The biggest individual donor to the federal teals, Sydney trader Rob Keldoulis, is among high-profile backers funding the Legalise Cannabis Party as it makes a bid to snare an upper house seat at next Saturday’s state election.
Keldoulis, Alex Turnbull – the son of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull – and philanthropists Sue and John McKinnon have made donations to the party ahead of the March 25 poll. The party aims to legalise the drug, but also advocates for action on climate change and integrity in government.
Legalise Cannabis Party candidates are contesting 23 lower house seats, largely on the north coast, but also in western NSW, the Hunter and several western Sydney seats.
However, its focus is on the upper house after securing a 2.98 per cent primary vote in NSW in the Senate last year, which if replicated next Saturday could see one candidate elected to the upper house. Legalise Cannabis secured two upper house spots in last year’s Victorian election.
Keldoulis, who last year paid $3 million for a medicinal cannabis farm south of Launceston, said he was keen to support the party in NSW because “I strongly believe in the medical use of cannabis”.
“What I like about them as a party is they are there to make themselves extinct because they will not need to exist once they legalise cannabis,” Keldoulis said.
Turnbull said he had always been in favour of legalising cannabis and there was significant academic literature to show “it worked well elsewhere”.
“It can be part of the tax base and often ‘competes’ with other social ills like alcohol and gambling, both of which are major advertisers at legacy media and seem to have wholly captured major party policy through this nexus of advertising and lobbying,” Turnbull said.
“Anything that is bad for the modern-day rum corps of NSW is good for NSW, in my opinion.”
Former Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham is the lead candidate on the Legalise Cannabis Party upper house ticket.
Buckingham was previously a member of parliament when he faced allegations of sexually harassing a Greens employee, which he denied. Greens MP for Newtown Jenny Leong used parliamentary privilege to describe Buckingham’s alleged conduct as “sexual violence”. An investigation by workplace lawyers appointed by the Greens made no adverse finding “with respect to sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour”. Buckingham later quit the Greens, saying the party had become “toxic”.
Buckingham said the Legalise Cannabis Party was receiving support from voters and “people from all walks of life”.
“The majority of Australians want cannabis law reform and legalisation, the majority of Australians have tried cannabis, and they know that other countries like the US, Germany, Thailand, and South Africa have moved to legalise cannabis for adult use safely with good outcomes for society, environment and economy,” Buckingham said.
“These donors and more and more voters recognise that the Legalise Cannabis Party is an important vehicle for a range of progressive social reforms, that we have excellent credentials on the environment and climate change, and importantly, if elected may deny the regressive One Nation party, a controlling influence in the NSW upper house.”
The party has listed the donors on its website. The website said its fundraising in NSW had now eclipsed the totals registered in the West Australian, South Australian, Victorian and federal elections.
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