Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Bob Burton

Australia’s private pathology lobby shifts political donations strategy

The private pathology industry, which is promoting the privatisation of state-based public hospital pathology services and campaigning against cuts to federal incentives for pathology tests, has dramatically shifted its pattern of political donations in the last year.

In the last financial year Pathology Australia, the lobby group for most of the private pathology companies, made only one donation: $25,000 to the Tasmanian Liberal Party. The lobby group’s donation brings the Tasmanian Liberals contributions over the last four years to $102,200.

The only other donation the group has made over the disclosure threshold was to $32,000 to the Labor Party’s national office back in 2011-12 financial year, when Labor was in government.

In its February 2015 submission to the Federal Government, Pathology Australia argued that “governments have benefited substantially from the shift in the provision of pathology services to the private pathology sector and further benefits are available.”

Late last year Tasmanian Times revealed Pathology Australia and other pathology companies were lobbying the Tasmanian Government to privatise public hospital pathology services.

Subsequently, the Minister for Health, Michael Ferguson told parliament “at this moment there are no plans to outsource any more public pathology services to the private sector,” he said.

However, Ferguson did not rule out privatisation of public hospital pathology services.

While Ferguson acknowledges meeting the private pathology companies, it remains unclear whether he has met with their representatives at Liberal Party fundraising events. Tasmanian Times does not suggest the donations have directly influenced Mr Ferguson’s decision-making.

Pathology companies slash donations to federal Liberal Party

While Pathology Australia’s donations strategy has remained focused solely on the Tasmanian Liberals, its member companies have changed tack.

Sonic Heathcare, the largest private pathology company, donated over $257,000 in 2013-14, all to branches of the Liberal Party or individual Liberal campaigns. Included among its donations was a $36,500 contribution to the Tasmanian Liberals.

However, Sonic Healthcare has not submitted a return for the latest financial year, suggesting it made no donations or, if it did, they did not exceed the $12,400 disclosure threshold.

Sonic Healthcare did not respond to a request for clarification on whether it made any donations in the last financial year. Nor did it respond to a request asking why, if it made no donations, it had gone from contributing over $257,000 one year to nothing the next.

Healthscope, another major private pathology and health services company, donated just over $39,100 in 2013-14, of which $12,100 was donated to the Tasmanian Liberals. In the latest year the company’s donated fell marginally to $35,650. Of that the Tasmanian Liberals received $11,000.

The federal Liberal Party – which irritated the pathology industry when Treasurer Joe Hockey proposed in his first budget to introduce a co-payment including for pathology services – was the biggest loser from the pathology industry’s shifting support. In 2013-14 Healthscope contributed $25,000 to the federal Liberal Party’s coffers; a year later they contributed nothing.

It was a similar story with Sonic Healthcare: in 2013-14 the company contributed $200,000 to the federal Liberal Party but donated nothing the following year.

The federal Liberal Party’s loss was a gain for the major parties in Victoria.

Healthscope’s donation to the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party had been a meagre $1500 in 2013-14. However, in the run-up to the November 2014 state election, the company contributed $16,100 in three separate donations.
The defeat of the Napthine Government saw the donations tap turned off for the Liberals and on for Labor.

Victorian Labor, which had previously received nothing from Healthscope, received $8550 in three instalments in the five months after its election victory.

In June 2015 Healthscope sold its Australian pathology business – which turned over $281 million in 2014/15 – to the private equity firm Crescent Capital Partners. While it remains listed as a member of Pathology Australia, whether it continues to be a political donor will not be clear until data for the current financial year is publicly released in February 2017.

Nor has Primary Healthcare, which is not a member of Pathology Australia, made donations above the disclosure threshold.

In the space of one financial year, political donations from the pathology sector to all political parties fell from over $323,000 to just $60,650.

Of the pathology sector’s donations in the most recent financial year the Tasmanian Liberal Party reaped $36,000, suggesting that – at least in the last financial year – the private pathology industry remained hopeful the Hodgman Government would accede to its lobbying demands to privatise public hospital pathology services.

