Monday, 9 February 2009

Republican friendship ensures cheap election victory

While Victoria is bracing for the deadliest bush fires in the state’s history, there is someone in Australia, who might be quite relieved that this horror takes the fire away from another story: Malcolm Turnbull had to face revelations that he received a $US50,000 ($A75,000) donation for his election campaign in Wentworth last March from Peter Briger. As The Sunday Age reported on 8th February, Mr Briger is president and director of the controversial "vulture company" Fortress Investment Group, one of the companies involved in the subprime lending business that contributed to the still unfolding global financial crisis. Mr Briger was listed by Forbes magazine in 2007 as having a net worth of $US2.3 billion. He is also a former partner at Goldman Sachs, the same company where Mr Turnbull made his millions as a merchant banker.

The top republican in the Liberal Party had received Peter Briger’s campaign donation in March, but Turnbull disclosed it to the Australian Electoral Commission in November (according to The Sunday Age). However, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 12th May 2008 on Malcolm Turnbull’s electoral campaign (Turnbull chipped in $70,000 to win). According to the SMH, Turnbull had “spent just over $70,000 of his own money on the hard-fought election campaign for the Sydney eastern suburbs electorate of Wentworth at last year's federal poll. … His return to the AEC shows he spent $49,202 on producing campaign material such as how to vote cards, posters and pamphlets, $18,802 on direct mailing and $3,768 in election advertisements.

Mr Turnbull did not disclose any separate donations to his local campaign.

"The latest BRW estimate on the Turnbulls puts his and wife Lucy's worth at $133 million (although some pundits claim it could be as high as $170 million)," wrote Katharine Murphy on 19th September 2008 in A bit rich. Donating $70,000 to his own election victory seems to be a very profitable investment. With a little help from his friends he made it to the top of the opposition.

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