ACT News


$300,000 discrepancy in ACT Liberals' election funding returns

A $300,000 discrepancy has emerged in the ACT Liberal Party's financial declarations to two different electoral authorities in the same month.

Financial disclosure documents reveal the $300,000 difference in debts disclosed on the party's annual return lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission in October and an amended return lodged with Elections ACT in the same month.

The AEC published its 2012-13 financial returns for political parties and donors on Monday.

The documents show ACT Liberal Party officials gave a fuller picture to federal authorities of the party's financial woes, listing a $296,000 bank overdraft among the party's total debts for 2012-13.

The sum was among $333,071 in debt the party declared on its AEC return, which was signed off on October 18 last year.

But an amended annual return the party submitted to Elections ACT a week earlier did not declare the overdraft, listing just $47,161 in debt.


The returns to both electoral bodies were signed off by the party's former president, Tio Faulkner.

Mr Faulkner did not return calls for comment on Thursday.

The party's new president, Peter Collins, said: ''If there was an incorrect return put in, it was in error.

''I've had three meetings with the ACT electoral commissioner and we're going right through our compliance issues,'' Mr Collins said.

''There is no intention to mislead or be devious.''

Financial disclosure laws require political parties to declare their total debts and receipts to electoral authorities each financial year.

But while Elections ACT publishes the documents it receives on the first working day in September each year, the AEC does not publish its documents until February the next year.

Canberra Liberal rank-and-file members were clamouring for full disclosure of the party's finances before its annual general meeting in November last year, when new senior officials were elected.

The local branch has endured months of chaos after it was revealed Elections ACT had received two complaints that the party's administrative officials did not declare up to $436,000 owed to creditors.

The undisclosed debts included the $296,000 overdraft with St George bank and a $140,000 debt the party was disputing with Australia Post.

In response to the controversy, the territory's electoral commissioner, Phil Green, announced last week he could recommend changes to ACT law to force political parties to declare disputed debts.

The Liberals' failure to declare the overdraft is still being investigated as part of an audit of the territory's political parties.

Liberal Party chiefs did not report the $296,000 debt until November, when the allegations were published by Fairfax Media. The party was fined $16,500 late last year for breaching ACT electoral disclosure laws by failing to report almost $40,000 it received in gifts and donations.

The Canberra Liberals' parliamentary leader, Jeremy Hanson, said last week there were a range of issues in the territory's electoral finance laws that should be reviewed.

''I welcome that the Electoral Commissioner is doing that - it's a positive thing,'' Mr Hanson said. '''If the intent is to make the process more transparent and accountable, then we would welcome that in principle.''


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