Election funding queried - monitor calls for investigation
THE State Electoral Commissioner has been called on to investigate the sources of funding directed at so-called pro-development candidates by the business-based group Tweed Directions in the March Council elections. The call by community watchdog group Tweed Monitor follows comments by Gold Coast public relations consultant Graham Staerk, who managed the Tweed Directions campaign which bankrolled nine of 17 candidate groups, that none of the sitting councillors knew the source of that funding. The election campaign saw the 17 teams align themselves into two rival factions with pro-development/business candidates winning six of the 11 seats - and the balance of power. Tweed Directions, headed by Mr Staerk and developer Alan Blundell, gave $168,300 directly to nine candidate teams and spent tens of thousands of dollars on a huge advertising campaign backing them. Successful candidates receiving Tweed Directions backing were Lynne Beck ($22,050), Warren Polglase and his second-runner Bernie Bell ($22,000), John Murray ($21,200), Gavin Lawrie ($17,200) and Bob Brinsmead ($16,000). Monitor president Laurie Ganter said Mr Staerk's statement that candidates were oblivious to the source of funding displayed "a monumental ignorance" of the NSW Electoral Act, which required all donations to electoral funding of $1500 or more to be fully attributed. "Would Mr Staerk have us believe that every donation to Tweed Directions was exactly $1499.99?," Mr Ganter said. "If Mr Staerk or the other directors of Tweed Directions do not immediately disclose the names of all individuals or business entities which donated $1500 or more to the Tweed Directions campaign chest, then the electoral commissioner should launch an investigation into their failure to comply with the requirements of the Act," he said. Mr Staerk's claim that keeping the names of contributors secret was a protection against allegations of possible corruption, he said, was disingenuous. "Is Mr Staerk really so naive as to have us believe that if, for instance, a major developer had contributed $20,000 to a candidate's campaign, he would not expect that candidate to stand up for his interests in Council?," Mr Ganter said.