There was a time when the Australian Labor Party sent back a $50,000 cheque from the head of the Manildra Group of companies Dick Honan but times have apparently changed.

The latest details of political donations on the AEC website show that last financial year federal and state Labor received $348,300 from the flour miller and ethanol producer.

The returned cheque was back in August 2003 when Mark Latham was the shadow Treasurer and the $50,000 had turned into what he called “dirty money” when Mr Honan demanded a meeting with the Opposition Leader, Simon Crean.

At the time the Government had introduced a 38 cent-a-litre excise on ethanol in a way that a company importing ethanol said was designed to protect Manildra. The Opposition accused the Prime Minister, John Howard, of misleading Parliament by denying he had discussed Brazilian imports of ethanol with Mr Honan, before the excise decision was taken. A document showing that Manildra had donated to the campaigns of several Government MPs, as well as the Liberal, National and Labor parties, at the previous election was waved around in the Parliament.

Manildra’s money has obviously been cleaned up in this new age of searching for an alternative to fossil fuels. The NSW Labor Government last year passed legislation to mandate that a proportion of ethanol be added to petrol sold in the State.

The AEC records show that in 2005-06 NSW Labor received $40,400 in donations from Manildra and the Queensland branch another $3000. In 2006-07 year the donation to NSW was increased to $98,500. The Manildra payment to the Queensland ALP was $11,250 while the National Office benefited to the tune of $238,550.

Not that the Coalition parties were forgotten by Manildra. The biggest political donor in the land tossed $173,900 to the Liberals and $70,450 to the Nationals to take the total political donations for the year to $592,650.

Not far behind in second place was the Lowy family controlled Westfield with total donations of $582,000.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey