The government has defended its handling of political donations amid revelations a frontbencher received $20,000 from a gambling lobby while crafting the coalition’s poker machines policy.
Liberal frontbencher Kevin Andrews says any suggestion his decision making was influenced by the donations from Clubs NSW is “wrong and offensive”.
Clubs NSW donated $20,000 in 2013 and another $10,000 last year to the Victorian-based Menzies 200 Club that supports Mr Andrews, the local federal member for Menzies, according to Australian Electoral Commission records.
The first donation was made while Mr Andrews, as opposition spokesman on social services, led the formulation of the coalition’s pokies policy before the 2013 election and the second came after his bill to alter poker machine regulations was passed, Fairfax reports.
The report did not suggest the donations directly influenced Mr Andrew’s decision making.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott is confident his government has handled political donations in accordance with the rules.
He dismissed concerns the donations influenced Coalition policy, saying the policy had been “well settled” long before any donation.
He sought to put the heat on Labor instead, telling reporters in Sydney that Clubs NSW had donated to both political parties and the bigger issue was donations from the union movement to the Labor party.
In a statement, Mr Andrews said the Coalition’s gambling policy was publicly known at least 24 months before the 2013 election.
He said the Coalition released its discussion paper on gambling reform in 2011 and the policy it took to the election was only slightly different.
The Menzies 200 Club was an associated Liberal Party entity that supported party campaigns and was subject to strict disclosure rules, he said.
Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull defended Mr Andrews, saying the donations were “entirely lawful” and fully disclosed.
“Political donations have never influenced my decisions, ever,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“I don’t believe there’s any evidence that they have influenced the policies of the Liberal party.”
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and the Greens called for reform of political donation laws.
Senator Xenophon said donations of this size should be disclosed within a month, but current disclosure laws allow a “ridiculous” lag of 20 months before donations are made public.
He said there were questions about why Clubs NSW would have made donations to Mr Andrews, whose Victorian electorate of Menzies is 750km away from the lobby group’s headquarters.
The coalition had been “cynically” out of touch with the community on poker machine reform well before the donation was made, he said.
“I’m not sure why they bothered because it seems the coalition has been doing the bidding of the poker machine lobby for quite some time before these donations,” he told AAP from Bangkok on Monday.
Treasurer Joe Hockey played down the need for reform.
“If you decrease private fundraising, then you have to increase taxpayer funded election campaigns,” he told ABC Radio.