Dark money: nearly 30% of political donations remain a mystery

While both major parties have accepted untraceable political donations, a whopping $ 50 million last year alone is a growing problem.

According to data recently released by the Australian Election Commission, nearly 40% of the money donated to the Coalition came from an unidentified source. Known colloquially as “black money,” the findings (first released earlier this month) have rightly sent the debate back to the obscure (and oddly legal) world of political donations.

The Center for Public Integrity analyzed the data and found that between $ 44 million and $ 50 million in political funding in the past year alone was hidden in this way. Like Christopher Knaus from The Guardian noted: “This is almost 30% of the total income received by all parties. “

The Guardian suggests that the Coalition took $ 22 million from unknown sources last year (which is about 38.5% of its total income), while Labor claimed $ 15 million, representing 27.2% of his total income.

The aforementioned center has also tracked the same donations over the past two decades and found that 39.22% of the Coalition’s contributions (or roughly $ 1 billion) came from an unknown source. As it stands, political donations under $ 14,300 can remain a mystery, and there is no limit (or paper trail) if a single donor makes multiple donations of the same amount.

By Christopher Knaus from The GuardianThe analysis also reveals that five donors have contributed 25% of all money given to political parties since 1999. These donors are Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy, which made 40 donations worth $ 101.1 million, including huge contributions in the run-up to the last election. . The next largest donor was the Conservative fundraising vehicle, the Cormack Foundation, which made 39 donations worth $ 61.4 million, mostly to the Liberals, but also to Family First and other Conservative parties. . Labor fundraising vehicles ALP Holdings and John Curtin House were the next largest donors, with 145 donations valued at $ 56.8 million and 50 donations valued at $ 47.6 million respectively. The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association has been the fifth largest donor in the past two decades, making 318 donations valued at $ 31.2 million.

Donations under $ 14,300 do not need to be declared

In 2019, the High Court confirmed Queensland Laws ban real estate developers to make donations to political parties. The ban was introduced by the Palaszczuk government after a recommendation by the National Crime and Corruption Commission.

The Queensland ban applies to donations made to national and local political campaigns as well as general donations to political parties. A general donation can be used for federal, state or local political purposes or for the running costs of a party.

At the same time, the High Court also quashed a Federal law of 2018 that real estate developers could ignore state laws prohibiting them from making general donations to political parties. (Yes – the federal parliament did pass a law Anti-derogatory statepowers of corruption!).

The High Court said the Federal Parliament did not have the power to regulate political donations that simply “could be” used for federal campaigns. Real estate developers are also prohibited from making political donations in New South Wales and the ACT.

First, the legislation introduces a new provision to replace the 2018 federal law overturned by the High Court. This new provision allows real estate developers (and others prohibited from making donations under state laws) to ignore state laws prohibiting them from making political donations when the donation is “for federal purposes.”

Second, the legislation allows real estate developers and political parties to ignore state laws requiring that donations be disclosed. In New South Wales and Queensland, donations of $ 1,000 or more must be disclosed. Under the new federal law, only donations of $ 14,300 or more made by real estate developers “for federal purposes” must be disclosed.

The explanation given for the new laws is that state laws should not apply to federal donations.

According to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, the new laws “better clarify” the interaction between federal and state election laws. “The revised provisions ensure that federal law only applies to donations that are expressly for federal purposes, while fully respecting the application of state laws to amounts used for state purposes,” a- he declared.

Don Farrell of the Labor Party, who is the shadow special minister of state, told the Senate: “Labor has no intention of weakening any of the provisions already in place in the states, but the Commonwealth Parliament should be able to legislate on Commonwealth elections, and these laws should not be overridden by states. “

Luke Beck contributed to this report.