, which covers Townsville. The only real Australian Labor Party outpost is at local government level where Councillor Jenny Hill is mayor of the City of Townsville.

The money trail

David Crisafulli. Photo courtesy Engineers Australia Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Digging started with Mundingburra where the sitting member, David Crisafulli, is also the Minister for Local Government, Community Recovery and Resilience in Premier Campbell Newman’s team. He is a former Townsville city councillor and was eyeing the mayor’s position before gaining pre-selection for the State seat.

Crisafulli’s 2012 candidate disclosure form for the Electoral Commission of Queensland looks pretty dull at first glance. You’d expect the odd coal mining company and the like to be on the donor list. However, there is an outlier in the data, as they call it in the IJ game. One of the donors, Humanis, has a Melbourne address and a fair bit of activity on the form. A quick search revealed that it is now known as Bluestone Global Limited (BGL) ‘an international recruitment, professional placement and labour hire specialist’.

Humanis also contributed $5000 to the unsuccessful 2012 Townsville mayoral campaign of Dale Last, a member of the LNP who was part of the Townsville First group.

Persons of interest

So what is the connection? Who stumped up the money and why?

BGL has many interests in Queensland. Rabieh Krayem was a director of Humanis Group at the time, and CEO and Managing Director from April 2011 to May 2013. He has also served as a director of Port of Townsville Ltd from 1 October 2009 to 30 September 2012.

However, he is not the only or most intriguing Humanis person of interest. Their chairman from 2 May 2011 to 6 September 2012 was Craig Anthony Ransley. Craig is the director of ResCo Services Pty Limited, a company he founded that is now part of the BGL group. Incidentally, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, Rabieh Krayem has been Managing Director of ResCo Services Pty Limited since April 2011.

South of the border

Everything seems to be connected these days, especially in the world of business and politics. The connection with Craig Ransley leads us to back to NSW and the investigations of ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption).

Ransley and his associate Andrew Poole were “found corrupt” for their involvement with the Doyles Creek Mine, infamous for the roles of NSW Labor Party ministers Ian Macdonald and Eddie Obeid.

No brownie points for guessing Poole’s business link:
International recruitment specialist Bluestone Global Limited (ASX: BUE) today announced that non-executive director Andrew Poole has requested leave of absence from his duties, following a current public inquiry of the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Spot the philanthropist

So it is not clear which individual may have been responsible for initiating the donations to David Crisafulli and Dale Last. But there is another clue hidden in the original document of this money trail. Another Crisafulli donor was Guildford Coal Ltd of Newcastle. One of the transaction dates on Crisafulli’s disclosure form, 16 February 2012, was common to both Humanis and Guildford.

At the time Craig Ransley was a non-executive director of Guildford, having been its founder and chairman. Former Liberal Party Federal MP for Herbert, Peter Lindsay, was the chairman in 2012. Former Labor Federal MP for Maribyrnong, Alan Griffiths, currently holds that position. Just to square the circle, former Labor mayor of Townsville, Tony Mooney, is also a director of Guildford Coal. It should be noted that there have been no allegations of corruption against Guildford at ICAC.

Guildford Coal also donated $5000 to the conservative Katter Australia Party on 20 March 2012, just four days before the State election. So did Craig Ransley, on the same day in fact. Both of these donations, plus the one to Townsville First for Dale Last, were formally disclosed by the donors. However, Humanis does not appear to have submitted a form for its Crisafulli donation. Townsville First’s group return does not list Humanis as a donor.

On the face of it, there were a number of breaches of the legal requirements for disclosure of political donations.

Townsville tracks

The business of governing is a complex one, as this Guildford’s website report about their Hughenden Project shows:
Guildford signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Port of Townsville Limited (POTL) in December 2010, to conduct a feasibility study on the logistics of exporting coal through Townsville Port via the Eastern Access Rail Corridor and utilising the Townsville State Development Area.
John Anderson of the Townsville Bulletin asked in March this year:
HAS anyone heard of from Mr Craig Ransley lately?

