SYDNEY — Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed he made a $1.75 million donation to his party to support its efforts in the 2016 federal election.
Turnbull, a former Goldman Sachs executive, is a self-made multi-millionaire and the scale of his financial contribution to his party’s re-election efforts after he seized leadership in late 2015 has been the subject of much speculation.
“I contributed $1.75 million. That was the contribution I made. It’s been talked about, it’s been speculated about, so there it is,” Turnbull told ABC TV in an interview with Stan Grant.
“That’s a substantial contribution but I can assure you we make big contributions to many important enterprises and causes. I’ve always been prepared to put my money where my mouth is.”
“Now here’s the difference. I put my money into ensuring that we didn’t have a Labor government. I put my money into the Liberal Party’s campaign. I am not beholden to the CFMEU like Bill Shorten is. I’m not beholden to left wing unions who own Bill Shorten,” he said, referring to the opposition leader. (The full transcript of the PM’s remarks in context is at the foot of this post.)
After toppling Tony Abbott as prime minister, Turnbull went on to lead the Coalition to re-election, but only securing a one-seat majority margin in the House of Representatives.
Turnbull today made a major speech outlining the government’s objectives for the year ahead, but with campaign donation disclosures being released this week, there were always going to be questions about the true level of his financial support for his re-election campaign.
His donations were not included in today’s public disclosures as they fell in the current financial year. Election day was July 2, a Saturday, which logically implies the donation must have been made after the close of business on June 30th, or soon before.
In the final weeks of the election campaign, various senior Liberal sources told Business Insider that the party was struggling for finance, fighting a losing battle against the Australian Labour Party where funding was coming from its supporting unions.
Despite repeated requests, none of these sources were willing to provide details or supporting evidence about the funding shortfall, so we were unable to report it at the time.
The election, which Turnbull took a gamble on by calling a complete dissolution of both houses of the Parliament, also resulted in a more complex upper house, with the Senate now featuring a record level of 20 cross-bench members. They are chiefly from the Greens, the populist conservative One Nation, and the protectionist Nick Xenophon Team whose support base is concentrated in South Australia, where unemployment has been rising thanks to the collapse of the car manufacturing and mining industries.
Here’s the transcript of Turnbull’s remarks:
STAN GRANT: Crucial today again, Bill Shorten spoke about it yesterday, this integrity in politics and the loss of faith in politics. You spoke about entitlements. You prefer to call them work experiences.
PRIME MINISTER: Well they are work expenses.
No they are but if we are talking about integrity and there are questions about your donations to the Liberal Party but you won’t release that?
PRIME MINISTER: Stan, I think Australians are more interested in what I am doing with their money than what I am doing with my own. Now, I have always been a supporter of the causes I believe in. Lucy and I have always been generous. We know –
STAN GRANT: Why are you shy about releasing it though?
PRIME MINISTER: If you just hear me out, I’ll tell you. We have always been generous because we know that we have done well in life and we believe it is part of our duty to give back. So we’ve always been philanthropic.
STAN GRANT: To the Liberal Party?
PRIME MINISTER: To the Liberal Party we gave, in the last – in the course of this current financial year, which is why it hasn’t yet been disclosed on the AEC – I contributed $1.75 million. That was the contribution I made. It has been talked about and speculated about so there it is.
STAN GRANT: $1.75 million.
PRIME MINISTER: $1.75 million. That’s a substantial contribution, I can assure you we make big contributions to many important enterprises and causes. I’ve always been prepared to put my money where my mouth is.
Now, here’s the difference – I put my money into ensuring that we didn’t have a Labor Government. I put my money into the Liberal Party’s campaign.
I am not beholden to the CFMEU like Bill Shorten is. I am not beholden to left-wing unions, who own Bill Shorten.
I put my money where my mouth is. I stand up for my values, with the money that I’ve made, the money I’ve paid tax on, and Bill Shorten wants to go after me all the time. He says I’m ‘Mr Harbourside Mansion’. Let me tell you this, Stan, I do live with Lucy in a nice house on the water in Sydney. Yes, we do. And we paid for it. We pay the expenses on it. That’s our house. Bill Shorten wants to live in a harbourside mansion for which every expense is paid for by the taxpayer. That’s the big difference. So what he is doing, what he is doing, is trying to run an old-fashioned politics of envy campaign.
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