MELBOURNE lord mayor Robert Doyle has refused to disclose how much he is spending on his Town Hall tilt - and who is footing the bill.
Responding to questions triggered by The Age transparency campaign, Cr Doyle yesterday said he was receiving no political party funding for his campaign but refused to rule out backing from developers and corporates.
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Lord mayor Robert Doyle dodges question from the press about the cost of his mayoral bid, promising to disclose his personal spending into the campaign instead.
Of the main teams seeking election, only the lord mayor's Team Doyle has ruled out revealing the source and amount of campaign funding during the election. Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden has called on candidates to disclose details of their campaign finance as part of a push to improve transparency in the funding of political campaigns.
Lord mayor aspirant David Nolte - like Cr Doyle a Liberal Party member - said his Our Melbourne ticket was happy to open its books to reveal the source of its backing.
He said there were ''real questions'' around transparency and openness in this council election. "The only way people seem to be able to get elected is if they are on one or another of the 'rich' tickets.''
The Greens yesterday declared donations and self-funding of $32,974. Lord mayor hopeful Alison Parkes said: ''Transparency and accountability have been central to our campaign, just as they are a central tenet of my professional work as an accountant. Voters will be wondering why Robert Doyle wants to keep his financial interests a secret.''
Yesterday The Age reported Doyle ticket member Carl Jetter estimating that his team would spend up to $500,000 on the campaign. Voters will start receiving postal ballots today.
The other ticket likely to spend big is the Melbourne Living team of Gary Singer and John So jnr. Mr Singer welcomed the Age campaign and described it as ''positive and laudible. We would be disappointed if other candidates did not take part,'' he said.
Cr Doyle said he would disclose how much he had spent personally on the campaign but only after the postal poll closed on October 26.
Under the Local Government Act, council candidates are required to disclose campaign gifts within 40 days of the poll. ''I can promise you the Victorian Electoral Commission has very precise requirements, very demanding requirements, and I will absolutely meet every element of those requirements, as I did last time,'' Cr Doyle said.
Both the Liberal and Labor parties yesterday refused to reform the disclosure laws. Shadow local government minister Richard Wynne called the present situation ''robust''. Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell said amendments before Parliament would shorten the 40-day post-election wait for disclosure to 14 days. The bill will also require councils to publish donations on their websites. "The proposed changes provide the appropriate level of disclosure," Mrs Powell said.
Cr Doyle, asked if voters had the right to know if political parties, developers or corporations were backing his campaign, said: ''There's no political party backing my campaign.''
Gary Morgan told The Age his campaign with John Elliott would be personally funded. ''I have not accepted a donation from anyone and will not in the future,'' he said.
African-Australian community leader and lord mayor candidate Berhan Ahmed said: ''It's important to be open and clear and transparent … We need to do it.''
With ADAM COOPER