10 September 2008
"Hunter audiences are now being bombarded with expensive media advertising by candidates and groups running in Saturday's council elections, but have no way of knowing who is funding this advertising," the Greens Newcastle Lord Mayoral and Ward 1 candidate, Cr Michael Osborne, said.
"Mass media advertising - especially on television - is very expensive. Declarations lodged after the 2004 council elections demonstrated how dependent many so-called 'Independent' campaigns were on donations from developers and other vested interests (see earlier post here).
"In the 2004 election, the local media were able to reveal that developers were bankrolling the Hunter Citizens group, which stood candidates throughout Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, but failed to win a single seat once voters realised - through the media - who they were really representing.
"Whilst the issue of political donations has been running hot in the Sydney media, there has been little local coverage of this issue, despite Newcastle coming in seventh on Democracy4Sale's newly released league table of political donations for the 2004 NSW council elections.
"The Greens have already called on other groups running in the Newcastle council elections to publicly disclose the sources of their election funding well before election day. I have already done this for The Greens' Newcastle and Lake Macquarie campaigns (see my earlier post). No other candidate or group running in the Newcastle council election has done this, and time is now running out.
"What little information has come out about local campaign funding sources has been disturbing. In one reported case, Newcastle Independent Lord Mayoral candidate Cr Buman couldn't correctly answer a journalist's question about whether a local developer had donated to his campaign. Cr Buman is now running expensive television ads - where is the money to pay for these coming from?
"In the case of the current Lord Mayor, John Tate, election funding disclosures lodged after the 2004 council elections revealed donations to his campaign from a whole range of vested interests (featuring names such as Hardie Holdings, McCloy, Stronach and Grugeon). Are such interests still funding Cr Tate's 2008 campaign?
"Local Labor candidates claim that they are not taking developer donations, but - in the light of the record of their NSW state counterparts and their willingness to swap preferences with candidates who do receive developer donations - why should voters believe this if they aren't prepared to declare their funding sources up front?
Cr Osborne reiterated his call for these candidates and groups to come clean on where their money was coming from before Saturday's election, and appealed to the local media to help protect the public interest by giving more attention to this important issue.
For further information or comment, contact Michael Osborne on 0439 442 984.