A new study has revealed that major political parties in Australia have been taking donations of more than $14 million from gambling, alcohol and tobacco companies, with the contributions’ amounts sharply rising during debates regarding taxes on alco-pop drinks and gambling reforms.
The research was published in the latest Drug and Alcohol Review. According to the data revealed in the study results, alcohol companies were the largest contributors to major political parties with donations amounting to AU$7.7 million. Gambling businesses were second, with donations worth AU$2.8 million, while supermarket chains contributed an overall amount of AU$1.7 million.
The information revealed made some experts claim that as a result of the large donations made by the afore-mentioned industry players to major Australian political parties, local people do not get access to enough initiatives aimed at protecting them from possible effects related to gambling, alcohol or tobacco products. For some time now, the rumours that strong political lobby has prevented more serious measures to be imposed on gambling businesses offering notorious poker machines have been roaming around the sector.
Now, researchers have analysed the contributions made to state and federal parties by such businesses, apart from the ones below the AU$12,800 threshold over which contributions had to be disclosed. Findings emerged that donations have sharply increased during the debates in terms of gambling law reforms, alco-pop tax and right before federal elections.
Contributions Rise during Important Industry Debates and Federal Elections
After the revelations were made, an ex member of a political party’s staff explained that such contributions played a major part in the long-term strategy of the donors. According to the former political staffer, gambling operators, as well as alcohol and tobacco companies were aimed at finding powerful lobbyists to represent their interests in political debates.
As The Sydney Morning Herald revealed, another politician shared that “close relationships” had been normalised and further revealed that both leading parties asked the casino tycoon James Packer for his opinion at the times when the debates about the controversial pokies’ AU$1 bet limit.
According to research results, more than half of the donations’ amount – about 52% – were made to the Liberal Party. The Labour Party has received approximately 34% of the contributions, while 12% went to the Nationals.
Tobacco companies’ donations were banned by the Labour Party in 2004, while the Liberals stopped taking such contributions in 2013. For the time being, tobacco companies’ money is still being accepted by the Nationals. Alcohol industry’s donations to the then-Labour Government increased in 2008 and 2009, at the time when the tax bill regarding alco-pop products was being debated.
As far as the gambling industry donations are concerned, contributions from gambling businesses rose in 2008 and 2009 during a major inquiry into gambling.
In June, a recommendation for a ban to be imposed on donations from banks, developers, gambling operators, tobacco and liquor companies, mining companies, pharmaceutical and defence industries was made as a result of a Senate inquiry into electoral funding and disclosure reform. At the time, the lead author of the proposal, Kypros Kypri, said that election campaigns should be funded by the public.