By Julia Holman and Caitlyn Gribbin
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been accused of getting “out his wallet” to win an election, after he admitted to donating almost $2 million to the Liberal Party in the last campaign.
Mr Turnbull had repeatedly dodged questions about the details of his donation, but changed his mind during an interview with the ABC’s 7.30 program last night.
“I contributed $1.75 million, that was the contribution I made,” Mr Turnbull said.
“It’s been talked about and speculated about, so there it is.”
Shadow finance minister Jim Chalmers said political pressure forced Mr Turnbull to put a figure on his donation.
“He couldn’t win an election on his merits so he got out his wallet,” Mr Chalmers said.
“If he didn’t have $1.75 million to splash about he wouldn’t be the leader of the Liberal Party and he wouldn’t be the Prime Minister.”
The donation was made during the current financial year and, under the rules, could have remained undisclosed for another 12 months.
Treasurer Scott Morrison launched a scathing attack on Mr Chalmers, describing him as a “grubby political hack”.
“It’s a grubby political smear from a grubby political hack, from a party of hacks led by Bill Shorten,” he said.
Mr Morrison said the Prime Minister was one of the most generous and humble men he knew, who donated to hospitals and social causes as well as the Liberal Party.
“Generosity and humility are generally not two phrases I would ascribe to the Leader of the Opposition,” he said.
“If he wants to own that grubby smear from Jim Chalmers he should come and say it himself, rather than getting his lackey to come out and say it for him.”
A duty to give back.
Mr Turnbull said he had done well in life and believed it was part of his “duty to give back”.
He argued he had invested in his own party, while claiming Labor was beholden to the unions.
“I’ve put my money into ensuring that we didn’t have a Labor government. I put my money into the Liberal Party’s campaign,” he said.
“I am not beholden to the CFMEU like Bill Shorten is. I am not beholden to left-wing unions, who own Bill Shorten.”
Mr Chalmers argued the Opposition had more integrity than the Government on the issue of political donations.
“Labor discloses its donations in the proper way, actually we do more than is required of us by law,” he said.
“On the other side of the Parliament, Malcom Turnbull chips in $1.75 million, he tries to keep it a secret for as long as possible, it’s an extraordinary amount.”
Mr Turnbull has said he would be open to more timely declarations of campaign contributions.
‘Americanisation of Australian politics.’
South Australian senator Nick Xenophon said the major parties were as bad as each other when it came to political donations.
“People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and this is one hell of a big glasshouse,” he told AM.
He said the whole system of political donations needed to be changed and there should be real-time disclosure of contributions.
“There’s almost a prurient interest in the PM’s donation to his political party of this magnitude,” he said.
“The real issue has to be the lack of transparency, the opaqueness of our current donation disclosure laws where we don’t really know who’s pulling the strings when it comes to making those big donations.”
Former Liberal federal treasurer Michael Yabsley is a campaigner for political donation reform.
“I would describe the situation as it is as the Americanisation of Australian politics,” he said.
“The donations that are received are really the grease that makes the wheels turn, and I think that is unhealthy, it is unseemly, and it should be changed.”
He wants political donations to be capped at $500.
“A donation of $1.75 million, be it from the bloke down the street or the Prime Minister, should be banned,” he said.
Neither side of politics is calling for a cap on political donations, but Mr Turnbull said he was open to the idea of reform, including real-time disclosures — an issue that is currently before the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
© 2017 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. Read the ABC Disclaimer here.