The independent NSW MP and Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore appeared before the state’s inquiry into electoral and political funding in April 2008. In the midst of the unfolding Wollongong scandal involving property donations, Moore made a number of suggestions for reform of the electoral funding system in order to avoid undue influence by individuals and companies on decisions made by governments.
Among her many recommendations, Moore suggested ethics training for members of Parliament, banning donations from high risk industries such as property, liquor (including hoteliers), gaming and tobacco companies, better disclosure of fundraising events and disclosure of donations before elections.
Moore has advocated banning donations from the property industry for decades and has constantly maintained she never takes such money for her campaigns. In light of Moore’s statements and recommendations about political donations it is important to examine how closely she actually follows her stated principles and advice to others.
In early 2004 the NSW Labor government forced the amalgamation of Sydney and South Sydney Councils in spite of strong community opposition. Fearing Labor control of both the state government and the richest council in NSW, I volunteered to work on Moore’s campaign for Lord Mayor of Sydney. I had only met Moore a few times, but I believed in her public persona as a principled politician interested in the welfare of local residents and opposed to property donations.
Throughout the campaign I worked three to four days a week helping manage her campaign office. While I saw some disturbing aspects of campaign meetings which gave me cause for concern, it was when I heard the campaign could only survive if the promised $30,000 of money from Living Sydney Ltd. was received by Moore’s campaign that I began to have serious doubts.
As director of the Greens "Democracy4Sale" research project I had explored the funding of Living Sydney — a company that raised funds for Frank Sartor’s campaigns for Lord Mayor of Sydney in 1995 and 1999. I knew that almost 70 per cent of its funds had come from direct donations and money spent at fundraising events by property companies. Much of the remainder came from hoteliers.
I immediately informed one of Moore’s advisors that by accepting such money she would be breaking one of her major promises to the community. My concerns were brusquely pushed aside and ignored. Pragmatics triumphed over principles when campaign funding was needed.
When the story of the sources of the Living Sydney money was made public in 2007, Moore responded to the suggestion of hypocrisy by saying that the money "was considerably less than half my campaign fund, and I accepted it on the condition that it was not sourced from developers." She failed to reveal that the Living Sydney money comprised over 48 per cent of her 2004 campaign funds.
When the Sydney Morning Herald examined the issue of Living Sydney money combined with reports of large donations from Peter Holmes à Court in the 2007 NSW election, Moore again replied she had received assurances from Lucy Turnbull and Fabian Marsden, who were directors of Living Sydney Ltd in 2004, that the money was not sourced from property developers. However, both Turnbull and Marsden denied they gave such assurances.
This year the Democracy4Sale research team moved from working only on political donations reported to the Australian Electoral Commission and began to explore political contributions reported to the NSW Election Funding Authority by state MPs.
When large discrepancies were found between the 2007 returns of Labor’s Jodi Mackay in Newcastle and Linda Scott in Sydney and the money reported by their respective donors, we began to conduct research on other politicians and their donations for the 2007 NSW election as well as earlier elections.
The Greens research team found that Clover Moore has received donations from property interests in every election since 1999. She has also admitted she took more money for the recent 2008 Sydney Council election from Living Sydney Ltd.
Our research found that in the lead-up to the 1999 state election Moore accepted donations from companies associated with developer Josef Reisinger, whose companies have been responsible for large and important developments throughout the Sydney area.
During the 1999 campaign Moore also received money from the hotel industry, including a large donation from the Australian Hotels Association. Although Moore has never denied taking money from hoteliers, she has classified them as among the "high risk" industries and in 2008 called for banning such donations.
In Moore’s four election campaigns since 1999 she has continued to accept donations from property interests, and small contributions from hotels at least through the 2007 NSW state election. The public only learned of the Living Sydney money for her 2008 campaign during a public forum three days before the Sydney Council election.
Unfortunately Moore refused to disclose the donations her campaign received prior to the 2008 Sydney Council election in spite of calling for such disclosure just months earlier. Therefore, we don’t have information on the extent of property money she may have received and if she again accepted hotel contributions.
When the Democracy4Sale team exposed the extent of Moore reliance on property money in her various election campaigns, her response was to attack. She wrote in her newsletter that the Greens were engaged in "a cheap game of smearing their opponents for political advantage". Her tactic was to attack the messenger rather than take a more statesmanlike stance and apologise for having accepted property money while denying she took it.
After her impressive victory in the recent council election she still couldn’t accept the Greens exposure of her past behaviour. She used such terms as "campaigning negatively", "ugliness" and "grossly hypocritical" while speaking of the Greens.
Moore also attacked the Greens for the allocation of preferences in the recent local council election in order to deflect attention from her problems. Her information was partly inaccurate. The Greens preferenced Moore on the Lord Mayor’s ballot. Also in past state and local government elections the Greens have preferenced Moore before the major party candidates.
But in the 2008 council election the Greens did preference the Labor Party on the ballot for Sydney City councillors before the Clover Moore Party because at a local level Labor councillors have often been more progressive than certain members of the Moore Party.
Moore also supported the very same Labor government she so strongly criticises in a no-confidence vote last week. Had the motion passed, the long suffering NSW public would have been able to decide the state government’s fate in a new election.
The main lesson to be learned from this case study of Clover Moore’s statements compared to her actual behaviour is that we can’t allow politicians to self regulate their behaviour when it comes to political donations. This clearly demonstrates that it is crucial that we achieve true reform of the electoral funding system not only in NSW but throughout Australia.
The Greens have argued on numerous occasions that such reform must include banning donations from corporations and other organisations, capping donations from individuals, banning foreign donations and adopting strict limits on electoral expenditure. Not only would such measures bring much-needed reform to the electoral funding system, it would save politicians from their own hypocrisy.
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