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Leading independent candidate for the seat of Goldstein, Zoe Daniel, has raised $1.11 million to fund her campaign, but has not fully disclosed the source of the funds, saying to do so would disadvantage her campaign.
Her rival, Liberal incumbent Tim Wilson, is disclosing nothing about his donations – either the amount he is raising or the source – relying instead on lax federal laws that will keep any financial information hidden until well after the election.
Zoe Daniel’s campaign launch at Trevor Barker Beach Oval on April 10.Credit:Paul Jeffers
Ms Daniel is on track to reach a target of $1.3 million in funds raised. She is running hard on issues around government integrity and transparency and is calling for a cap on campaign spending and disclosure for all political donations of more than $1000.
While declaring most of her donors, she is only requiring public disclosure of donations of more than $14,500, consistent with existing electoral laws. Donors who contribute $14,500 or less can remain anonymous. So far about $100,000 has been donated anonymously to her.
Daniel says that to require disclosure of all donations would disadvantage her campaign. “We’re doing things within the letter of the law,” she told The Age in March. “In my mind if it’s one rule for one it’s one rule for all.”
On this count, both the Victorian Greens and the federal branch of the ALP, who disclose all donations over $1000, are more transparent than both main Goldstein candidates.
Candidates for Goldstein: Independent “Voices” candidate Zoe Daniel and Liberal MP Tim Wilson.Credit:Simon Schluter
Daniel’s biggest donor, with a contribution of almost $460,000 is fundraising body Climate 200, convened by clean energy investor, Simon Holmes a Court. He has highlighted that independents’ income and spending will be only a fraction of the major parties’ and that incumbent MPs have big advantages including taxpayer resources including staff, offices and cars.
Daniel is much more transparent than Wilson. Her website is updated weekly and lists all donations and all donors contributing more than $14,500 and many contributing less.
Last month Mr Wilson said he would spend nothing like Daniel’s campaign, but refused to divulge his campaign budget or the identities of his donors. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) donations information will not be published until February next year. Even then, very little detail about donations is revealed.
Asked on Tuesday whether donation law should be reformed Mr Wilson said he had “mixed views on donation laws” but refused to detail those views.
An important financial contributor to the Liberals in Goldstein is the fundraising body, the Bayside Forum. In the financial year 2020-2021 it raised more than $127,400 but disclosed no individual donors to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).
In early April Wilson officially launched his campaign at a function room at the Trevor Barker Reserve in Sandringham attended by about 300.
While the event was initially a fundraiser requiring attendees to pay, a sponsor stepped in to cover costs, making the event free and boosting numbers. Wilson’s camp would not disclose the identity of the mystery sponsor.
Last week Daniel officially launched her campaign before about 1000 supporters on the playing field also at the Trevor Barker reserve. She then retreated to a private lunch for donors and others at a function room. The Age asked to attend the event, a request that was denied.
Both teams have also confirmed that their candidates have attended fundraising events in private homes in well-to-do Goldstein. But neither would provide information about such gatherings or what was discussed with donors.
Illustration: Andrew DysonCredit:
Federal MPs and candidates are not subject to probity protocols for such events.
Data released in February showed the two major parties declared income totalling more than $150 million to the AEC in 2020-21. But analysis by the Grattan Institute found declared donations made up only 9 percent of that total.
Most political party money is undeclared, or is classified under the murky category of “other receipts”, which includes money contributed by individuals and corporations at fundraising functions.
Centre for Public Integrity director and Melbourne Law School political finance expert Joo-Cheong Tham, said that without spending caps, all candidates come under pressure to spend big on elections, even those committed to reform.
He said transparency and probity in fund-raising were “very much compatible with effective campaigns”.
He advised candidates to adopt a “big money in small sums’ ′ approach to funding their campaigns by refusing large donations and having a mass base of small contributions.
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