The Tasmanian Government has moved towards toughening the state’s electoral laws, three years after an election that allowed the origins of millions of dollars in political donations to remain secret.
The Tasmanian Government has released its report into reviewing the state’s political donation laws
A total of 11 recommendations have been made, all of which the government supports “in-principle”
One of the proposed changes would see the current donation disclosure threshold reduced from $14,300 to between $1,000 and $5,000
Tasmania has the weakest political donation laws in the country, with only donations above $14,300 required to be declared.
Analysis by Tasmania’s Institute for Social Change in 2019 found just 20 per cent of $25 million donated to Tasmanian political parties in the past decade had been publicly disclosed.
Shortly after the 2018 election, which was dominated by debate over poker machines and donations from hospitality groups to the Liberal Party, the Tasmanian Government announced a review of the state’s Electoral Act.
The final report from that review has now been released.
It includes 11 recommendations — all of which the government has said it supports in-principle.
They include setting a threshold for disclosing political donations that is more in line with other states, setting better timeframes for disclosing donations quickly, and requiring third parties that participate in electioneering to abide by the same rules.
In releasing the report, Premier Peter Gutwein detailed the Tasmanian Government’s position on making amendments to the laws, but further work on the specifics still needs to be done.
Proposed changes include:
Reducing the disclosure threshold to between $1,000 and $5,000
Donations will need to be disclosed at least six-monthly, and more often during an election campaign
Foreign and anonymous donations over a certain threshold will be banned
The introduction of expenditure caps for campaigns would be considered at a later stage, due to “insufficient evidence” they were needed.
Mr Gutwein said the changes would come at a cost for candidates, due to the expectation people who face having their political leanings made public may choose to stop making voluntary donations.
He said that meant some public funding of election campaigns would be needed, estimated to be the equivalent of between $2 and $8 per vote, but accepted that would be a “challenging concept” for some Tasmanians.
Mr Gutwein said it was important to note the changes were not being driven by recommendations from a corruption watchdog.
“There is no evidence of corruption, systemic or otherwise, in terms of the electoral system in Tasmania,” Mr Gutwein said.
The proposed changes would be limited to Tasmania’s House of Assembly.
The government plans to release legislation for consultation after Easter and will table it prior to Parliament’s winter break.
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The pandemic lockdown saw charity bins around Australia overflow with donations and charity shops overwhelmed, which prompted pleas to take donations away if bins were full and shops closed.
Brisbane’s lord mayor Adrian Schrinner on Thursday said the influx of donations to the council’s two tip shops, at Acacia Ridge and Geebung, ranged from a church altar to hundreds of pushbikes.
“The current contents of our tip shops shed a light on the 2020 habits of Brisbane residents,” Cr Schrinner said.
“These great quality, near-new items have found their way to our tip shops and we’ve received more than 700 bikes and 24 fishing rods — both nearly doubling in numbers from the year before — as well as a 30 per cent increase in golf club sets.”
Council statistics reported more than 93 tonnes of items were pulled from landfill and re-used as donations through the two tip shops in the past two months.
Last year the council scrapped its kerbside collection service as a $2-million cost-saving measure until July 2022, prompting calls from Labor to restore the service.
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Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s office fast-tracked a one-off $880,000 grant proposal to a retail association eight days after it made a $1,500 political donation to the Queensland Liberal National Party — at an event Mr Dutton attended — for the purpose of personally supporting him.
The National Retail Association (NRA) made a $1,500 donation to the Queensland LNP, saying it was to supportPeter Dutton
One week later Mr Dutton asked that an application by the NRA for a funding grant “be considered sooner”
Mr Dutton said any suggestion he would be influenced “by a lawful donation to the LNP” was “false and highly defamatory”
7.30 can reveal that Mr Dutton awarded a one-off “national security and criminal justice” grant to the Queensland-based National Retail Association, which represents employers in the retail and fast food industry.
The grant was not awarded through any open or competitive grant scheme, but was awarded on a one-off basis by Mr Dutton. It appears Mr Dutton has only awarded a handful of one-off grants since he became Home Affairs Minister.
Legal experts have told 7.30 that Mr Dutton’s consideration of the grant funding after the association donated to the Queensland LNP may give rise to a perceived conflict of interest, which could be considered a breach of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ministerial standards.
Those standards require ministers to “observe relevant standards of procedural fairness” and to “ensure that official decisions made by them as ministers are unaffected by bias or irrelevant consideration, such as consideration of private advantage or disadvantage”.
