By Charis Chang, originally published 3rd February on News.com.au.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation raised more than $3 million to help fund her election campaign last year — just $76,183 less than the National Party of Australia.
According to Australian Electoral Commission figures released today, One Nation raised $3,023,689 during the 2018-19 financial year, compared to $3,099,872 raised by the National Party.
However, it’s unclear how much either party actually spent on the federal election.
This is because the data does not reveal this information, only what the parties receive and spend on their operations in total. Donations can also be split across states and territory organisations.
The election war chest of the federal National Party would have been significantly boosted by its state branches.
The Liberal National Party of Queensland raised $13.2 million including almost $7 million from anonymous donors who gave less than $13,800.
Most of the money raised by One Nation, $2.3 million, also came from anonymous donors who gave less than the disclosure threshold.
Professor Joo Cheong Tham of Melbourne Law School said it was impossible to know exactly how much money political parties had spent on the federal election campaign or why some amounts were considered donations while others were listed as “other receipt”.
“Around one third of income is not properly itemised and we have no clear information about how much is spent in federal election campaigns because there is no obligation to disclose,” he told news.com.au.
Prof Tham said experts were left to guess why parties were receiving certain funds.
Senator Pauline Hanson’s party One Nation raised more than $3 million in 2018-19 but it’s unclear how much she spent on the election campaign.
For example, two of the largest amounts Labor received were separate $1 million payments from Westpac that were listed as “other receipt”.
This could be income from interest payments or investments, but may also have been payment for corporate tables at a Labor fundraising event.
“At these events they are selling time with a minister for example and you’re paying for that time, therefore a ‘donation’ is not made,” Prof Tham said.
To complicate matters further, NSW also held an election last year so the $9.2 million the NSW branch of the Nationals received would have been used for both the federal campaign and the state poll.
“For me, it’s still an astounding thing about this scheme, that it purports to provide transparency but it is in many respects a nondisclosure scheme,” Prof Tham said.
The Centre for Public Integrity has estimated that $1 billion in donations over 20 years has been hidden from public scrutiny.
It estimates this equals 35.89 per cent of total party income.