Singtel-owned Optus refutes allegations of making illegal donations to Australian political parties

An Optus spokesman said all its donations to political entities in Australia were legal and fully disclosed, despite claims suggesting otherwise. PHOTO: OPTUS

SINGAPORE – Australian telco Optus, which is wholly owned by Singtel, has refuted claims made by an Australian website that it was a foreign donor making illegal donations to political entities there.

Under the Australian Electoral Commission’s (AEC) rules, foreign donors are only allowed to give amounts less than A$100 (S$89) to political entities, except for specific circumstances.

As at Australian financial year 2022, which ran from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, donations of A$1,000 up to the disclosure threshold of A$14,500 required political entities to get written confirmation within six weeks that donors were not foreign ones.

Meanwhile, besides written confirmation, political entities needed to do their own due diligence to ensure donors were not foreign if the donations made were equal to or more than the disclosure threshold.

Moreover, entities that are either incorporated or have their head office, or principal place of activity, in Australia are not considered foreign donors – criteria that Optus fulfilled.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a spokesman for Optus said it “strongly refutes the false online allegations made around the legality of our political donations”.

The spokesman explained that the A$69,900 in donations the telco made between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, to Australian political parties were related to payments for tickets to business roundtables and events, which other corporate entities attended as well.

“Participating in these ticketed events is a standard corporate practice in Australia and supports the democratic process,” the spokesman said, adding that all its donations were legal and fully disclosed under the AEC’s rules.

The allegations were made by The Klaxon, an Australia-based website that describes itself as a news outlet that specialises in exposing business malfeasance and government corruption.

It had also claimed that Optus did not pay any income tax in financial year 2021, when it reported a total income of A$8.4 billion.

However, a check by ST showed that Optus’ tax transparency report filed for that financial year indicated the firm had made a A$437 million loss before its income tax expense.

This had put it at a tax loss, exempting it from paying income tax.

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