“When the minister is exercising discretion to award a very large sum of money to a party, which only one week before had made a donation for his ultimate benefit, really there’s obvious room to infer a conflict,” Geoffrey Watson SC, a director of the Centre for Public Integrity, told 7.30.
“Without knowing what Mr Dutton was thinking … it just looks on the face of it as though there was a breach of the code.
“But of course, he may have a good explanation for that. He should give it.”
Mr Dutton controls the approval of these one-off grants, the amount of funding awarded and any conditions attached to the grants.
Dutton requested application ‘be considered sooner’
The documents obtained by 7.30 reveal that on September 28, 2018, Mr Dutton noted that he told the Department of Home Affairs that he wished to consider a proposal from the association “which seeks to leverage Australia’s retail network to assist authorities in maximising public safety, particularly through the protection of public places”.
At that point in time it had not been assessed by the department.
The CEO of the association, Dominique Lamb, told 7.30 in an interview that the grant funding was able to deliver the Protecting Crowded Places program, an educational initiative to assist retailers in responding to armed offender incidents, reaching a total of more than 48,000 retail workers.
The NRA’s 2019 financial report reveals that it gave a $1,500 donation to the Queensland LNP for the purpose of supporting Mr Dutton personally at an event on November 21, 2018.
The donation is described as “support for Peter Dutton Dinner at Norman Hotel 21/11/18”.
Ms Lamb told 7.30 that Mr Dutton had attended the event.
“That particular event was an event hosted so that our members could speak to the minister about issues that were impacting their business,” she said.
“The event itself was hosted by the NRA.
“We were in attendance at that event, Mr Dutton was [in] attendance at that event, our membership was in attendance at that event. It was all about engagement.”
A further undated $5,000 donation during the 2019 reporting period is also listed as “support for Peter Dutton”. Ms Lamb said she was unaware when that donation was made.
In total the association gave $6,500 to the Queensland LNP to support Mr Dutton during the 2018 and 2019 financial year.
A ministerial briefing obtained by 7.30 shows that on November 29, 2018, Mr Dutton’s office “requested that the proposal from the National Retailer’s Association [sic] be considered sooner”.
Mr Dutton agreed to the department seeking a costing for the association’s proposal from the Finance Department on December 11, 2018.
It was assessed by the Department of Industry in February 2019.
The Home Affairs Department’s briefing to Mr Dutton says that the Business Grants Hub assessed the application “with satisfactory scores against each of the three merit criteria” and recommended that the funding be approved. They noted that the application “represents value for money and a proper use of Commonwealth resources”.
On March 14, 2019, Mr Dutton approved the funding grant, following the advice from his department.
7.30 asked Mr Dutton whether his consideration of the grant did give rise to a perceived conflict of interest, and whether he took any steps to manage the potential conflict.
Mr Dutton told 7.30 in a written statement:“The baseless suggestion that I have or would be influenced by a lawful donation to the LNP is false and highly defamatory.
“The suggestion that the Government has done anything other than support projects worthy of support is nonsense.”
Ms Lamb told 7.30 the grant proposal was not discussed at the event at the Norman Hotel.
“To be perfectly honest with you I was not ever aware that the minister was considering the grant at that point in time,” she said.
“At that particular event, there was actually no discussion in relation to the proposal, the grant, anything of that kind. None of that ever occurred. It was all about engagement with our members.
“And in fact, you know, we worked incredibly hard to go through a significant tender process in order to be awarded this particular grant, because it was at such need of our membership.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison can seek advice from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) for guidance on whether there has been a breach of ministerial standards.
In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry, DPMC secretary Phil Gaetjens found Senator McKenzie had breached ministerial standards “by failing to declare her memberships of two organisations and that she had an actual conflict of interest when awarding funding to one of those organisations, the Wangaratta Clay Target Club, which was neither declared to the Prime Minister nor managed”.
The Confiscated Assets Account
The grant to the National Retail Association was awarded by Mr Dutton from the Confiscated Assets Account (CAA), which is a pool of money seized from criminal enterprises.
The CAA has also been used to fund successive rounds of the Safer Communities program, but one-off grants awarded by the minister sit apart from this grant program.
There are legal restrictions on the grant programs that may be funded from the CAA. They must support crime prevention measures, law enforcement measures, measures relating to drug addiction or diversionary measures for illegal drug use.
The fund has been used to set up grant programs like the Safer Communities program, but the minister is also able to award one-off grants.