...Mr Ransley lived in Townsville for a time while trying to shore up coal contracts around Hughenden.

Coal boss hard to find
There is another link in these machinations. In May 2013 the Magpie’s Nest blog quoted an article from the Townsville Bulletin by Tony Raggart:
'In another development last year, it was revealed the Obeid Corporation donated to the campaign of Labor federal candidate Tony Mooney. Mr Mooney, a former mayor of Townsville, is Guildford's stakeholder relations general manager. The Electoral Commission of Queensland return specifically named Mr Mooney as a beneficiary of a $5000 donation.

Mr Mooney said he had no idea why the Obeid Corporation would have named him in the return.'
The story is no longer online but the newspaper image on the blog is legible and the ECQ return by Obeid Corporation is still available. The Australian Labor Party (State of Queensland) return for the Second Half 2010 does show a $5000 donation from Obeid Corporation.

Townsville Bulletin 11 May 2013 - Image courtesy Magpie's Nest 

Accountability - not just following the money

It is a pity that the Queensland government has legislated to increase the level at which political donations must be publicly disclosed from $1000 to $12,400. They are just trying to take all the fun out of Investigative Journalism 101. Not to forget the chance of more political accountability that could come with a rigorous donations reporting system.

The upside of this change to political transparency is that Queenslanders might get real enforcement of the disclosure laws in future. Under the Electoral Act 1992, as it applied in 2012, penalties started at approximately $2200. However, no evidence of such penalties actually being applied was unearthed along the trail. I received this response to my enquiry from the ECQ Funding & Disclosure Unit:
In relation to the 2012 Queensland State general election, the Commission currently has not engaged in court proceedings to enforce compliance with funding and disclosure provision.

As this compliance regime remains in progress, the Commission cannot comment further on individual matters ongoing or under review.
Unless we have real transparency, accountability and enforcement, the money might as well be given in plain packages like the bad of days of Joh Bjelke-Petersen's brown paper bags.
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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Friday, May 23, 2014

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

More on the murky world of New South Wales Liberal Party fundraising and donations:

In yesterday’s homework for Dare We Call it Whitehousegate, the challenge was to identify the 2009 managing director of Tenko Management Pty Ltd. He was mentioned at ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) on 2 May 2014.

It was in connection with fundraising in the evidence of Karen McNamara, the Liberal member for the Federal seat of Dobell. It concerned the question of “off-books moneys” in Central Coast 2011 State election campaigns, in particular Wyong, The Entrance and Terrigal. McNamara was the campaign manager for Darren Webber, Liberal candidate for Wyong. It was alleged that $300,000 for the three seats had been directed through the Terrigal campaign.

Our person of interest is Rodney Michael Bosman, son of former Member of the House of Representatives for St George, Leonard Bosman.

The page above is from Disclosure Details for Donor Tenko Management Pty Ltd for the Election Funding Authority. It details contributions of $2598 to Sam Danieli's 2008 Mayoral Campaign for Warringah.

According to a Newcastle Herald report  of ICAC hearings and four disgraced local Liberal MLAs:
The party… appointed a ‘‘battleground director’’, Rod Bosman, who oversaw the Hunter and Central Coast.
When asked at ICAC about suspicions she may have had, McNamara replied:
I spoke with Darren Webber [one of the 4 MLAs] who advised me it was coming through Terrigal. I also spoke with Rod Bosman who came in from Sydney to oversee the Hunter and Central Coast campaigns.

[And what did Mr Bosman tell you?] ---That it was going through the Terrigal SEC.

[So Mr Bosman was aware of this arrangement where this money was going through the Terrigal SEC?] ---Yes.
Until recently Bosman worked for the NSW Liberal Party in Western Sydney. He was also a key campaigner for John Howard and John Alexander in the federal seat of Bennelong.

On 23 November 2010 Tenko Management paid $1462 to the Wyong SEC campaign.

