Airline, miners, Israel generous
Gina Rinehart Photo: Bloomberg
THE Israel lobby, Qantas and mining companies are leading the charge in lavishing federal politicians with all-expenses paid junkets and other gifts, a Fairfax investigation has found.
Billionaires including Gina Rinehart, big drug companies, controversial Chinese technology company Huawei and multinational defence contractors are behind many of the ''free'' flights and high-level entertainment handed to politicians.
Politicians are being serially wooed by foreign interests, with Israel and Israeli lobby groups giving politicians 44 fully or partly funded trips to Israel and other destinations disclosed in the past two years. In contrast, Palestine sponsored just two trips in the same period.
Taiwan with 16 trips and the Tibetan government-in-exile (five) paid for more parliamentarians' trips than China (three).
Duchessing includes 82 tickets to AFL and NRL grand finals, more than 100 overseas flights, and accommodation offered by a host of donors including billionaire Andrew Forrest's Fortescue Metals Group and the kingdom of Morocco.
The Age today publishes an Australian first, a database that captures federal politicians' disclosures over the past two years, revealing the free trips and gifts they receive from powerful vested interests. The information is not released publicly except in the form of unsearchable handwritten documents.
The database reveals Qantas is the single largest giver to politicians, handing out upgrades worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mrs Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting is the second-biggest corporate provider of sponsored trips to politicians. Among trips and gifts bestowed by companies on politicians:
Two members of a Senate committee, Mark Bishop and David Johnston, accepted a charter flight from England and accommodation from major French shipbuilder DCNS to examine its factory while the committee considers a defence procurement white paper directing billions of dollars in defence spending.
Two backbench members of the Parliamentary Diabetes Support Group, Judi Moylan and Mal Washer, accepted an all-expenses-paid trip to the World Diabetes Leadership Forum in Copenhagen from drug company Novo Nordisk, a maker of diabetes medications.
Three senators, Michaelia Cash, Stephen Parry and Cory Bernardi, accepted a chartered flight between Adelaide and Canberra provided by Hancock Prospecting. Three other members, Teresa Gambaro, Julie Bishop and Barnaby Joyce, received free flights from the same company to attend the wedding of an Indian industrialist's granddaughter in India.
Julie Bishop, Bronwyn Bishop and Andrew Robb have been taken on extensive trips in China by Huawei, a telecommunications company banned from tendering for work on the national broadband network because of security concerns about its links to China.
Emeritus Professor Richard Mulgan, an Australian National University academic who has written extensively on accountability, said there should be a ''brick wall'' to gifts and hospitality from major defence contractors given the large sums of money at stake.
More generally, he questioned whether politicians accepting gifts from companies had fully considered why companies were paying to take them on trips. ''Obviously people can accept gifts and so on, but if there's any suggestion that it can influence a particular decision it's not a good look,'' he said.
Professor John Uhr, the director for the centre for the study of Australian politics at the Australian National University, said there was little policing of politicians' behaviour in accepting gifts and trips.