DONATIONS to the NSW Opposition have surged ahead of those given to state Labor, with big business bankrolling the Coalition to the tune of more than $17.5 million in the past two years, compared to Labor’s $13.9 million.In a clear sign the big end of town is hoping to win favour with an incoming Coalition government, donations from the hotel, clubs and pharmaceutical sectors are outstripping those to Labor by two to one, and the finance sector and lobby firms by three to one.Even the property sector has ramped up its contribution to the Coalition’s election fund, giving $206,883 in the first six months of this year, compared with $280,069 donated to Labor.The latest figures from the NSW Election Funding Authority will prove a major challenge to Barry O’Farrell’s pledge to clean up the system of political donations.It also means the Coalition will have more to spend on campaign advertising, an area dominated by Labor since it came into power.Yesterday the Opposition Leader promised to follow the Irish Government’s decision to ban corporate donations.”Under Labor, a ‘donations for decisions’ culture has developed. It’s unhealthy for democracy and leads to a corruption of government,” Mr O’Farrell said.He has promised to ban donations from companies and non-Australian citizens and impose limits on election spending, including funds from third parties such as unions and lobby groups.However, an analysis of the 10 key industry donor groups by the NSW Greens found most are directing an increasing proportion of spending towards the conservatives. In the six months to June, the state Liberal and National parties received more than $2 million, or 52 per cent of all donations. The proportion increases when $487,323 in union donations to the ALP are excluded.”Big business is effectively bankrolling Barry O’Farrell into power,” the Greens MP and donations spokeswoman Lee Rhiannon said. ”It is fair to assume they will expect favours in return when the Coalition is elected.”The gaming industry directed 97 per cent of its $39,900 donation to the Liberals and Nationals, which also accepted $54,010 in tobacco industry money.Labor has accepted $13.9 million in donations since the last election in March 2007, including union donations.Although property groups remain the most generous non-union backers of the Labor Government, donations have dropped dramatically since new disclosure laws were introduced.The issue has the potential to revive debate over the state’s aborted attempt to abolish political donations in favour of a publicly funded model.A spokesman said the Premier, Nathan Rees, remained committed to reforming the system of political donations but believed a national approach was needed.The former federal special minister of state John Faulkner issued a green paper on election funding reform last December. ”The Premier’s personal preference is for a publicly-funded election campaign,” the spokesman said.NSW Labor’s general secretary, Matt Thistlewaite, said the state party ”supported the process of review of funding and disclosure laws being undertaken by Federal Government”.
Nanjing Night Net

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