In this election campaign, I was attacked by the National Party for 'being in it for the money'. They based this attack on the grounds that I am not a rich man, that I am studying Medicine and Surgery, an argument my contract work for the United Nations was not “real work”, and that a late entry into the campaign meant I 'wasn’t trying'.
To clarify issues of money - I have never cried poor to anyone, and I never will. It was, in my view, a disgusting implication by the National Party to use personal finances as their key attack point. The Nationals were strongly aided by The Australian newspaper in Week 2 of the campaign, when they wrote an extensive article suggesting I felt I was struggling on $70,000 per year. This journalist knows my constant message during the interview was the complete opposite. Even today, at all times, I accept there are people better and worse off, and my family situation reflects nothing more nor less than normal life on the Mid-North Coast of NSW.
However, what this article played into was the major attack point from the National Party in the final week, in their effort to justify their claim for office. It was clever politics, and obviously damaging to my campaign.
Regardless, what this attack has done is raise a legitimate issue about this $2.60 of public money being attached to each vote, of every candidate in Australia. This is something that needs reform so this attack cannot be made on anyone else in the future.
In my case, now first preference votes have been nominally counted for the seat of Cowper, the approximate figure for first preference votes is 26%. If $2.60 per vote is the actual electoral return, this equates to $67,600. This is based on home maths, and I am happy for the AEC to correct this figure publicly if necessary.
Last election, the National Party made over $4.1 million from this process. It is unclear what they, or any other candidates, have gathered from this election. They are welcome to reveal this figure.
As this has been such an attack point from the National Party throughout this campaign for Cowper, I accept the importance of transparency in clarifying my personal finances, over and above what any other candidate in Australia is being asked to do.
Today, I therefore release my campaign expenditure throughout the three week “low budget” campaign. It is my understanding that under Australian electoral law I do not need to release this until February 2018, however, in the public interest, I do so today.
In total, during the 2016 Federal Election campaign, I spent the following:
$5,000 on How to Vote cards
$3,500 on T-shirts
$5,700 on corflute posters
$24,000 on advertising (Television & Radio)
$1000 small expenses
$1100 on stickers
$3000 on events and bookings
$2000 on fuel
$2000 on social media advertising
$5000 on volunteer costs
As can be shown, I spent more than many in the community were led to believe by the National Party. I would not have spent over $50,000 if I was not running to win.
It is correct that about $15,000 will be retained by our local campaign team as a consequence of how much was spent, compared to how much will come back as a return from the Electoral Commission.
Separately, we are still working our way through separate donors to the campaign. Nearly 50 people made on-line donations throughout the campaign, with the most common figures being $25 or $50. None of these donations are over the $13,000 threshold for public declarations as is currently the loose and flawed Australian Electoral law for public declarations, and it will take time to work through this list to confirm the legitimacy of each donation. This is why it is not released in full today.
Importantly, the combination of the $15,000 public return and the community online donations will now be used in preparation for the next election, which will potentially occur sooner rather than later.
I will be informing all campaign supporters to keep their T-Shirts, and placards, and stickers. I will be asking campaign workers to be on stand-by for an election that could occur at any moment over the coming three years. I confirm this is not, and never was, a three week campaign for office. Instead, it is an on-going campaign for a better community.
Rest assured, I will never attempt to explore, or smear, Mr Hartsuyker about his personal finances. It doesn’t interest me, and shouldn’t be what politics is about.
But I will strongly question his, and the National Party's, public financing. I now invite him, and all candidates, to be as equally transparent as I have been, and release a figure of full campaign expenditure for the seat of Cowper.
Until he does, we can only surmise the following amounts was spent by the National Party during the 2016 Federal Election campaign;
$30,000- Purchase of Fairfax Media masthead (Port News) on final day prior to election, with unauthorised photos throughout the community.
$150,000 - 4 mail-outs to every household throughout the campaign, including a closed envelope, unauthorised, campaign letter from the Prime Ministers office.
$300,000 – print, radio and TV advertising, involving both State and Federal MP's, as well as community members unaware they were being used.
$50,000 – internal, unreleased, phone polling conducted by the National Party office in Week 2 of the campaign.
$50,000 – automated phone-calls to every household for four nights, using the voice of Prime Minister Turnbull.
$5,000 How to Vote Cards
$5,000 on Social Media Advertising
$200,000 on Corflutes, including blanket “Don’t Risk Rob” election day material
$30,000 FIFO accommodation and meals for Young Nationals and others
$3,500 on T-Shirts
In addition, we can surmise the following:
State MP’s flyers to households ($100,000) public money, visit from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott ($5,000) public money, and visit from Premier Mike Baird ($10,000) public money.
Excluding the State costs, the estimated costs of the Luke Hartsuyker for Cowper campaign over the past eight weeks is well over $750,000, or three-quarters of a million dollars.
Mr Hartsuyker will receive 46% of the primary vote at $2.60, which equates to $119,600, plus major party loadings. I understand there is also “public education” funding that will also be received by each political party, but this figure is not clear at this stage.
What is now unclear is what private donations were received to pay for the rest of the campaign that we all saw hit our letterboxes, radios and televisions last week. Until clarified, it is alleged major corporate donations in mining, gambling, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, and private health, are the major sources of money to contribute to this obscene level of spending.
The further public interest question is what the National Party gave up in public policy to receive donations of this size, allowing expenditure of this level.
Now is the opportunity for this to be clarified while the campaign is fresh in everyone’s mind. Not, as the political party’s would prefer, in February 2018 when all is forgotten.
I invite and welcome further discussion on this issue.