ABC Triple J Hack

02 February 2017



SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s $1.75 million donation to Liberal Party campaign


TOM TILLEY: We invited more than 10 Government MPs to come on the show and back up the PM. None of them were available today. Let's see what Labor has to say about Malcolm Turnbull's criticism of the donations they receive. Jim Chalmers is Labor's Shadow Finance Minister. Jim, thanks so much for joining us. We know where Turnbull's money's coming from. We know exactly what motivated him to donate it. There are no hidden agendas, no conflicts of interest here. Surely this is the purest form of donation possible?


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: G'day, Tom. Ours is a pretty simple proposition and our proposition is that the Prime Minister of this country should be the candidate with the best ideas and not necessarily the candidate with the most cash.  This donation that Malcolm Turnbull made to the Liberal Party is actually the biggest ever personal donation that's been made in Australian political history. And he says he's all for transparency, but it's been seven months since he made the donation and he's only just disclosed it to the Australian people and that was only because of the questioning on ABC TV last night, on the 7.30 program. 


TILLEY: Is it more or less ethical than Labor's Sam Dastyari getting a Chinese company to pay for his travel expenses?


CHALMERS: Sam himself has already said that that was a big mistake and he's paid the price for that. Nobody is arguing that that was appropriate, including Sam himself. Now this is an entirely different issue. I was fascinated by some of those clips that you played a moment ago because I do think that this issue has got a lot of interest in the community, because people understand that this goes to a more fundamental issue than the rules around donations. And the fundamental issue is, do we want to be the type of country where a candidate's personal wealth is a decisive factor in elections? I don't think most people want that.

TILLEY: What's wrong with someone paying their own way? I mean, if you'd been more successful in business before your political career, you could fund your own campaign.


CHALMERS: It's true that I don't have a lazy $1.75 million lying around or in the back of the couch, but...


TILLEY: Was it lazy though or did he work really hard for it?


CHALMERS: That's for him to assess how he came across it. I've got no problem with his wealth per se, but I do think there's an issue where one candidate can kick in almost a couple of million dollars into a campaign. I think most Australians, when they think about our electoral system and our democracy, they'd like to think that the playing field is fairly even and that elections aren't determined necessarily - like they might be in other countries - by the candidate with the most money.


TILLEY: You said before that you don't have a problem with this wealth, but Labor does keep pointing out that he lives in a fancy house on Sydney Harbour. Is there anything wrong with living on Sydney Harbour, because tens of thousands of people do it and they worked hard to get there?


CHALMERS: I'm glad you asked me about that actually, because Malcolm Turnbull says that we started this whole thing about “Mr Harbourside Mansion”. But you might recall that the person who started that language was Peta Credlin, who was Tony Abbott's chief-of-staff.


TILLEY: She did drop that phrase.


CHALMERS: (laughs) She did, that's where that came from. So I find it entertaining. But your broader point, sure. We've got no problem with people who earn their money the right way, who have the good fortune to live on Sydney Harbour. That's not really our point. The point that Malcolm Turnbull was making was that somehow it was inappropriate that Bill Shorten wanted to live in Kirribilli House where John Howard and a whole bunch of other Prime Ministers had lived.




CHALMERS: I think that's a distraction really from the main thing, which is this fundamental issue of whether we want to be a country where one of the decisive factors in an election is one of the candidate's bank balances.


TILLEY: Jim, interesting to speak to you. Thanks for joining us.


CHALMERS: Thanks very much.