In 2004 Leighton Holdings listed among its donations/events the sum of $2500, for a ‘Meet the Shadow Cabinet Dinner’, paid to the Liberal Party of Australia – NSW Division c/- Rod Bosman. The PO Box was one that has been used by Tenko Management Pty Ltd in Drummoyne.

It would be interesting to see Tenko’s company accounts to determine what sort of company it is and what other political payments it has made to the Liberal Party over the years. An appearance by Mr. Bosman at ICAC would help to clarify the mucky money trail that is called political donations in NSW.

We look forward to ICAC's further investigations and findings in regard to 'allegations concerning soliciting, receiving and concealing payments'.
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

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dare We Call it Whitehousegate

The strange case of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's daughter and her scholarship to the Whitehouse Institute has all sorts of connections. [Disclaimer: No inference of wrongdoing should be drawn from any of this information.]

Some background from the Guardian Australia:
Tony Abbott’s daughter Frances received a “chairman’s scholarship” for a degree costing more than $60,000 from the Whitehouse Institute of Design where an Abbott donor sits as chairman on the board of governors, Guardian Australia can reveal.

The revelation raises questions for the prime minister over whether the scholarship should have been declared on his interests register.
Tony Abbott's daughter was given scholarship for $60,000 design degree
Les Taylor, the chairman of the Whitehouse Institute of Design who recommended Frances Abbott to be only the second recipient of the 'chairman's scholarship', has made donations of more than $20,000 to the Liberal party
Liberal donor personally recommended Tony Abbott's daughter for scholarship
The new New Matilda has also been doing some digging:
Assurances by the Prime Minister that a $60,000 scholarship awarded to his daughter Frances on the basis of merit have been contradicted by testimony and documents obtained by New Matilda.
I found these links with a web search or two:

On 7 September 2011 The Green’s Democracy4Sale project made a Supplementary submission to the inquiry into the funding of political parties and election campaigns claiming:
Tenko Management Pty Ltd made a $10,708 contribution to Tony Abbott’s Warringah FEC on 6 September 2004. This money included a total of $10,250 comprised of donations each over the NSW disclosure threshold current at the time from Gary Cohen using IBA Health’s Sydney address, John Roth using the address of Henroth Pty Ltd, Les Taylor of Manly, Mark Lochtenberg of Mosman and RC Corbett of Mosman.
In 2002 Tenko contributed $1,338 to the Liberal Party candidate for the Georges River State electorate, Joanne Maire McCafferty, in the 2003 New South Wales election.

In 2012 the Sydney Morning Herald had also come across the mysterious Tenko Management in a related context:
THE NSW Liberal Party has discovered more than $200,000 worth of donations received during the last financial year that it had not previously revealed to the Australian Electoral Commission.

…Also amending its records with the electoral commission is Servcorp, a strong supporter of the Liberal Party and the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott.

…In its original declaration, Servcorp listed donations to the Liberal Party itself in three states as well as to a company called Tenko Management Pty Ltd, based in Sydney, which was not listed as a donor or associated entity of the Liberal Party.
Incidentally, the Hon Mark Anthony James Vaile, former National Party leader and deputy prime minister is a non-executive director of Servcorp Limited.

Investigating the murky area of political donors and donations is difficult enough but is compounded when the paper trail involves handwritten documents. No wonder investigative journalism is a dying trade.

Update: It appears that the managing director of Tenko Management in 2009 worked for the NSW Liberal Party in Western Sydney. Finding out his name is your homework. He has a fine Tory pedigree.

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

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Foundation 51's Cosy Links with the Country Liberal Party

As a former Northern Territorian I had to track down these stories about Foundation 51:

From Crikey:

Has the NSW disease spread to the big end of town in the Top End? What are the links between the CLP and the secretive Foundation 51?

With the top end of town in the Top End – the CLP’s Foundation 51
From the NT News:

A SENIOR public servant and magistrate are directors of a Country Liberal Party-aligned research company that “contributed significantly towards the activities of the Blain by-election”, emails and text messages seen by theNT News reveal.