Bob Burton is a Hobart-based Contributing Editor of Tasmanian Times. His earlier articles on Tasmanian Times are here.

If you would like to be added to his email alert list for when new articles are published you can sign-up here.

Tasmanian Times (TT) is free – always has been, always will be. If you like what TT does, please consider making a donation.
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• March 15, 2016: The Attorney-General, the Public Trustee and donations to the Tasmanian Liberals

• March 15, 2016: Comment: The right to know & donations to the Tas Liberal Party by the Public Trustee’s lobby group

• February 1, 2016: Tasmanian Liberals disclose origins of less than one-fourteenth of income

• December 14, 2015: Who are the invisible major donors behind the Tasmanian Liberal Party?

• October 29, 2015: What happens if a major political donor doesn’t disclose?

• October 28, 2015: Who’s a Liberal donor gonna call? Rentbusters!

• October 27, 2015: The private pathology industry emerges as major Tasmanian Liberals donor



  1. Pete Godfrey

    March 30, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Bob I really don’t know why these companies donate to political parties at all. As we have been told so many times now from politicians that it does not influence them at all.
    Maybe the pathology companies liked the past candidates more and so gave more to support them, they could not have been trying to influence democracy could they?

  2. Mike Bolan

    March 30, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Bob, I suspect that your ‘follow the money’ approach is extremely important and, if you can persist, will start to reveal some ugly truths very soon. Good luck.

  3. John Hawkins

    March 30, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    The most corrupt donation was Gunns $50,000 to the Liberal Party three weeks after Abetz was made Minister for forests.

    Gunns needed a protector for the Nitens Ponzi scams … they got one.

  4. Chris

    March 30, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    “at this moment there are no plans to outsource any more public pathology services to the private sector,”
    At this moment but just give me five minutes and things might change, let me check the Free Enterprise Foundation books and if Mantech is involved!

