Federal election transparency register is not so transparent

Five of the eight candidates for Robertson at the ballot draw on April 24. From left: Lucy Wicks, David Abrahams, Cath Connor, Robert Marks and Anne CharltonFive of the eight candidates for Robertson at the ballot draw on April 24. From left: Lucy Wicks, David Abrahams, Cath Connor, Robert Marks and Anne Charlton. Archive May 2019.

Coast activist, David Abrahams, who ran as an independent candidate in the Federal Election for the seat of Robertson earlier this year, said it was a shocking anomaly that his donations are public but not those from people in political parties.

The figures from independent candidates about their donations and expenditure for the May federal election were released on November 4 by the Australian Electoral Commission, but the figures for candidates from political parties will not be disclosed until 2020.

Abrahams said it was a shocking anomaly. “In my mind, it illustrates the non-level playing field between the big parties and the independents, ’’ he said.

Candidates endorsed by political parties had their disclosure statements rolled into the political party returns for the 2018-2019 financial year and will not be available for inspection until February 3, 2020.

It means the returns for candidates such as the Animal Justice Party’s, Sean Bremner Young, and the Liberals’ Lucy Wicks, who was returned as the sitting member, show nil in the candidate returns that were released this month.

“It means there is nothing to compare, it is not very transparent, ’’ Abrahams said. “I was prepared for full and live declarations at the time, and I’m surprised it was so lax. ” He said he understood the NSW Electoral Commission asked for more detailed information and was much more transparent.

Abrahams said his returns showed $45,000 in donations and only half that in expenditure but, in fact, half the donations were professional services that were donated and he had to put a dollar value to them. He didn’t make any money from the election and because he didn’t get enough votes, he did not receive any refunds from the Australian Electoral Commission.

Dobell electorate candidate, Aaron Harpley-Carr, who stood for the United Australia Party, declared donations of $4,500. Emma McBride, the sitting Member for Dobell, situated in the north of the Central Coast, was returned after the May 18 election.

As a member of the Australian Labor Party, her donations are shown as nil as are the donations for the Liberal candidate, Jillian Pilon. Gregory Stephenson, who stood as an independent in Dobell, received no donations and spent $2,225 on the election, according to the register.

Source: AEC Transparency Register, Nov 6 Press release, Nov 4 Australian electoral commission Interview, Nov 6 David Abrahams Reporter: Merilyn Vale

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