Mr Dutton told 7.30: “I am proud of the support the Safer Communities Fund has provided to organisations such as The Scout Association, Salvation Army Trust and St Vincent de Paul who have made Australia a safer place.
“Australians expect the Government to act to make the communities we live in safer. That is exactly what the Government has done through the Safer Communities Fund.”
State Queensland electoral disclosures reveal the National Retail Association has donated just over $57,650 to the Queensland LNP since 2017. It donated $15,596 to the state Labor party during the same period.
The Association’s CEO Dominique Lamb told 7.30 that the association “engages with both sides of government”.
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The head of Nova Scotia’s organ donation program is cautiously optimistic the new presumed consent law is being embraced after seeing the latest numbers on the province’s opt-out registry.
Nova Scotia became the first place in North America to switch to an opt-out organ and tissue donation law on Jan. 18. It presumes all adults consent to be donors, unless they say otherwise.
Just 10 days after the law was implemented, the Department of Health and Wellness says 11,800 Nova Scotians have registered to opt out. That’s about one per cent of the province’s population.
“That number may go up a bit over time,” said Dr. Stephen Beed, medical director of the province’s organ and tissue donation program, Legacy of Life.
Prepared for higher opt-out rate
He said they’ve taken many cues from Wales, which changed its donation law in December 2015. Based on the reaction there, Nova Scotia was prepared to see the registry reflect five to seven per cent of the population.
“Maybe the people that choose to opt out just haven’t gotten around to it yet even though they’ve made their decision,” said Beed. “The general impression I’m getting is that this has been very well received.”
The law exempts children, people who lack decision-making capacity, and adults who have lived in the province for less than a year. Families will still have a final say at the bedside.
Beed reiterated the need for people to talk about their final wishes, as well as educating themselves on what organ and tissue donation entails before making a decision.
“We’ve known all along one of our challenges is to make sure the public are as informed as they can be,” he said.
Reaching out to marginalized communities
His biggest concern is ensuring that historically marginalized communities are well informed. He said the Health Department has been reaching out to leaders in those communities.
“If some of those groups have specific medical concerns, I’d be happy to make sure that we do our best to connect with them and answer specific medical issues,” he said. “That hasn’t happened a lot and it makes me feel like perhaps there’s a need and an opportunity to have these conversations.”
Beed said he was not aware of any organ donations in the last week as a result of the new program.
The department did, however, receive several new referrals for organ transplants under a new internal system. In the past, people who were qualified to donate organs may have been overlooked because health-care workers didn’t know more about the donation system. It is now mandated that they consult Legacy of Life.
“I don’t view this as something we started a week ago, I view this as something that started a year and a half ago,” said Beed. “I’m under no illusions we have a lot more work to do.”
Last year, there were 34 organ donors in Nova Scotia, which was a record number.
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A 62-year-old man from the New South Wales Far South Coast is encouraging more people to donate blood, after completing his 750th donation.
Rob Johnson of Bermagui completed his 750th blood donation today
He makes a 7-hour return trip every fortnight in order to make a regular donation
Lifeblood is urgently calling for more people in NSW to make blood donations
Rob Johnson made his first whole blood donation at 18 years old, and continued to do so for a decade before switching to plasma and platelets.
Today, he commemorated his 750th donation at the Garran Lifeblood Centre in Canberra.
“In the overall lottery of life and health, I’ve been very fortunate,” Mr Johnson said.
There is no permanent donor centre in his region, so Mr Johnson makes the trip from his home in Bermagui to Canberra on a fortnightly basis.
It is nearly a 7-hour round trip, but he enjoys the journey.
“I love it. I leave at 4:30am and drive up,” Mr Johnson said.
“Platelets and plasma donations require a special machine and the actual disposables on each donation are quite expensive too.
“They tend to concentrate those collection points in major population centres. So, the closest one to me is Canberra.”
Mr Johnson is a B positive donor and only eight per cent of people share his blood type.
Plasma from these donors can be given to almost 60 per cent of patients and is used for the treatment of serious burns, cancer and immune conditions.
His donations have not gone unrecognised by his many recipients, some of whom he has been lucky enough to meet.
“About 12 months ago I was on the chair in Canberra with a needle in the arm,” Mr Johnson said.
“A young mum walked in with her three-year-old daughter.
More donors needed
The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood is calling for an extra 700 blood donors in NSW to come forward in the lead up to Australia Day to fill low bookings and boost blood stocks for patients.
The organisation has found up to 400 people have cancelled or not showed up to their appointment over the past month.
