$550k in 2020: Big cash to access our pollies


Queensland's major political parties cashed in by selling access to their senior decision-makers this year under a dubious fundraising scheme that was denounced a decade ago by revered corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald.

Donor records reveal Labor and the LNP have pocketed $550,000 during 2020 through their secret "business forum" schemes where cashed-up ­participants get access to the government minister or opposition MP of their choice in ­exchange for a set fee.

Industry groups, lobbyists and lawyers dominate the list of 71 organisations that paid $5500 for a single ticket to ­access the forums along with big-name Australian businesses, including Santo, Telstra and TABCORP.

Donation records show Labor and the LNP have pocketed $550,000 in 2020 through business forums that give attendees access to politicians. File picture
Donation records show Labor and the LNP have pocketed $550,000 in 2020 through business forums that give attendees access to politicians. File picture

Ahead of the October 31 state election, Labor raised the lion's share of the funding with 45 organisations coughing up a total of $396,000, while the LNP made $159,500 from 26 organisations.

The parties have continued to deploy the so-called "cash-for-access" fundraising technique, despite Mr Fitzgerald lambasting it following a series of articles in The Courier-Mail that exposed the extensive network of "Labor mates" influencing the Bligh government.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk revived the practice after it was banned by her predecessor Anna Bligh while the LNP never stopped.

In 2009, on the 20th anniversary of his landmark report, Mr Fitzgerald warned Queensland was at risk of reviving its "dark past" as ethical standards declined.

"Access can now be purchased, patronage is dispensed, mates and supporters are appointed and retired politicians exploit their political connections to obtain success fees for deals between business and government," he said.

"Neither side of politics is interested in these issues except for short-term political advantage as each enjoys or plots impatiently for its turn at the privileges and opportunities which accompany power."

Greens MP Michael Berkman said the major parties selling access to their elected MPs demonstrated why ­people no longer trusted "politics or politicians".

"Regardless of the technical legality, Labor and the LNP should immediately return these donations," he said.

"This is exactly why I introduced legislation to ban corporate donations, because Labor and the LNP will always find loopholes unless corporate donations are completely banned."

Labor state secretary Julie-Ann Campbell insisted the party's donations were legal and properly declared. She said business forum functions would be curtailed next term under reforms to cap corporate donations.

"Queensland Labor has been a leader in introducing some of the country's strongest laws in relation to disclosure and transparency," she said. "All disclosures are made in accordance with the law."

The LNP, which recently conceded it may have breached electoral laws by ­allowing a developer to attend a fundraising dinner, failed to respond to The Courier-Mail's questions.

Originally published as $550k in 2020: Big cash to access our pollies