Pratt – and conspiracy theorists – top the list

Cardboard tycoon Anthony Pratt was Australia’s biggest political donor for the 2020-21 financial year, according to data from the Australian Election Commission. Pratt Holdings, a key part of the billionaire’s business empire, has made a series of political donations to the state and federal branches of the Liberal Party worth $1.29 million.

That’s less than the $1.5 million Pratt gave in 2019-20 and the $3 million in 2018-19, but in a cycle notable for Clive Palmer’s conspicuous absence, it was enough to top the list of big spenders.

During the donation period, Pratt received a $10 million grant from the Australian Bushfire Recovery Fund. Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Pratt – one of Australia’s richest men – the “Don Bradman of job creation” in the presence of former US President Donald Trump.

Following Pratt on the list are two political donations worth $1 million to the conservative activist group Advance Australia – one from Silver River Investment Holdings ($650,000) and Cartwright Investment Corp Ltd ($350,000).

The directors of Silver River Investments are Simon and Elizabeth Fenwick of Mosman in Sydney. Elizabeth is also listed as the sole director of Cartwright Investment Corp. Simon, a former fund manager, has announced plans to start funding Advance Australia in 2020, citing concerns about “left-wing agendas” and “dictatorial” politicians like Dan Andrews.

Established ahead of the 2019 election as a right-wing GetUp, Advance Australia has recently focused its energy on tackling COVID restrictions and vaccination mandates. Recent Facebook ads claiming Australians were forced to get vaccinated have been removed from the platform.

The National Automotive Leasing and Salary Packaging Association, which gave $150,000 each to Labor and the Liberals, was also high on the list of donors.

The largest individual donor was William Nitschke, who made four donations worth $300,000 to Rod Culleton’s Great Australian Party, which is leading conspiracy theorist Pete Evans as its candidate for the Senate in the election. This is the second year in a row that Nitschke has been the top individual donor.

Usual suspects like the Pharmacy Guild of Australia ($295,000 between Labor and Liberals) and the Australian Hotels Association ($260,000 between Labour, Liberals and Nationals) were major donors.

For the Liberals, most political donations came from the city core. Pratt Holdings was its biggest donor, and real estate giant Meriton contributed $285,000. His largest individual donation was $224,000 from Scott Edwardes, an unsuccessful candidate in Western Australia’s last state election.

The largest labor donor was the National Automotive Leasing and Salary Packaging Association, and key unions like United Workers Union, Rail Tram and Bus Union, and Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Alliance all donated money in Queensland, where a state election was held in late 2020. In Western Australia, another electoral state, the Labor Party secured $200,000 from Perth Trades Hall and $110,000 from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Alliance. Commercial law firm Holding Redlich donated $134,880 to the ALP, most of its money was donated.

The Greens’ biggest donor was once again high-end reclusive player Duncan Turpie, who donated $110,000. The Nationals’ largest individual donation ($55,000) came from waste management company JJ Richards and Sons. He also received $55,000 from tobacco giant Philip Morris.