Media release 31st January 2022

New research by the Centre for Public Integrity finds that the funding of our political parties is dominated by opaque associated entities and large donations over $1 million.

Analysis of donations declared to the AEC over 22 years from 1998/1999-2019/2020 shows that:

  • The Australian Labor Party was the largest fundraiser, raising $564.25 million;
    • 33.15% of ALP donations came from associated entities, 29.59% from associated unions and 6.91% from the property industry;
  • The Coalition raised $499.16 million;
    •  41.78% of Coalition donations came from associated entities, 11.39% from the property industry, and 9.29% from individuals;
  • Donations peak in election years, with the last federal election setting the record at almost $160 million;
  • Big donors have big impact, with 22.48% of Coalition and 21.83% of ALP fundraising coming from donations over $1 million.

“Funding of our political parties is dominated by large and opaque donations,” said the Hon Anthony Whealy QC, Chair of the Centre for Public Integrity.

“The major parties rely on their associated entities and unions for the lion’s share of their fundraising, but information about the source of this money is hard to trace,” said Mr Whealy.

“Private money is pouring into our democracy at increasing rates. The last election set the record for the most donations in any federal election. Donations consistently peak in election years,” said Mr Whealy.

“Millionaires are funding our political parties. Over 20% of major party fundraising comes from donations over a million. Members of the public cannot compete with this level of influence,” said Professor Joo Cheong Tham, a Director of the Centre for Public Integrity.

“We need urgent reform to clean up the undue influence of money in politics. Campaign spending caps should be put in place to stop the fundraising arms race. Donations caps are needed to rein in the influence of millionaire donors. And we need real time disclosure of donations over $1000 so that the public knows who is funding our political parties before they vote, not 9 months after the election,” said Professor Tham.

Read the full research paper here.

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