The company solicits corporate “memberships” worth more than $20,000.

NT Land Development Board chairman Graeme Lewis is a member of the CLP management committee and a director of a private entity named in NT Parliament yesterday as Foundation 51.

High-flyers embroiled in CLP-allied ‘research’ fund
It didn't take long to discover these connections with the CLP:

According to a 2010 Northern Territory Electoral Commission (NTEC) document, in 2009-10 Foundation 51 shared GPO Box 199 Darwin with the CLP Darwin Branch (which they still used in 2013) and CLP Gifts & Legacies Pty Ltd.

The CLP received $13,200 for "services rendered" from CLP Gifts & Legacies Pty Ltd.

Foundation 51 Application Form.  Source VEXNEWS 2009

In Return Receipt Details - 2012-13 - Country Liberals (Northern Territory), the AEC website records the GPO Box 199 for CLP Gifts & Legacies Pty Ltd. Graeme Lewis is listed as their accountant. It made donations of $68,000 and $9,000 to the CLP.

A 2006/7 CLP Return lists a donation of $5,164 from a G. Lewis of GPO Box 199 Darwin. CLP Gifts & Legacies Pty Ltd, then at GPO Box 4194, gave the CLP $18,681.74 for "property administration".

It would be interesting to know who has donated to CLP Gifts & Legacies and Foundation 51. Pity there isn't an ICAC in the NT. Perhaps the Office of the Commissioner for Public Interest Disclosures could start an inquiry.

Update 2 June 2014:

From The Australian:
The new [Northern Territory] PUP recruits used parliamentary question time to expose the CLP for allegedly concealing political donations made via a shadowy private company known as Foundation 51.

...According to [ALP] opposition government accountability spokesman Ken Vowles, Foundation 51 is “a front company set up and deliberately designed to avoid disclosure of donations”. Vowles says there are “very close parallels between Found­ation 51 and the murky entity Eightbyfive”, established by NSW Liberals.

...Foundation 51 is not declared as a politically associated entity and has not lodged donor returns.

...Documents accessible online appear to describe Foundation 51 as “an initiative of the CLP” that shared a post-office box with a party branch.
No more she'll be right

Good to see the Oz using Labor View's research.

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

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Good News about Oz Economy- Believe It or Not

Some tweets to brighten up your day if Joe Hockey's economic voodoo is worrying you:

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Video: Bill Shorten on Board for Labor Party Reform

"It is clear to me that there is a widespread, genuine passion for rebuilding the Labor party.

...Today I announce the start of a major campaign to rebuild the Australian Labor Party and renew our sense of purpose.

...Making Labor more democratic and more representative is also about reaching out to union members – not just those in leadership positions – to join our party and participate in our decision-making.

Unions will always have a vital role to play in Australian society – and I want union members to continue to play a role in our party, as members."

For the full transcript of Bill Shorten's Per Capita speech 'Towards a modern Labor Party' please click the link.

There was a Q&A session. This video Bill Shorten on Board for Labor Party Reform Q&A has extensive excerpts:

Bill has made significant challenges to National Executive, National Conference and State Conferences to come to the reform table and take up the cause. The leaders of affiliated unions and their members have to make some brave decisions. There will be opposition from some with vested interests in maintaining the status quo. It's up to Labor party members and supporters to help in the transition to a truly modern Labor party in whatever forums they can, and as importantly at a personal level.

As Bill said,
"So today is a day for facing up to some hard truths. 
Friends, Tony Abbott did not put Labor in Opposition – the Australian people put us here.
And unless we change, it is where we will stay."
There is no turning back now. It's time for everyone to come on board or get out of the way.

I have been elected as a delegate from the Goldstein electorate to the Victorian State Conference on 17-18 May and look forward to engaging in constructive discussions about revitalising and democratising the party.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Faces in the crowd: Melbourne #MarchinMarch

The Marches in March continue to glow with controversy. Never did so few gather so many, without engaging the usual suspects of the old media, the political parties, NGOs, the unions and the activist groups. There had to be a dark side to these events. The people can’t have minds of their own! Or if they do they must be warped!