For Mr Johnson, donating is a “no-brainer”.
“We all know someone who, at some stage of their life, has required a blood product,” he said.
“This Australia Day, eat lamb and donate blood. It makes sense.”
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There’s a push to increase food donations in regional communities. That’s where the Food Donation Network, a government funded project, comes into play. The network held a forum at Workspace on Wednesday, December 9 to unite local community organisations like with local supermarkets. READ ALSO: Girl power: St Josephs primary pair rise to the top in public speaking In attendance were Woolworths, Coles, Southern Youth Family Services, the Salvation Army, Anglicare, Our Community Pantry and Saint Saviours Cathedral. A Food Donation Network spokesperson said the aim of the project was to divert food from landfills and into communities. “The project will reduce methane emissions caused by food waste and will help those in need,” the spokesperson said. READ ALSO: CSU, Goulburn City Lions Club, Vinnies, 2GN and Can Assist all give to the community “Using an empowering and locally driven approach, the project will engage charities and supermarkets to work together in sustaining a long-term food donation program.” Goulburn Mulwaree Council mayor Bob Kirk was completely supportive of the project. “This project has so many benefits for our region such as donating excess food to those who really need it, but also in diverting waste away from our landfills,” Cr Kirk said. READ ALSO: Urology department gains upgrade in equipment at hospital “I encourage our supermarkets, restaurants and cafes to get on board.” The project will also involve the Yass Valley Council and the Upper Lachlan Shire Council. For those interested in becoming a food donor or interested in distributing rescued food to the community, contact Jessica Fordyce on 0435 592 612. Did you know the Goulburn Post is now offering breaking news alerts and a weekly email newsletter? Keep up-to-date with all the local news: sign up below.
The Australian Red Cross has faced yet another medical dilemma as the country faces a shortage of two of the most common blood types. All blood plasma types are needed, Lifeblood’s supplies of O+ and A+ blood are running low in particular.
It has been two days since the supply has been down, and to date, there are 16,000 people needed to replenish stocks within two weeks.
This deficit in supply has been greatly affected by the pandemic with fewer donors making appointments, thus, the service is in need of an urgent call.
Around 1,200 people every day are either cancelling their appointments or do not turn up to their donations.
Lifeblood Executive Director Cath Stone revealed “As restrictions return in South Australia, and are eased in other parts of the country, it’s essential that blood and plasma donations continue.”
Considering the statistics, 31,000 donations are needed on a weekly basis to help patients in times of trauma, major surgery, cancer treatment, pregnancy and numerous other medical necessities.
The service saw the absolute best of the community throughout the pandemic as donors are continuing to make appointments and appear despite virus threats. However, these donations are not sufficient as the decrease of donor came to surge.
Provided that around 71 per cent of Australia’s population has an O+ or A+ blood type, it is safe to say that the blood donors can be of a huge help for the patients in need. As Ms. Stone emphasized, the need for blood “never stops”.
“We urge those who can to make blood or plasma donation part of their ‘new normal’,” she added. “Even if you don’t know what blood type you have, we still need you – we need all blood types every day.”
The service assured that they have increased rigorous wellness checks prior to donation appointments, including temperature checking, to ensure the health and safety of the donors.
Wanting to book a blood and plasma donation? Visit lifeblood.com.au or call 13 14 95
Utah U.S. House candidate Burgess Owens defended Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder last week, after the coach faced criticism for donating twice to Republican Owens’ campaign.
Owens, a former NFL defensive back and Super Bowl champion, is a critic of Black Lives Matter and racial injustice protests by NBA players — while Snyder has been a vocal supporter of BLM and has kneeled with his team during the national anthem, the Salt Lake City Tribune reported.
“How much do ‘black lives matter’ to the people upset that a good man donated to the states ONLY BLACK CANDIDATE running for Congress, because he disagrees with their stance on BLM Inc.,” Owens tweeted Friday along with a retweet of a Tribune article reporting the donations. “Do black lives only matter when they think how you tell them to?”
“Do black lives only matter when they think how you tell them to?”
Tribune reporter Andy Larson wrote that Snyder’s two $500 donations to Owens, made in May and June, were “likely to surprise some given the public stances of the two men.”
Last month, Owens told Fox News the U.S. was at a crossroads and called Black Lives Matter “Marxist.”
“We have one vision that says we the people are empowered by education, and we will give that power to the people and the other side is they want to empower themselves by stealing our education, stealing our history,” he told “The Story” host Martha MacCallum. “For those who can go to Google, you’ll find out that BLM inc. is nothing but a Marxist organization.”
