Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has finally confirmed the worst-kept secret in Canberra -- that he tipped in a pile of his own money for the Liberal Party's election campaign -- and set off another chain reaction of controversy and criticism over Australia's political donation system.
Turnbull revealed on 7.30 on Wednesday night that he had donated $1.75 million of his own money to help his party win government at the July election. The PM's donation was expected to be revealed in the release of donations data by the Australian Electoral Commission on Thursday, but it seems his pledge fell outside the July 1 cut-off date for the disclosure, meaning it wouldn't have been publicly released until this time next year -- more than 500 days after the donation was made.
After a day of criticism, and dodging questions on his donation during his televised National Press Club address, he came clean and finally said $1.75m had gone from the vast Turnbull fortune to the re-election bid.
The criticism was swift.
Labor finance spokesman Jim Chalmers said Turnbull had "bought himself" the election win, and his position as Prime Minister.
"No wonder Malcolm Turnbull was so desperate to keep his secret – he basically bought himself an election," he said, according to Fairfax Media.
"I think the Australian people will be shocked by this admission -- it stinks. Malcolm Turnbull had to buy his way out of trouble in the dying days of his disastrous election campaign.
"If Malcolm Turnbull didn't have $1.75 million in his back pocket he wouldn't be the leader of the Liberal Party -- and he wouldn't be Prime Minister."
Turnbull's close deputies came out swinging on Thursday morning, Treasurer Scott Morrison having some particularly choice words for Chalmers.
"'That's a grubby political smear from a grubby political hack, of a party of hacks led by Bill Shorten," he told ABC radio.
"If [Shorten] wants to own that grubby smear from Jim Chalmers, he should say it himself rather than get his lackey to come out there and say it for him."
Environment minister Josh Frydenberg went on ABC TV to also defend his Prime Minister.
"The key point here is that the Prime Minister has abided by all of the rules... There is no inference of influence when a person makes a donation to their own campaign. In fact, it is the purest donation of all," he said.
"The same can't be said about Bill Shorten and the Labor Party and the big donations they receive from the unions and, in fact, it took a Royal Commission to find out that Bill Shorten had received a $40,000 donation to his campaign back in 2007. So the Prime Minister has stuck by the rules and abided by them at all times."
Greens senator Lee Rhiannon also took aim at the PM.
"Considering the Liberal Party knew during the 2016 federal election campaign that they could rely on a hefty donation from the PM, why did Mr Turnbull choose to push his disclosure into the first days of July?" she said in a statement.
"He would have known that his $1.75 million donation would not be publicly disclosed until 19 months after his re-election on 1 February 2018.
"Earlier in the day the PM had said he backed the public release of information about donations in 'close to real time as possible'. Of course that claim now exposes him as a hypocrite.
"What the PM has helped to buy himself is a cowardly government that is ruling for the rich."
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