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Electoral Commission Clears Most Of Thomson’s Election Spending

The Australian Electoral Commission says less than one tenth of $260,000 of Health Services Union funds used by Craig Thomson in his Dobell campaign remains in question.

A report issued by the AEC says most of the funds spent by Thomson’s campaign were within the reporting guidelines laid down in the Electoral Act.

The AEC report stemmed from Fair Work Australia’s report that said Thomson used more than $260,000 of union funds in Dobell.

The AEC is seeking further information on items totalling $17,014.88.

The AEC report on the HSU is available as a PDF at the end of this page.

Media release from the Australian Electoral Commission.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) today released its analysis of the information contained in the Report of the Delegate to the General Manager of Fair Work Australia – “Investigation into the National Office of the Health Services Union under section 331 of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009” (the FWA Report) dated 28 March 2012 against the reporting obligations contained in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act).

Part XX of the Electoral Act sets out the obligations of individuals and organisations for disclosure, the time at which disclosures need to be made, the thresholds that apply to disclosure and the types of expenditure and donations that must be disclosed. In broad terms:

  • Disclosure obligations fall on Mr Thomson as a candidate, the HSU National Office and the NSW Branch of the Australian Labor Party. The Electoral Act sets out separate reporting obligations for each of these entities
  • Reporting obligations on new candidates in relation to donations used for election purposes arise only after a candidate is pre-selected as a candidate for an election – in Mr Thomson’s case this was after 13 April 2007
  • Reporting obligations on candidates for political expenditure arise only in respect of amounts expended during the election period (i.e. after issue of the writ – which occurred on 17 October 2007 for the 2007 election) and apply only to certain types of expenditure generally in the nature of political advertising
  • HSU National Office has reporting obligations both as a donor and a third party incurring political expenditure. These reporting obligations arise over several years from 2006 to 2008
  • The relevant branch of the political party which endorses the candidate, in this case the ALP NSW Branch, is responsible for reporting on political campaign expenses
  • Thresholds apply to the reporting of details of donations and political expenditure. The thresholds that were in place during the period covered by the FWA report were $10,300 for the 2006-2007 financial year and $10,500 for the 2007-2008 financial year

The AEC has examined the disclosure returns made by all relevant parties in relation to the period covered by the FWA Report.  The AEC notes that few of the individual transactions reported in Chapter 7 of the FWA Report exceeded the respective disclosure thresholds applying for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 financial years.

Accordingly detailed disclosure of the particulars set out in subsection 314AC(3) of the Electoral Act (e.g. the name and address of donors) would not, therefore, have been required on the returns lodged by either the HSU National Office or by the ALP NSW Branch. However, some items of expenditure that have been identified would have been required to be incorporated into the total of all amounts received or paid in the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 annual returns of the HSU National Office and of the ALP NSW Branch. Inquiries have been made to establish whether that has occurred.

In relation to the amounts listed at paragraph 197 of the FWA Report the following table sets out their status under the Electoral Act.

Expense Amount Disclosure to the AEC
Establishment of the Campaign Office $4,826.99 Under the threshold – Further information sought to establish whether disclosed by ALP NSW or HSU
Payments to Dobell FEC $3,500.00 Under the threshold – Further information sought to establish whether disclosed by ALP NSW or HSU
Campaign bus $1,277.96 Under the threshold – Further information sought to establish whether disclosed by the ALP NSW or HSU
Postage expenses $9,574.17 Disclosed by the HSU National Office
Payments to LBH Promotions $7,409.93 Under the threshold – Further information sought to determine whether disclosed by HSU
ALP advertising $12,511.40 Disclosed by HSU National Office
Radio advertising $18,731.00 Disclosed by HSU National Office
Printing expenses $13,468.78 Disclosed by HSU National Office
Total $71,300.23  

Accordingly, of the above amounts, the AEC is currently seeking further information about four items of expenditure which total $17,014.88. The other amounts identified at paragraph 197 of the FWA Report have been disclosed.

In relation to amounts expended on the employment of Ms Crisalee Stevens and Mr Mathew Burke, paragraph 119 of Chapter 1 of the FWA Report indicates that their salaries were included in the HSU National Office third party expenditure returns for 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.

There is no requirement under the Electoral Act for disclosure by Mr Thomson in relation to the Central Coast Rugby League as the payments occurred outside the disclosure period as defined in the Act.

Expenditure in relation to Dads in Education Father’s Day Breakfast, Golden Years Collectables and Central Coast Convoy for Kids each fall below the threshold established by the Act for reporting.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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