11 August 2015
I welcome media scrutiny of my parliamentary business. Politicians should be prepared to face the community and explain themselves. But the inference in The Australian newspaper today that I’m somehow corrupted by donations from maritime freight and labour interests is false and defamatory.
My interest in maritime matters is entirely unsurprising considering Tasmania is an island reliant on the sea. I’ve been equally active on Tasmanian aviation and airport safety.
Timing is important here because my interest and public activism on maritime freight and labour issues predates the 2013 donations singled out by The Australian by more than two years. For example my 2010 election 20-point negotiation with Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott included trying to secure money for upgrading Hobart port infrastructure.
Moreover during the 18 months I supported the Gillard Government, from late 2010 until early 2012, I discussed the cost of Bass Strait with the Prime Minister on a number of occasions and in March 2012 the Government announced a $20 million federal cash injection for Tasmanian exporters. And also during 2012 I met with many shipping industry stakeholders regarding coastal shipping reforms.
Equally important is influence because by the time I accepted maritime-related donations I was no longer in the balance of power and on the count-down to the 2013 federal election.
For The Australian newspaper to link my behaviour to poker machine donations is quite mischievous because that industry’s donations and those that accept them are unconscionable.
For instance the pokies industry donated millions of dollars to the Liberal and Labor parties during the previous parliament when poker machine regulation reform was being actively considered. Shadow minister Kevin Andrews in particular scored at least $75,000 from the pokies industry to support his re-election while he was the chief architect of his party’s pokies policy. The Labor Party even owns poker machine venues in Canberra.