Turnbull donated $1m to party's election bid: Paper

SYDNEY • Australia's wealthy Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reportedly made a large personal donation to the conservative Liberal Party during the recent fiercely fought elections, in a move ridiculed by the Labor opposition.

The multi-millionaire, whose Liberal/National coalition was narrowly re-elected, handed over A$1 million (S$1.03 million) of his own money in the final weeks of the campaign with the party "desperate... for finances", The Australian newspaper said yesterday.

The party did not deny the alleged bailout but said in a statement that "the claim in today's Australian that the Liberal Party is 'either in debt or broke' is false".

The newspaper said the money was a "tightly kept secret" known only to some of the party's federal officials and a small number of Mr Turnbull's closest confidants.

The money was said to have been used to fund television advertising, direct mail-outs and opinion polls near the end of the eight-week campaign.

The donation was mocked by senior opposition Labor politician Anthony Albanese, who told broadcaster Channel Nine: "I wish we had someone who had a lazy A$1 million sitting in the corner that could just plonk into the campaign." Labor relies on donations and affiliation fees from trade unions for much of its funding.

Mr Turnbull is reportedly worth A$200 million through his previous careers as a barrister, businessman and investment banker.

The Australian said it is not the first time Mr Turnbull has donated to the Liberal Party. In 2002, he gave A$150,000, and in the 2004-05 financial year, he donated A$140,000. Under the coun- try's law, political parties receive public funding according to how well they perform in an election.

The funding, which is received after the polls, is usually insufficient to pay for campaigns, with parties having to approach donors - individuals and companies - to boost their kitty.

All donations above A$13,000 at the national level have to be disclosed, with the latest contributions to be revealed next year.

The Liberal Party's New South Wales branch had A$4.4 million withheld from its coffers earlier this year by the electoral commission for not disclosing the identity of major donors in the 2011 state elections.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2016, with the headline 'Turnbull donated $1m to party's election bid: Paper'. Print Edition | Subscribe