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How Labor spent more than $117,000 to hold on to a seat it was never going to lose

Politics

Politics is big business, and the Labor Party continues to collect money for the campaigns that keep the Palaszczuk government in power. Charging for a seat at the table helps Labor hold seats in parliament.

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Labor candidate James Martin won the recent Stretton by-election following the cancer death of Labor incumbent Duncan Pegg.

“The Labor family really rallied around the Stretton campaign, helping me but also doing it for Duncan,” Martin told parliament in his maiden speech.

“They rallied their own volunteers to the cause, and on election day you could not walk five metres without bumping into a Labor MP or a minister.”

New disclosures to the Electoral Commission of Queensland show money also helped: Martin is recorded spending $26,005.39 on the campaign and Labor headquarters another $91,516.99.

That is despite Labor always being favourites – Liberal National Party candidate Jim Bellos was on the defensive throughout the campaign – and winning the seat comfortably.

Labor’s campaign spend was almost 100 times that of the Informed Medical Options candidate, Jazzy Melhop, who sought to use the pandemic to rally supporters for vaccination choice (a neighbouring electorate is now the centre of a COVID-19 cluster)

Labor had asked its members and supporters to spare some change – “donate the price of two morning coffees,” one email suggested – but continues to make more money networking with corporate donors.

Its Queensland Business Partnership Network costs $11,000 in annual membership fees, or $5,500 per event, with the next function in mid-October boasting not only Palaszczuk government ministers but Federal Labor representatives.

This financial year alone, Labor has raked in membership fees from the likes of Clubs Queensland and the Queensland Hotels Association – lobby groups with a vested interest in limiting pandemic restrictions – as well as Queensland Motorways Management, Telstra and the Local Government Association of Queensland.

The Liberal National Party runs a similar program, albeit not as successfully from Opposition.

While donation caps were expected to limit such networking from 2022, InQueensland recently revealed Labor had advertised for someone to run its program for another three years.

The Stretton by-election will also see Labor recoup more of its campaign spend from taxpayers under a move to favour public funding over donations.

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