More political donations innuendo

An AFR op-ed last Friday cited an anonymous corporate affairs head giving as one reason for ceasing political donations ‘some fear around our reputation’.

And little wonder, given the flimsy grounds on which businesspeople are subject to political donations innuendo.

A page one story in The Weekend Australian did at least – unlike other political donations investigations – start with something that looked a bit suspicious, a favourable deal for Credit Suisse in the now-infamous OzCar scheme.

But from there we head off on a particularly tenuous drawing of links:

The Weekend Australian can reveal that John O’Sullivan, the chairman of investment banking for Credit Suisse, donated more than $20,000 to the Wentworth Forum, the Opposition Leader’s political fighting fund.

But why is this relevant? The Opposition was working to discredit a Labor scheme that benefited Credit Suisse, a funny kind of buying influence for a Credit Suisse executive.

The Weekend Australian’s potential angle is that O’Sullivan might have given OzCar info to Turnbull, but there is no motive and no evidence, as the paper admits:

The Weekend Australian understands that although there were some email exchanges between Mr Grech and Mr O’Sullivan, Mr O’Sullivan was not Mr Grech’s main point of contact within Credit Suisse.

Nor was Mr O’Sullivan the final decision-maker on Credit Suisse’s fees for its work on the OzCar fund, which Wayne Swan announced yesterday would become operational on Tuesday.

And The Weekend Australian understands Mr O’Sullivan was out of the country in the lead-up to the fee revisions.

There is no evidence to suggest Mr Grech was aware of Mr O’Sullivan’s links to Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party before his proposal that the fees be changed.

In other words, the O’Sullivan donation is irrelevant and not worth reporting at all, let alone as a page one innuendo.

With the newsworthiness threshold for reporting donations insinuations set below zero, all the more reason to resist lowering the threshold for donations disclosure to $1,000, and sparing people with an interest in politics these smears.

[Disclosure: I have met O'Sullivan a few times at functions.]

6 Responses to “More political donations innuendo

  • 1
    Rajat Sood
    August 31st, 2009 14:14

    Interesting that O’Sullivan was targeted even though he is (still?) married to Janet Albrechtsen.

  • 2
    jc
    August 31st, 2009 14:17

    Also interesting that union money isn’t considered.

    I wonder if an equal advertising campaign to the union/ALP slog against Workchoices would have beeen equally tolerated.

  • 3
    Andrew Norton
    August 31st, 2009 14:31

    JC – The link between OzCar and unions is even more tenuous, car dealers and investment banks not exactly being great supporters of unions – though obviously the ALP is heavily funded by the unions this cannot explain OzCar.

    Rajat – There is a note at the end of the article mentioning who O’Sullivan is married to. A point of interest perhaps, but to what ‘disclosure’ effect? All it really shows is that being married to an Australian staff member will not spare you an unwarranted smear.

  • 4
    Rajat Sood
    August 31st, 2009 14:37

    I agree Andrew. I was only thinking what you said in your last sentence. Maybe the whole thing was a beat up to appease the government after all its whingeing about the Australian’s criticisms of the stimulus, etc.

  • 5
    Son of the Ratpack
    August 31st, 2009 14:39

    The whole O’Sullivan thing is just random pot stirring. As if he was going to knock back the job (and the fees) just because it came from a Labor Government. Ideology is one thing, but business is business.

    And the fact that his wife writes columns critical of the Government is even less relevant. She has scrupulously stayed away from Oz car though, even when it looked like a liability for Rudd, as you might expect in the circumstances.

  • 6
    Andrew Norton
    August 31st, 2009 15:09

    Rajat – The out-of-control disclosure norm, under which any personal connection to the story, however minor (me and O’Sullivan) or not plausibly revealing potential bias (Albrechtsen mention), is reported.