Tim Dunlop has joined the fray with a post at The Drum: Rage against the mainstream
The fact is, the media's lame response to an estimated 100,000 citizens showing up on the streets around the country is indicative of a deeper malaise: the rules of news have changed, and increasingly legacy media companies have neither the capacity nor the wit to operate in the new environment.
His target was the Sydney Morning Herald’s Jacqueline Maley.

Tim’s piece follows Lyndon Morley spirited offence at Independent Australia in support of his sign RESIGN DICKHEAD! He was replying to Andrew Bolt’s slanted reporting at the Herald Sun. Bolt was comparing the remarks about Abbott with those of Alan Jones about Julia Gillard. As usual he saw red: "But who will apologise for the parade of hatred in today’s March in March?" He found what he was looking for, of course.

I’ll leave jousting with the black knight of bigotry to Lyndon.

Matthew Donovan tackled The Daily Telegraph’s Tim Blair over what he called “delusions and blind or wilful ignorance” on AIMN on Wednesday. His message: “I will not let you smear the good people who marched”.

I’ll just stick to what I saw and heard in my hometown. To flip the record, I’ve compiled some offcuts that didn’t make my original video piece on the Melbourne #MarchinMarch, not for the signs of the times but for the faces of the people:

One of the more appealing aspects of the Melbourne march was the signs. By and large, they were not offensive. Some seemed to have gone to extremes to be polite:

Kindness matters!

Not Happy Tony.

We Can Do Better!

Cowdy Songs Not Cowboy Govt.

Careful Now!

Wake Up Australia!

In fact most were homemade and some appeared to be the handy work of people more accustomed to writing letters-to-the-editor, pamphleteers rather than sloganeers:

Human Dignity Is Independent of National Borders. We must Always Defend the Interests of the Poor and the Persecuted.

Arbitrary Governments Use Arbitrary Detention.

The longest read:


Many were decidedly to the point:

Tony Abbott Worst PM in Australia’s History.

Wanted for Crimes Against Humanity and Our Planet.

No More Racism, No More Bull, Australia’s Nowhere Near Full!b>Welcome Asylum Seekers and Refugees.

No Justice, No Peace.

Some were a tad obscure:

Viva la Evolucion!

This one had two sides:

Dirty Coal. Clean Wind

Very few signs that I saw were truly offensive or in bad taste. This exception was timeless and certainly open to the charge of not being focussed:

Fuck the Police

It probably wouldn’t resonate with Bolt quite like ‘Fuck Tony Abbott’ T-shirts did.

Monday's Media Watch looked at a coverage paradox, namely how the old media both ignored and condemned the marches. Paul Barry picked up the threads:
A bevy of right-wing columnists have accused the ABC and Fairfax of failing to condemn some vicious anti-Abbott placards, carried by a handful of marchers.

But it was not just the Right that was unhappy with the way the March in March was covered.

Many protesters felt that 31 marches and tens of thousands of people deserved far more attention.

[This is a crosspost with the Australian Independent Media Network.]

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Monday, March 17, 2014

VIDEO: Melbourne's Massive March in March

Australians took to the streets on the weekend of 15 - 16 March 2014 to protest against the Tony Abbott's Federal government just six months after its election. Melbourne's crowd of approximately 50,000 was the largest.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this phenomenon is that it is a grassroots movement, not driven by the usual suspects in the progressive forces.

It showed the power of social media in spreading the word, as the old media gave the marches little or no coverage beforehand.

March in March's Facebook page banner proclaims: Decency, Transparency, Accountability. Its call:

March In March Australia 2014 will be three days of peaceful assemblies, non-partisan citizens’ marches and rallies at Federal Parliament and around Australia to protest against government decisions that are against the common good of our nation.

