Malcolm Turnbull’s own $11 million donation scam during the 2007 election is set to become a political issue again given the Arthur Sinodinos donation scandal that broke in the media on Wednesday. Add that to the Mafia/Liberal Party bribery scandal that was reported last year it is highly likely that Malcolm Turnbull is facing the political crisis of his career.
All the pieces to the donation/bribery puzzle are starting to come together which is bad news for the Liberal Party and the timing could not be worse as it is just a few months before the federal election.
Current donation scandal
The NSW Liberal Party had been using an ACT based slush fund called the Free Enterprise Foundation to bypass NSW laws banning property developers from donating to political parties. The NSW Liberals told the property developers to donate to the Free Enterprise Foundation and then the Free Enterprise Foundation would donate to the NSW Liberal Party. This scam was used extensively to help the Liberals fund the 2011 state election campaign.
The NSW Election Commission enforces the political donation laws and audits the financial records of the donations. The political parties have to name who has donated to them for donations greater than $1,000. So all the NSW Liberals were doing was putting down the name Free Enterprise Foundation which hid the real companies donating.
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigated the Liberal Party and its 2011 election funding relationship with the Free Enterprise Foundation in 2014. The investigation was part of Operation Spicer which had public hearings and the NSW Election Commission followed the hearings closely and started their own investigation as they believed election laws had been broken in 2011.
On Wednesday (23-3-16) the NSW Electoral Commission published its report and in effect made a finding of corrupt conduct against various Liberal Party officials and Senator Arthur Sinodinos who was the NSW Treasurer at the time. (Click here to read the Summary of Facts report or click here to read the full report)
At any time the Liberal Party could have easily stopped the NSW Electoral Commission investigation by simply handing over a list of the donors. For whatever reason the Liberal Party have chosen not to do this and have fought extremely hard not to hand over the names of the donors. The fight can be seen in the letters between the NSW Electoral Commission and the Liberal Party’s lawyers at the end of the full report. (Click here to read the full report)
The media storm hit Wednesday with the Labor Party calling for Arthur Sinodinos to be sacked or stood down. (Click here to read more) Arthur Sinodinos threatened legal action against the NSW Electoral Commission.
“Sinodinos said the commission’s report had led to media reports labelling him corrupt and is demanding it retract all references to him in the publication.”
“In light of these matters, my lawyers on my behalf have invited the commission to immediately retract all references to me in the publication. The commission has been invited to publish a correction to that effect on its website.” (Click here to read more)
At this point the NSW Electoral Commission hasn’t succumbed to Arthur Sinodinos’ legal threats and I doubt very much they will. It must be remembered that Sinodinos hopped in the witness stand in 2014 at ICAC and could barely remember anything regarding his $200,000 job as Chairman of Australian Water Holdings (AWH) when he was in cahoots with Eddie Obeid and his family ripping off the taxpayers millions of dollars.
“The allegations of questionable donations to the party have dogged Sinodinos ever since his string of “don’t recalls” and “don’t recollects” reverberated through the hearing room during ICAC’s Operation Spicer inquiry.”
“Paul Nicolaou, the party’s former chief fund-raiser, told the inquiry that Sinodinos was chairing a finance committee meeting in 2010 when the idea of washing illicit donations through the FEF was first raised.”
“Sinodinos said that if he had been present when this was floated “it went over my head”.” (Click here to read more)
Malcolm Turnbull in full flight on the ABC defending Arthur Sinodinos
Arthur Sinodinos tries a swifty
At 10pm on Easter Friday Arthur Sinodinos’ lawyers (Arnold Bloch Leibler) released the threatening letter sent on Thursday (24-3-16) to the NSW Electoral Commission. Releasing the letter at that time is an old political trick and was clearly designed to have it receive as little media attention as possible which shows the lack of confidence that Sinodinos and his lawyers have in what they said in the letter. (Click here to read the letter)
I haven’t read the whole letter but why bother. If Sinodinos and his lawyers don’t have any confidence in the letter why should I.