Larson responded to Owens’ tweet Friday, writing “no one is attacking Quin here. This was public record, and public knowledge, widely discussed in Jazz circles. People asked us what happened here, I explained it. I like Quin.”
On Saturday, Owens denounced personal attacks on Larson by some on social media.
“While I think the criticism on the article is very fair. I’m noticing a lot of personal attacks on Andy I don’t believe are fair, or right,” Owens tweeted. “Argue content, argue what’s ‘news’ but never forget you’re talking to another human being who just sees things a little differently.”
Patty Mills has more than put his money where his mouth — and his heart — is by revealing he’ll be playing for Indigenous Australians for the rest of the NBA season.
The 31-year-old San Antonio Spurs guard will donate his entire remaining salary for the 2019-20 season to black causes in Australia.
The Spurs will play eight games as the NBA completes its regular season in Orlando which amounts to $1.45 million (AUD) Mills will give away.
“I’ve made the decision to go to Orlando and I’m proud to say I’m taking every cent earned from these eight games that we’re playing — which for me will turn out to be $1,017,818.54 (USD) and donating that directly back to the Black Lives Matter Australia, black deaths in custody and a recent campaign, called the We Got You campaign, dedicated to ending racism in sport in Australia,” Mills said. “So I’m playing in Orlando because I don’t want to leave any money on the table that could be going directly to black communities.”
Mills joined fellow Australian NBA star Joe Ingles and a host of players from other codes including AFL footballer Patrick Dangerfield by launching the We Got You campaign this week in an effort to stamp out racism in Australian sport.
“When allies who stand up and speak out against racism, although a small gesture, this is one of many actions that have a tremendous impact on the person being targeted because they feel the support. It can also make whoever racially vilifies that person reconsider their own behaviour,” Mills said.
“I believe if everyone can make small changes in this space, that could have a massive impact. So, I would like to say thank you – to all athletes of the majority who are paving the way with your leadership and standing in the front lines to put an end to racism within sport.
This commitment of your support is very much appreciated.”
Former Wallabies captains Michael Lynagh and Simon Poidevin have also given a big thumbs up to the plan.
Pocock played in 69 Super Rugby games for the Force between 2006 and 2012. He is ecstatic that Forrest is digging deep to help rugby thrive.
“When I heard about what they were doing, I wanted to give back a bit and volunteer a bit of time,” Pocock told the Herald. “It’s great vision from the Forrests, wanting to really invest in the grassroots and getting young boys and girls going. They obviously have an interest in developing the professional pathway as well in WA.
“A lot of the [rugby] headlines you read, there is a lot of doom and gloom, but when you look at some of the stuff happening at the grassroots level … there’s a lot of boys and girls excited about rugby. They’re the stories we’ve got to be telling and working to get more people involved.
“I got to see during my time in Perth how much the game grew and I think this is an exciting next step in really creating a better future for rugby in the west and ensuring they are competitive and there are a lot of young West Australians coming through and having that professional pathway.”
The Force have agreed to take part in the revamped Super Rugby AU competition, but their long-term future is unclear. The season kicks off on Friday, although they won’t play their first game until the following week.
Rugby administrators are working overtime to come up with a competition model for next year. New RA chairman Hamish McLennan said his preference was for something between Australian and New Zealand teams. Pocock said the Force had to be there.
“If you haven’t lived in Perth, it’s hard to understand just how passionate the Western Force fans are about rugby and how much they support the Force,” Pocock said. “I think finding ways to have Western Australia involved in whatever the format looks like going forward is great for Australian rugby and really important for Australian rugby in continuing to grow the game at all levels over there.
“We’ve seen some great talents come through to the Wallabies level and we’ve also lost a bunch of young players overseas who started in Perth. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep more of those players from going overseas.
“You look at the under-20s; there is some great talent coming up and if we’re able to keep developing that and nurturing that talent, then I think there is a bright future despite a lean few years of results.”
Forrest said his ambition was to see WA become a “real powerhouse” rugby state.
“Nicola and I firmly believe we need to grow this from the ground up,” Forrest said. “Our ambition is to provide young talent with the skills, support, competition and a clear pathway to the highest level of the game, feeding into the Western Force men’s and Rugby WA women’s professional teams.
“We have a clear vision to shape an exceptional rugby product within WA, rather than our talented youth looking to eastern states or overseas for opportunities.”
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald