Ban unions before property developers

Just before calling this state election the Labor government introduced a bill to ban donations to political parties by property developers. As a result we have done a comprehensive analysis of donations since January 1 2016. (Click here to download the full report.)

Our analysis into the source of donations to Queensland state political parties shows there is no reason to single out property developers at a state level. The only industry which appears to exert undue influence over government is the trade union movement.

The report also finds that the ban has boosted ALP financial resources versus the LNP, by depriving the LNP of around $519,524.45 since the ban was announced – a period during which the ALP has received $405,083.89  in financial contributions from various unions.

We believe a ban on union donations warranted because of the size of donations given by individual unions, that they boast about the influence this buys them, and the character and reputation of a number of these unions, particularly the CFMEU and United Voice. As government is their largest employer, they also have a conflict of interest.

Major points in the analysis:

  • The ban on donations from property developers and associates has robbed the LNP of $519, 524.45 so far in the election campaign, at the same time that the ALP has taken $405,083.89 from various unions.
  • Political donations are essential for healthy parties with $11,408,274.81 donated between 1/1/2016 and 11/10/2017. The LNP raises more money than the ALP, but none of the returns show support from volunteers or conscripts, including paid employees, such as union organisers, put to work in campaigns. Cash donations represent less than 100% of actual donations.
  • Property developers and unions were the largest source of donations. Developers gave $2,162,316 split between ALP and LNP, and unions gave $1,117,533, almost exclusively to the ALP. Combine property and union donations provided the LNP with $1,747,841 and the ALP with $1,512,773.
  • The average donated by a property developer over the period was $10,920.79, and from a union $42,982.04. Individual unions are likely to wield more influence on average than individual property developers.
  • Individual donations to political parties are quite small compared to donations in the charitable sector. The average political donation from a corporation is $6,686, while the average charitable donation from a smaller business is $5,800, and SME $598,000 and a large corporation $5,000,000.
  • 1,417 individual entities donated to state political parties. This shows a healthy democracy with broad participation in supporting the civil societies which participate in elections.
  • The largest donor to a Queensland political party over the period before property donations were banned was United Voice, with $303,631.77. The most generous property developer was Springfield, which gave just less than half this amount, splitting it almost evenly between the major parties.
  • United Voice’s donation is 8.6% of the ALP’s total revenue in the period. This is more likely to buy influence than the largest donation to the LNP which was only 2.4% of revenue.
  • Unions are the most likely donor to have a conflict of interest. Their most significant employer is government. So any deal they do with candidates to influence government policy puts them on both sides of the industrial relations negotiating table.
  • The Electronic Disclosure System makes donations very transparent. It is unlikely that a donor is donating to gain undue influence, and if they are, it can easily be tracked, and voters, or law enforcement officers, can make a decision based on this.
  • Unions, such as United Voice, have openly boasted of their control of government in return for supporting specific candidates. They are the only organisations on the record as asserting that they hold influence due to supporting specific candidates.
  • A number of unions, but in particular the CFMEU, break the law with impunity and have office-holders who would fail a “fit and proper” test. As far as we can tell, the other large donors to political parties are model citizens.