The bottom line is:
“The NSW Liberals refusal to formally disclose the names of the donors led the commission to withhold $4.4 million in campaign and administrative funding claimed by the NSW Liberals from the 2015 state election. It has also frozen future public funding to the division until it complies.” (Click here to read more)
So why would the Liberal Party not hand over the names when millions of dollars is riding on it? One answer might be that it names the Mafia as reported last year.
Key Liberal fundraising body took Mafia money for access
“Mafia figures donated tens of thousands of dollars to the discredited NSW Liberal Party fundraising vehicle, the Millennium Forum, as part of an ultimately successful campaign to allow a known criminal to stay in Australia.”
“A senior Millennium Forum figure, who is already under investigation by ICAC for allegedly funnelling illegal developer donations to the NSW Liberal Party, also helped criminal Frank Madafferi’s lawyer meet then immigration minister Philip Ruddock on the visa issue.” (Click here to read more)
The Mafia being on the list is one of the few reasons I could think of as to why the Liberal Party won’t release the names. Whoever it is on the list they are sure worried about being named and the Liberal Party are worried about naming them.
Rain man Malcolm Turnbull should have seen the storm clouds coming
I wrote about Malcolm Turnbull’s own dodgy election funding in an article in 2012 titled “Malcolm Turnbull the rain man who speaks with forked tongue”. The article focused on how Turnbull, when he was Environment Minister in the John Howard government, awarded an $11 million grant to a dodgy company run by Matt Hanbury who was one of his key fundraisers. It said in part:
Mr Turnbull’s electorate fund-raising is done through an organisation he set up in 2007 called the Wentworth Forum. The SMH reported “Regarded as the country’s most sophisticated political fund-raising machine, the forum offers membership packages that give the most generous supporters more opportunities to gain access to Mr Turnbull.”
“It costs $5500 to be a “member”, $11,000 to be a “sponsor”, $16,500 to be a “patron”, $25,500 to be a “benefactor” and $55,000 to be a “governor”.”
“A governor can host boardroom events, and gets two tables at big functions featuring Mr Turnbull, and attendance at an exclusive dinner for supporters.”
“An analysis of forum donations, fund-raising events and memberships between 2007 and last December shows Mr Turnbull received more than $1.4 million. He personally contributed about $10,000 in catering for forum events. Most of the money was raised before the 2007 federal election.” (Click here to read more)
Matt Handbury was one of the donors to Mr Turnbull’s Wentworth Forum.
Before the 2007 election and two weeks after the election was called Malcolm Turnbull announced that the government would spend $11 million funding a trail of rainfall technology. The company in question was Australian Rain Corporation which was then part owned by Matt Handbury.
It says on Mr Turnbull’s Wikipedia profile “During the 2007 election campaign, Turnbull announced that the then Government would contribute $10 million to the investigation of an untried Russian technology that aims to trigger rainfall from the atmosphere, even when there are no clouds. Literature suggests that the technology is based on bogus science. The Australian Rain Corporation presented research documents written in Russian, explained by a Russian researcher who spoke to local experts in Russian.”
“Although Turnbull claimed that Australian Rain Corporation is Australian-based, investigations have shown that it is in fact 75 per cent Swiss-owned. It was also revealed that a prominent stakeholder in the Australian Rain Corporation, Matt Handbury, is a nephew of Rupert Murdoch. Turnbull has refused to answer questions regarding Matt Handbury’s contribution to the Wentworth Forum, the main fundraising organisation for Turnbull’s 2007 election campaign.” (Click here to read more)
If we are going to have a close look at what Sinodinos did or didn’t do then we should also have a good look at other corrupt donation/fraud schemes such as the one above run by Malcolm Turnbull.
Looks like good-bye to the Double Dissolution election
This story is just starting to blow and in a couple of months it will be powering along. Corruption will be one of the biggest issues if not the biggest issue at the next federal election. It will be driven by social media if not the mainstream media and the Liberals are in a lot of trouble of their own making. There is no doubt that Senator Arthur Sinodinos has to go, it is just a matter of when and how much damage he does to the government before he does.
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