Tony Windsor accuses Barnaby Joyce of 'self-interest' over Santos Nationals donations

Independent candidate for New England speaks of donations from mining company to federal Nationals

Tony Windsor has accused Barnaby Joyce of a conflict of interest on water security, claiming the federal National party took more than $80,000 in donations from mining company Santos after the water trigger legislation was introduced.

Windsor claimed since he introduced the water trigger legislation in 2011 to assess the impacts of large mining projects on water quality, a steady stream of donations from Santos to the National party began.

“There’s a very, very strange money trail that has developed in relation to Santos and the National party federally,” Windsor said outside his electoral office in Tamworth.

Windsor said Santos donated to the federal National party once in 2003 and again in 2009. However after the water trigger legislation was introduced in 2011, the company donated 18 times, amounting to $80,360.

According to Windsor, larger donations of $22,000 were given at the time of the 2013 federal election and in August 2014, when the environment minister Greg Hunt’s legislation to throw out the water trigger was before the parliament. Santos said the $22,000 donations were for the Nationals policy conventions held at those times.

Tony Abbott had campaigned during the 2013 election for a so-called “one-stop environmental shop”, which would remove the federal oversight put in place by Windsor and Labor, by devolving the water trigger power to the states.

Windsor said the people of New England were facing compulsory acquisitions and contaminated groundwater from Santos and other coal seam gas companies, and questioned how they could believe Joyce when he is receiving donations from the very company they are fighting.

“This is the very definition of self-interest,” said Windsor.

Joyce did not address the claims directly but lamented Windsor’s campaign strategy.

“It’s a very sad poo-throwing exercise,” he told reporters in Armidale.

Santos rejected Windsor’s assertions “categorically”.

“There is nothing strange about Santos contributing in a bipartisan manner to the ALP, Liberal party and the Nationals. Santos supports strong and stable government in Australia,” a company spokesman said.

“At all times, Santos complies with all election funding disclosure requirements and discloses all political spend, whether thresholds are reached or not. Since 2011, it is noteworthy that Santos provided and publicly reported more support for the ALP, than for the Nationals.”

“Santos rejects Mr Windsor’s claims that our explorations activities either, occur on compulsorily acquired property, or have contaminated a water source.”

Windsor said he was not opposed to donations but had never taken donations from the mining or coal seam gas industry. He called on the federal National party to return the donations “given Mr Joyce’s claims now that this is a state issue”.

.“We have this sudden increase in donations to the federal Nationals right around the time the ‘water trigger’ was being considered, ahead of the 2013 election, and before the Senate tried to neuter the ‘water trigger’ under PM Tony Abbott,” he said.”

Liberal, Labor and the National parties have been dogged by the question of political donations during the campaign.

The federal Liberals have been fending off suggestions there was anything inappropriate in Liberal MPs paying a company associated with the party for voter software, when the company in turn donated back to the party.

Bishop said company Parakeelia provided software for MPs and its operations were entirely legitimate.

The foreign affairs minister was asked about the suggestion that “these taxpayer-funded MPs allowance are being channelled back into the Liberal party”.

“I reject that allegation,” Julie Bishop said. “All parliamentarians receive a sum of money to pay for office expenses including a small amount – well I think it’s a modest amount – for software costs and the Liberal party, like the Labor party has a provider for these software services that operates with normal business costs – staffing and equipment and technology upgrades and the like.

“I’m informed that the payments we make to the service provider don’t generate a profit, so they’re not donations and that the operations of this service provider are entirely legitimate.”

ABC’s Michael Brissenden asked: “So there’s nothing wrong with that company then transferring, I think the figure was $500,000 to the federal Liberal division last year?”

“Well, my understanding that payments for services provided through the party, that it’s entirely legitimate,” Bishop said.

Meanwhile, Crikey reported the Labor Business Forum was holding a “business exchange” for participants to meet a range of ministers including Catherine King, Kim Carr, Chris Bowen and Jason Clare. The event costs $10,000 per head.


Gabrielle Chan

The GuardianTramp

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