“Very problematic for public confidence”: Australian political donations revealed

“Donations can increase access and influence.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Whealy. Credit:Pierre Rae

“Companies with anti-donation policies still have influence by donating to political activists and leading organizations.”

A sign of the link between donations and political results, the numbers show an increase in payments during the climate change debate and a carbon price during the 2013 federal election and its aftermath.

The next peak came when Mr. Palmer turned against the Liberals and the Nationals to create his own parties, winning seats in 2013 but failing to repeat the result in 2019 despite spending $ 116.2 million for his United Australia party.

“Clive Palmer made the biggest political donation in Australian history in the 2019 election,” Mr. Whealy said.

“He influenced voters through direct advertising and communications. Nothing prevents other mining tycoons from doing so in the future. “

Analysis shows that Mr. Palmer’s two main companies, Mineralogy and Queensland Nickel, donated $ 98.6 million and $ 21.1 million over the period 1999-2019.

They were followed by gas companies Woodside and Santos, with $ 2 million and $ 1.5 million respectively, and Ausgold Limited with $ 1.1 million.

Other big donors included Western Mining, which donated $ 755,000 and was purchased by BHP Billiton in 2005, and Australian Gypsum Industries, a resource company in Western Australia which paid $ 555,777.

“The huge sums paid out by a sector whose existence depends on the issuance of government permits is very problematic for public confidence in the democratic process,” the report said.

“After all, impartiality in decision-making must not only exist, but also be seen as such.”


The results are the result of months of analysis of AEC files that collect annual information from companies and parties in a paper system that is available online but difficult to find and prone to error. The AEC will release the next disclosures on February 1.

The community has until Jan. 29 to submit submissions for a review of federal funding laws by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, but committee chair James McGrath, a coalition senator from Queensland, has dismissed the appeals to reform in the past.

In the Committee’s latest review of the Donation Act, Federal Liberal Party Director Andrew Hirst and Federal Nationals Director Jonathan Hawkes opposed a bill requiring donors to disclose payments over $ 1,000 per compared to the current threshold of about $ 13,000.

“The Liberal Party does not support changes that do not recognize that political parties are broad-based organizations with large volunteer wings and limited resources,” Hirst wrote in March.

Others argue that people would stop donating if more of their payments were revealed.

“The ‘Quiet Australians’ don’t want their names to appear on the front page of the newspaper and online for a donation of over $ 1,000,” Grant Layland, spokesperson for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, wrote in a statement. submission last year.

Labor has pleaded in parliament for reform of the donation law, including more disclosure, while the Greens support greater transparency as well as a cap on donations.

The Board of Trustees of the Center for Public Integrity includes former Federal Court Judge and Queensland Corruption Commissioner Tony Fitzgerald, former Victoria Court of Appeal Judge Stephen Charles, Counsel for NSW and Corruption Investigation Advisor Geoffrey Watson and University of Melbourne Professor Joo-Cheong Tham.

Regardless of donations, the report highlights funding from organizations such as the Minerals Council of Australia, the Business Council of Australia and a coal industry group called Coal21 to help with industry lobbying, while also pointing to CFMMEU as a resource industry union that engages in campaigning.

“We need urgent reform to cap donations and spending, and make all donations transparent to voters in real time,” Whealy said.

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