Political donation data fuels call for reform

Almost a quarter of all political donations in the 2020/21 financial year came from just 10 sources, renewing calls for reform.

Recently released data from the Australian Electoral Commission shows the Liberal and National parties raked in nearly $84 million combined, while Labor received more than $67.3 million.

Just 10 donors accounted for more than $4.2 million, or more than 23% of donations at all levels.

Former NSW Court of Appeal judge Anthony Whealy, now chairman of the Center for Public Integrity, said it showed the urgent need for political finance reform.

“The Commonwealth has the weakest donation laws in the country. Today we can see some of the donations that were made in the last year, but nothing less than $14,500 and nothing from the last six months,” did he declare.

“The federal disclosure system is misnamed – it’s a non-disclosure system with more than a third of political funding shrouded in secrecy.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation was alarmed that 37% of published donations had no identifiable source.

“These data show how dark and opaque our policy funding is,” said ACF’s Jolene Elberth, supporting donation caps and more regular disclosures.

“There are stricter laws governing donations in almost every state and territory than at the federal level.”

Fossil fuel donations to the coalition totaled $1.3 million. Labor received nearly $750,000 from industry.

Pratt Holdings, owner of recycler Visy, topped the list of donations, donating nearly $1.3 million to the Liberal Party. He donated $10,000 to the NSW branch of the Labor Party.

Another major donor was William Nitschke, who gave $300,000 to former Senator Rod Culleton’s Great Australian Party.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia donated $295,149 to the two main political parties.

Meriton Properties donated $285,000, the Australian Hotels Association NSW $259,946, PricewaterhouseCoopers $246,008 and major bank ANZ $244,100.

Among the top 10 political donors are Silver River Investment Holdings ($650,000), Cartwright Investment Corp Pty Ltd ($350,000) and the National Automotive Leasing and Salary Packaging Association ($303,700).

Meanwhile, tobacco giant Philip Morris donated $55,000 to the Nationals and Nine Entertainment donated $27,500 to the Liberals.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor saw no reason for Australia’s political donation system to change.

“Every part of politics works with this system and we will continue to do so as we look forward to the next election,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Attorney General Michaelia Cash has attacked Labor for receiving large donations from “militant” unions, including more than $900,000 from CFMMEU.

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