Feb 1, 2012

Electoral funding figures show Labor’s donations collapse

Labor's donations advantage vanished at the 2010 election, new data from the Australian Electoral Commission shows.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The Labor Party managed to narrowly out-raise and out-spend the Liberal Party in the 2010 election but the big funding advantage it had in the 2007 election almost entirely vanished, new figures from the Australian Electoral Commission show. This morning, funding data for the 2010-11 financial year was released, finally allowing us to see who donated during the 2010 election, 18 months ago. Federal Labor raised about $37 million and spent $36 million in 2010-11, the period covering the 2010 federal election, while the federal Liberal Party raised about $30 million and spent $35 million. The comparison to 2007 is skewed because many donations would have been received in the 2009-10 financial year, especially from mining companies anxious to donate to the Liberals to halt the mining tax. