Liberals splash cash in council election bids

The  Liberal Party outspent Labor and the unions three to one before last year's Wollongong and Shellharbour council elections, newly released funding figures reveal.

Annual political donation returns from the last financial year show the Liberals ploughed $143,000 into advertising, mail outs and "How to vote" cards to promote candidates two months before the September 3 elections.

The Labor and union spend tallied a combined $42,000 for both cities.

However one Liberal source warned the cash splash, the majority of which came from state branch coffers, was unlikely to be seen in the area again.

"[NSW] head office went all out for these two elections - we'll never see the likes of that sort of money spent on a [local government] campaign here again," the source said.

The source claimed the big spend reflected the party's desire to muscle in on traditional Labor territory that had been weakened by the party's role in the 2008 Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation into Wollongong council.

"The party's been eyeing off these councils since they were sacked, wanting to put Liberals in the area," the source said.

"It was an opportunity for the party to get into Labor heartland."

A Mercury analysis of the returns show the combined total spend from candidates across both cities was more than $300,000.

The Liberals spent $93,000 campaigning in Wollongong, $30,000 in Shellharbour, and a further $20,000 on cross promotion not directly attributed to either campaign.

A breakdown of Labor's individual spend in both cities was not available, and requests for the figures from the NSW ALP head office were ignored.

However, returns from individual candidates revealed the Labor campaign in Shellharbour was boosted by $10,250 worth of donations from three unions including the NSW Local Government United Services Union.

The NSW branch of the Electrical Trades Union also donated $1000 to Janice Kershaw's Labor ticket in Wollongong.

Both state branches of the ALP and Liberal parties repeatedly ignored Mercury requests for clarification on several funding issues, including a proper breakdown of how much each party spent on its Wollongong and Shellharbour campaigns.

Requests for interviews with ALP state secretary Sam Dastyari and state Liberal director Mark Neeham were also ignored.

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