The Liberal Party, Labor and the Greens spent more than $2 million of taxpayers’ money sending their members overseas to meet with like-minded political parties in the last financial year, freedom of information documents show. The Australian Political Parties for Democracy Program was established in 2005 and is ostensibly to fund major political parties to further the development of political party systems in partner countries — but it is also used to attend junkets in overseas locations. Previously under the AusAID budget, it is now managed by the Department of Finance.
The Labor and Liberal parties are allocated up to $1 million in grants under the program, and the Greens are allocated up to $200,000. Half of the money spent by each party is required to be used visiting countries eligible for Official Development Assistance, with countries such as East Timor, Bangladesh and Myanmar visited by the two major parties. The Liberal Party also used the program to spend $115,612.56 on sending Liberal representatives to meetings of International Democrat Union, an alliance of centre-right parties across the world, of which the United States Republican and British Conservative parties are members. Both Labor and the Liberals have already used the program to visit the US, including more than $30,000 spent by the Liberals visiting the Republican Party in October and November 2014. Labor is investigating the conduct of its members in the program, after allegations they were campaigning for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.