This signifies a 'people’s vote of no confidence' in government policies and decisions that go against common principles of humanity, decency, fairness, social justice and equity, democratic governance, responsible global citizenship and conserving our natural heritage.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ALP Party Reform: a long time waiting

ALP members have waited a long time for party reform. We have watched the Federal party waste the promise of the 2007 elections, tearing itself apart with personality politics, factional feuds, and backroom deals and bullying.

The party administration and campaigning, at both Federal and State levels, have been woeful to say the least. We must breakdown the wall between the insiders and the membership if this is to improve.

Clearly we face a crisis within the ALP that requires some major changes. The dead hand of the factions requires members to take a strong stand to ensure democratic decision-making throughout the organisation, not just at local level. As I wrote in an earlier post, "It is a joke to be promoting community campaigning with local candidates and at the same time reverting to the worst of factional politics that goes in the opposite direction."

I have nominated for election as a delegate from Goldstein electorate for the Victorian State Conference and will be supporting others who are prepared to work for rules changes and a changed culture. The time has come for those who have been tied up at conference and the Public Office Selection Committee by faction loyalty or favours to move aside or embrace a new path. We must not have any more preselection debacles. We must have real policy debates where we can be proud of the outcomes whichever point of view prevails.

We need to thrash out the kinds of changes that Local Labor and Open Labor have been proposing. Many of Labor's warlords are more interested in dividing the spoils of opposition than winning office with progressive policies.

We will not get a broad base unless we are prepared to stop whispering in the corridors and walking past the totally unacceptable.

I hope other members will join in nominating as candidates to help revitalise our party. [As an ALP life member of 42 years standing, I won't be tempted to sell out for career ambitions.]

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Griffith Big Bash By-election is Just Not Cricket

There is a cricket team of candidates for the Griffith By-election on 8 February 2014. Nine of the eleven candidates represent registered political parties, but will electors really have any idea about who or what they are voting for in Kevin Rudd’s old House of Representatives seat?

The 2013 Senate results exposed some of the bizarre idiosyncrasies resulting from our compulsory electoral system: we have to vote and we have to allocate preferences to all candidates. 

The party names will be written on the Griffith ballot paper so that should help, shouldn’t it?

Policy Bazaar

If you choose the Bullet Train Party, you'll know what comedian Anthony Ackroyd will be fighting for if he wins. He may have to give up his impersonations of Kevin Rudd. However, it won’t be hard to take the mickey out of himself since he will be required to abstain from voting on any matters except the train. Now that’s taking a lot of taxpayers’ money for very little jam.

At least Family First’s candidate Christopher Williams could follow the example of former senator Steve Fielding who often made up policy on the run. In the absence of a hung parliament, he’ll have to rely on FF’s South Australian senator-elect Bob Day who doubtless will continue the traditional of backroom deals.

The Secular Party has lots of the policies you might expect: no religion in schools, support for an Aussie Republic. It stands for a carbon tax but against emissions trading schemes. Some voters may be surprised to know that they are pro-abortion and strongly favour Australia participating “in all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, including power generation and waste disposal”. Presumably, these will not be located in Griffith’s backyard.

In order for ‘…new Australian citizens understand that their primary loyalty must be to Australia and its values, not their religion…’ the SPA’s citizenship pledge will be:
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights, liberties and values I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.
The list of shared values will be found in an expanded Australian Values Statement. The secularists want “Evidence of compliance with the Australian Values Statement, such as witness statements, …before permanent residence visas and citizenship are granted.’ If you’ve forgotten or never heard about the Statement, you’d better rush to read it before you vote next. It involves ‘a shared identity, a common bond’ that all Aussies accept implicitly, don’t we.

Timothy Lawrence may be regretting the shaky status of his party’s name, which will soon change from the one on the ballot paper to the Sustainable Population Party. The thesaurus doesn’t have them as synonyms. The current name could easily be associated with right-wing anti-immigration parties while ‘sustainable’ has definite green connotations.

