Nearly a quarter of all political donations across the 2020/21 financial year came from just 10 sources, renewing calls for reform.
Newly published Australian Electoral Commission data shows the Liberal and National parties reaped 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 per cent, of donations across the board.
Former NSW Court of Appeal judge Anthony Whealy, now the Centre for Public Integrity’s chair, 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 last financial year, but nothing under $14,500 and nothing from the last six months,” he said.
“The federal disclosure scheme is mis-named – it is a non-disclosure scheme with more than a third of political funding shrouded in secrecy.”
The Australian Conservation Foundation was alarmed 37 per cent of donations published had no identifiable source.
“This data shows just how dark and opaque the financing of our politics is,” the ACF’s Jolene Elberth said, backing donation caps and more regular disclosures.
“There are stronger laws regulating donations in almost every state and territory than there are at the federal level.”
Fossil fuel donations to the coalition amounted to $1.3 million. Labor received nearly $750,000 from the industry.
Pratt Holdings, which owns recycler Visy, topped the donation list pouring nearly $1.3 million into the Liberal Party. It gave Labor’s NSW branch $10,000.
Another major donor was William Nitschke, who gave ex-One Nation senator Rod Culleton’s Great Australian Party $300,000.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia donated $295,149 across the two major political parties.
Meriton Properties donated $285,000, the Australian Hotels Association NSW $259,946, PricewaterhouseCoopers, $246,008 and big-four bank ANZ $244,100.
Other top-10 political donors included Silver River Investment Holdings ($650,000), Cartwright Investment Corp Pty Ltd ($350,000) and National Automotive Leasing and Salary Packaging Association ($303,700).
Meanwhile, tobacco giant Philip Morris donated $55,000 to the Nationals and Nine Entertainment gave the Liberals $27,500.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor saw no reason for Australia’s political donations system to change.
“Every part of politics works to that system and we’ll continue to as we look forward to the upcoming election,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Attorney-General Michaelia Cash attacked Labor for receiving sizeable donations from “militant” unions, including more than $900,000 from the CFMMEU.
Written by Georgie Moore and originally published in the Canberra Times on February 1 2022