The NSW Land and Environment Court has fined Optus $25,000 after the telco admitted it did not double-disclose $5,400 in reportable political donations it made in 2014 and 2015.
Optus was also ordered to pay $40,000 in legal costs and to publish notices ads about its omissions in three newspapers.
Court documents reveal Optus and Visionstream paid for tickets to attend functions run by political parties. Of the $5,400, $3,900 went to the Liberal party while Labor received $1500.
While the payments were declared to the NSW Electoral Commission, Optus failed to report it under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW). And that's bad because Optus was also, at the time of the donations, in the process of making development applications for new mobile network infrastructure.
An Optus spokesperson told CRN that the telco’s policy is to make full disclosure of any payments to attend political fundraising events under relevant State and Australian Electoral Commission rules on an annual basis.
“The donations in this case relate to small payments to attend events held by the major political parties – a regular practice for major corporations. The payments were disclosed under the .... disclosure requirements,” the spokesperson said.
“However, we failed to separately disclose the amounts on unrelated planning application forms to make modifications to a number of existing mobile base stations in 2015 that were designed to improve mobile coverage.
“Optus has acknowledged the error and we note that the court found that the offences arose from carelessness, and were certainly not intentional, reckless or negligent.”