Ray Sawyer is wearing the hat for Bob Katter’s Australian Party, having gained only 1.92% as candidate for the seat of Fairfax in 2013. They directed their second preferences to Clive Palmer and his eponymous party, who won that by a nose, but PUP has squibbed this contest.

According to independent Karel Boele, “He supports needs-based education funding and an effective solution to climate instability, for example an ETS. He supports improved discussions and trade with neighbouring countries, and a no offshore processing by Australia policy for refugees.” He is independent. Or is he?  He runs the People Decide platform and will vote on Bills in Parliament directly through the Internet. Now that’s a real pig in a poke. He will vote on each Bill in accordance with the majority of votes. It’s a bit murky as to how he will vote on amendments.

Dealing preferences

The Pirate Party proudly claims to be “the first and only political party in Australia to decide all its candidates and Senate preferences by a party-wide vote”. However, the process in 2013 involved making deals with other parties for preference swaps that were then put to the members for ratification. How many of the party officialdom or membership were aware of the possible ramifications in the Senate is unclear. They responded to a tweet about whether they helped to elect the motoring or sports mob or Palmer's miners to the Senate in 2013:

The Liberal National Party has put its faith in the reverse donkey vote in its preference allocation. Their preferences go from Bill Glasson, bottom to top.

At least one well-known Queensland Lib thinks independent Travis Windsor is worth a look. Could we stand another independent T. Windsor? Could make for some messy googling. He’s splitting his preferences but in each case The Greens are ahead of Labor or the Coalition.

The Greens have Labor ahead of the Coalition but behind five small parties. Anthony Ackroyd is their first choice. That was an easy call, as his party has no other policies to sift through. The Stable Population Party is second. Its policies line up with many of The Greens’ own goals but some commentators have argued that its motives are suspect. Malcolm King is one of them. Last August he argued:
The Stable Population Party (SPP) is using environmental and community groups to 'green wash' its anti-immigration message and split the Greens vote at the Federal election.
Next comes the Pirate Party of Australia, which shares lots of policies with The Greens and their other fancied micro-parties. Nothing illegal of course, PPA’s core business is not piracy, but freeing up copyright. However, they could be labeled copycats on many other issues, as could many of the others. It’s good to see so much agreement with marriage equality, climate change trading schemes, and humane treatment of asylum seekers.

Their other two Greens’ preference choices fit that bill. However, The Greens can’t be jumping for joy over the Secular Party’s nuclear stance. Karel Boele is a policy loose cannon for a different reason, as he’s going to follow direction from voters online. Nevertheless, they’re happy to put him ahead of Labor.

The ALP’s Terri Butler has The Greens second on her how-to-vote card, and then just numbers down the ballot paper. Less informal votes that way. There is no potential controversy as could arise if we had One Nation progeny in this field.

Now if you fancy any of the other candidates, please see what you can discover online. If you don’t know to whom Katter’s mob or any of the others are giving the nod, good luck finding out. Their preferences may well decide the result!  

The policies of the two main contenders are not canvassed here, as the residents of Griffith are no doubt sick of leaflets, phone calls, SMS, and knocks on their doors. There have been suggestions of unethical and perhaps illegal push-polling and anonymous automated calls.

Train travellers are also well serviced by political candidates, if not necessarily by governments. The Bullet Train Party, which is not directing preferences presumably because Thomas the Tank Engine isn’t running, at least has a trainspotting video.

Given the disillusionment with the major parties (including The Greens) and the complexity of the voting system, it’s no wonder that nearly 6% of ballots cast for the House of Representatives in 2013 were informal. In addition, nearly 7% of enrolled voters did not turnout. The Australian Electoral Commission also estimated that more than one million eligible Australians are 'missing' from the electoral roll, approximately 7%. So nearly two in ten did not exercise their right to vote.

So much for compulsion! People are dying around the world for democracy. Some Australians are just lying low.

Presumably, aspiring Members of the House have been visible at the Gabba lately supporting the Brisbane Heat. However, many electors doubtless believe that compulsory, preferential voting is just not cricket.

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