A lobbying firm part-owned by Liberal powerbroker Michael Photios made donations worth almost $100,000 to the Liberal and National parties before last year’s federal election.
But Premier State Consulting failed to declare the donations until last month – seven months after the official Australian Electoral Commission reporting date of November 17, 2013 and nine months after Tony Abbott’s new Liberal-Nationals government took power, which Premier State is registered to lobby on behalf of private clients.
The late disclosure is all the more notable as Premier State is run by political professionals. Mr Photios is a former vice-president of the NSW Liberal Party.
His business partner, Nick Campbell, is a former NSW Liberal president, while another director and part-owner, David Begg, served on the NSW Liberal state executive from 1996 to 2001 and 2008 to 2011.
Premier State Consulting, of which Mr Photios is chairman, declared $98,426 in donations to the Liberal and National parties for 2012-13, election funding records reveal.
According to the Australian Parliament’s register of political lobbyists, Premier State counts among its clients the NSW division of the Australian Hotels Association, Echo Entertainment Group, owner of the Star casino in Sydney and Treasury casino in Brisbane, Transfield Services and Brookfield Multiplex.
Premier State is also registered to lobby the federal government on behalf of the Hemmes family’s Merivale Group, Mounties Group, owner of the Mounties club in Liverpool, entertainment and hospitality company Amalgamated Holdings Limited and miner Gloucester Resources.
Election funding records show Premier State donated $36,765 to the federal Liberal Party in 2012-13. It declared donations worth $44,961 to the NSW division of the Liberal Party, $1500 to the West Australian branch and $15,200 to the NSW Nationals.
The donations were made between August 2012 and June 2013.
In contrast, the other major Liberal-aligned lobbying firm, Barton Deakin, donated $22,960 to the NSW branch of the Liberal Party during 2012-13, according to a return lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission on November 18 last year.
Mr Photios is a former vice-president of the NSW division of the Liberal Party and leader of the party’s dominant left faction.
He quit the Liberal state executive to continue lobbying the federal and state governments after Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared in September last year that he was “determined to ensure that you can either be a powerbroker or a lobbyist, but you can’t be both”.
Then NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell introduced similar rules for those wishing to lobby the NSW government.
Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, the potential penalty for a donor convicted of failing to lodge a disclosure on time is a fine of up to $1000.
But the AEC guide for political donors states that it “deals with non-compliance as appropriate to the circumstances”, including possible referral to the Director of Public Prosecutions “for commencement of legal action”.
Neither Mr Photios nor Premier State Consulting responded to requests for comment.
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