All aboard: private bus operator revealed as Tasmanian Liberals major campaign donor

The new owner of Tasmanian Redline gave $20,000 to Liberals and donated an unknown amount to the Labor party
 November 22, 2021
Published:  November 22, 2021
Tasmanian Redline coach. Image: Bob Burton

The new owner of Tasmanian Redline, the state’s largest government-contracted private bus company, was one of the largest donors to the state Liberal party and a contributor to the Labor party.

Tag Management Services Pty Ltd donated $20,000 to the Liberal party near the May 1 state election, making it the second-largest disclosed contributor to the party’s campaign.

Australian Securities and Investment Commission records reveal Tag Management Services, a company founded in late 2016, changed its corporate name to Kinetic Group Services in late September 2019. (Tag Management Services remains a registered business name held by the company.)

Kinetic owns nine major bus lines with operations spanning every state in Australia as well as New Zealand. It announced a week before the election it had reached an agreement to buy Tasmanian Redline, subject to regulatory approvals.

Tasmanian Redline has pre-existing government-contracted route and school services in Burnie, Devonport, Hobart, Launceston and Smithton. The Department of State Growth has long-term contracts with bus companies to operate school services and other routes not catered for by the government-owned transport business, Metro Tasmania.

A Kinetic spokesperson did not respond to a question on why the company donated to the Liberal party and whether executives attended the party’s forum for corporate donors.

Tasmania currently has no state-based political donations disclosure requirements. However, at the start of the 2021 state election campaign, both the Labor and Liberal parties agreed to voluntarily disclose donations of more than $5000. The Tasmanian Greens disclose donations of more than $1500.

Kinetic spokesperson, Barrett Gibson, confirmed the company has made donations to political parties in Tasmania in the last year. He did not respond to a question on why the company donated to the Liberal party and whether executives attend its forum for corporate donors, but confirmed the company has also contributed to the Tasmanian branch of the Labor party.

Tasmanian Inquirer sought clarification from the Labor party state secretary, Stuart Benson, on how much it received from Kinetic. He did not respond.

State Labor disclosed only one donation above the $5000 threshold ahead of the election - $10,000 from SeaRoad Holdings, which operates a shipping and freight service across Bass Strait.

Sunshine state payments

Kinetic did not respond to a question on whether the company has made donations to political parties in other states or New Zealand.

Electoral Commission of Queensland records reveal Tag Management Services contributed $30,172 to the Queensland branch of the Labor party including two payments – in April 2020 and April 2021 – of $11,000 for an “annual membership”.  

Tasmanian Inquirer sought clarification on whether these two payments were to attend Queensland Labor Business Forum events at which donors meet government ministers. Kinetic did not respond to the question.

Four of Kinetic’s bus businesses primarily service parts of Queensland.

Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, it is a requirement that all donors that contribute above a specified annual threshold to a registered political party to file a return with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). In 2019-20 the threshold was $14,000, with disclosures due to be submitted by November 2020.

Kinetic contributed $14,797 to the Queensland Labor party that year, but no return has been published on the AEC website. The company did not respond to a request from Tasmanian Inquirer for clarification on the lack of a disclosure return.

Bob Burton is a Hobart-based author, researcher, editor and freelance journalist. He is the Editor of CoalWire, a weekly bulletin on global coal industry developments for the US-based non-profit group Global Energy Monitor. His freelance journalism has been published in a wide range of news outlets from the British Medical Journal to the US-based PR Watch.

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