    Donations to the Free Enterprise Foundation ahead of the NSW 2011 state election & money for other State Liberals.
    Date, donor, amount
    5/11/10: Renlyn Bell Investments, $9,900
    5/11/10: DP Smith Enterprises, $10,000
    5/11/10: E & B Pastoral P/L, $500
    5/11/10: Walker Pearse P/L, $500
    5/11/10: PJC Holdings P/L, $2,000
    5/11/10: Belside P/L, $10,000
    5/11/10: ANZ Real Estate Consultants, $5000
    5/11/10: Naletran P/L, $3000
    18/11/10: Myall Coast Health, $500
    18/11/10: Australbricks, $5000
    6/12/10: Big Country Developments, $9900
    6/12/10: Anthony Shepherd, $1500
    9/12/10: TSM Projects P/L, $750
    9/12/10: Precinct 8C Wadalba Lobby Group, $4000
    9/12/10: Threshold Developments P/L, $2000
    9/12/10: Everitt & Everitt Executive Super, $750
    13/12/10: Tesrol Group Projects P/L, $1499
    13/12/10: Tesrol Bridge St P/L, $1499
    13/12/10: Seasonsrage P/L, $1499
    13/12/10: Smeaton Grange P/L, $1499
    13/12/10: Rumerone P/L, $1499
    13/12/10: Lorset P/L, $1499
    13/12/10: Kirkstall P/L, $1499
    13/12/10: Epivision P/L, $1499
    13/12/10: Dribonn P/L, $1499
    13/12/10: Tesrol P/L, $1499
    14/12/10: Jilliby Stage 2 Land Owners Action Group, $4000
    14/12/10: Holland Fine Art & Cars P/L, $10,000
    16/12/10: Transnational Storage P/L, $12,500
    16/12/10: Boardwalk Resources P/L, $53,000
    16/12/10: Sunbeat Bissap P/L, $10,000
    16/12/10: Adaptive P/L, $500
    16/12/10: T & R Pridham, $500
    16/12/10: Adaptive P/L, $800
    16/12/10: Aline Pumps Sales & Service, $1490
    16/12/10: JR & JM Pridham, $1500
    16/12/10: SFH P/L ATF Stead Family Trust, $600
    16/12/10: SFH P/L ATF Stead Family Trust, $375
    16/12/10: SFH P/L ATF Stead Family Trust, $500
    16/12/10: PR & GA Monks, $1000
    16/12/10: RA & EJ Kennard, $1500
    16/12/10: T & GM Pridham, $500
    16/12/10: JS & SJ Lindqvist, $50
    16/12/10: DG Firth & MJ Firth, $1490
    16/12/10: DJ & CR Kennard, $1500
    16/12/10: Jerry & Debbie Kennard, $1500
    16/12/10: KJ & SE Truswell, $1200
    16/12/10: Allsteel Products P/L, $1499
    16/12/10: EJ & JG Fooks, $1000
    16/12/10: BD & RG Gooden, $1499
    16/12/10: JP & DR Monks, $1490
    16/12/10: Interspan Industries P/L, $1490
    16/12/10: The Advance Precision Trust, $1499
    16/12/10: NJ & PG Kennard, $750
    16/12/10: NJ & PG Kennard, $750
    16/12/10: Fooks P/L, $1499
    16/12/10: Fooks P/L, $1499
    16/12/10: Fooks P/L, $1499
    16/12/10: Weltson P/L, $5000
    17/12/10: Petra Civil P/L, $2000
    17/12/10: Elmslea Land Developments, $20,000
    17/12/10: Swift Exhaust, $1499
    17/12/10: A & SA Davis, $1450
    17/12/10: The Heaney Family Trust, $1499
    17/12/10: CJ & JR Shore, $1499
    17/12/10: Fleetwood Urban P/L, $1499
    17/12/10: Windsor Farm Equipment, $1499
    17/12/10: Printban P/L, $10,000
    20/12/10: Town & Country Lands P/L, $10,000
    20/12/10: Soul Pattinson, $50,000
    20/12/10: Brickworks, $125,000
    21/12/10: Westfield Limited, $150,000
    22/12/10: Walker Group Holdings, $100,000
    Total: $680,214
    Donations to the Free Enterprise Foundation
    Date, donor, amount
    28/07/10: Meriton Premier Apartments, $25,000
    29/07/10: Brickworks, $50,000
    5/8/10: Xiang Rong (Aust) Inv Group P/L, $20,000
    19/08/10: Crown International Holdings, $10,000
    19/08/10: Vaste Developments P/L, $3000
    8/9/10: Lin Mingchi, $5000

  5. Just Me

    March 31, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Doctor surgery kickbacks – lobbying – donations to political parties – it all needs to be cleaned up. If you get a cold these days you get trotted off for another blood test ! Taxpayers money in the millions being siphoned off to the bank accounts of large companies and they want even more.

    Sad part is nobody really knows why they have to have so many pathology appointments every year. And the slips of paper (provided to the doctor surgeries by the pathology companies for convenience and because they really care) only tell you in VERY small print that you can actually attend ANY pathology service, anywhere…

    I would rather go to the hospital (if I actually NEEDED a test) and boycott these bloodthirsty private money machines…

  6. Chris

    April 1, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Great news and a warning , Wee Willy’s system will receive an extra $54 million in federal funding after a deal was struck between the states and the Federal Government.

    Extra health funding for Tasmania, and end of state income tax plan
    Extra far short of federal health funding stripped in 2014
    Premier prepares to fight for education (funding Punching bags available on request, MT as referee)
    Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman welcomed the boost to the state’s health budget – to be handed out between 2017 to 2020 – as a “very positive step forward”.

    BUT he has agreed to reduce admissions to the Hospitals, so please ring up and make an appointment, if ya leg is gangrene you WILLl be placed on tha waiting list where the ova waiters will be, advancement WILL on the strict quota system, which WILL be introduced to allocate funds which WILL be used only for admissions which are in WILL’s picking order, no doubt a lottery system, extremely like the Vietnam “death keno could be utilised.
    Shirley we WILL make this work?

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