Amid a veritable plethora of corporate donations made to political parties in 2007-8 on the list released by the AEC today, a couple stand out from the list of media, property, coal and resource and Asian groups.

Eddie Groves, the former CEO of the failed ABC Learning coughed up $50,000 to the Queensland branch of the Liberal Party. The payment was given in November 2007, as the company’s shares were starting to come under pressure as the global credit crunch took hold. A year later, the company had collapsed, but Eddie’s return was dated 11 December, 2008 — after the failure. It was a personal return from Eddie.

Babcock and Brown was another notable corporate failure to grease the Australian political process: over $220,000 to the ALP and the Liberal Party nationally and through various state branches. That included $44,900 to the NSW branch of the ALP.

The now-failed investment bank and infrastructure funds manager dolled out around $117,000 to the ALP, federally and through the state branches in NSW, WA, Queensland and Victoria. There were 16 separate donations to the ALP.

On the other side of politics, a total of $98,000 to the Liberal Party nationally and through the Queensland and NSW branches in nine separate donations. There was also one donation of $7500 paid to the National Party in Queensland.

The guys led by Phil Green and his team of merry value wreckers wasted that money.

Like ABC Learning, Babcock and Brown is now technically insolvent, with no value. But unlike ABC, its banks are still to decide whether to pull the plug.

Dr Stanley Ho, an old friend of the ALP, especially the NSW branch, coughed up a total of $600,000 in donations of $200,000 and $400,000 to the ALP in NSW. Dr Ho was the man who made gambling in Macau attractive to a host of people, including some from the ALP who have travelled there over the years, including former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke.

Mr Ho has donated to the ALP in the past. His son Lawrence Ho is in the Melco gambling company in Macau with James Packer’s Crown Ltd.

One of Mr Packer’s former companies, PBL Media, gave money in November 2007, when he was still a board member and major shareholder. $50,000 went to the NSW branches of the ALP and $20,000 to the Liberal Party’s NSW branch.

Mr Packer’s other company, Crown Ltd, coughed up over $41,000 to the ALP’s national office. It gave $22,500 to the Liberals Nationally and $3000 to the Nationals in Western Australia (Crown as the Burswood Casino in Perth).

The Ten Network gave $150,000 in two lots of $75,000 to the ALP and the Liberal Party at the national level.

Austereo, controlled by Village, gave over $211,000 to the Liberals and the ALP. Village, which is controlled by the Kirby family of Melbourne, was a heavy giver in its own right. They gave around $300,000 to the ALP at all levels and around $198,000 to the Liberal Party nationally and at state level. That makes around $700,000 from companies controlled ultimately by the Kirby family to all sides of politics, one of the largest donations collectively.

Inghams Enterprises gave $200,000 to the ALP, the same amount to the Liberals, and $100,000 to the National Party.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars was also donated by Leighton Holdings and its construction arms, Thiess and John Holland. The total is hard to work out, but looks at first glance to be well over $600,000 all told.

Macquarie Group, the struggling Sydney-based investment bank, was a prolific donor. The page for it at the Australian Electoral Commission lists around 49 separate donations to the ALP, Liberal Party, Nats and an organisation called Progressive Business Association in Melbourne and SA Progress Business Incorporated. The total: more than $262,000.

Brickworks, controlled by the Milner family in Sydney, gave $265,000 to the Liberal Party. Westfield, controlled by the Lowy family and a regular donor, gave around $208,000 to the ALP nationally and in some states and around $226,000 to the Liberals nationally and in some states.

The NRMA Ltd donated almost $100,000 to the ALP and Liberal Party.

Peter Fray

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