Donations Inquiry Stymied By Iemma Government
Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday September 27, 2007
THE Iemma Government has neutered an upper house inquiry into political donations by blocking the appointment of one of the few vocal MPs on the donations issue, Lee Rhiannon of the Greens.Instead, Labor members voted for the Shooters Party MP Robert Brown and Christian Democratic Party representative Fred Nile to sit on the inquiry with Labor and Coalition members. The move came as the Government was blocked from extending trading hours for hotels in the upper house last night.Ms Rhiannon has been the only MP to speak out consistently against the power of the hotel lobby and its donations to the Labor Party. The Greens have also called for the banning of donations from developers.The Coalition has been less willing to criticise the Government on concessions given to hotels because it also relies on hotel donations. "I feel the inquiry has nobbled itself before it started," Ms Rhiannon said. "I have no confidence there will be any major donation reform." Coalition MPs voted for Ms Rhiannon to be on the committee but Mr Nile finished ahead of her, 22 votes to 19.A spokeswoman for Morris Iemma, Alison Hill, said: "Members voted for Fred Nile because of his experience of chairing parliamentary committees and because he's an MLC of integrity and honesty. It wasn't a caucus decision but I believe individual MPs believe Fred Nile is the person for the job." The Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, condemned the Government's decision.The Government was forced to withdraw a proposal to give the Minister for Gaming and Racing, Graham West, the power to declare any Sunday a "special event" and extend Sunday opening hours to 5am to midnight. The bill would also have allowed the Government to extend trading hours on any day by calling it a "special event day". The provision was contained in the Special Events Hotel Trading Bill, which the Government had advertised as providing for extended trading hours during the rugby World Cup only.Lobbyists from the Australian Hotels Association were in Parliament talking to Coalition MPs yesterday after it blocked the bill in the lower house but the Opposition and Greens held firm in the upper house and the Government backed down.The bill of the independent MP Clover Moore to allow cheaper liquor licences for small bars may have to wait until next month.A spokeswoman for the Leader of the Government in the Legislative Assembly, John Aquilina, said the bill was unlikely to make it for debate today. Mr Aquilina has the power to extend debate on private member's bills.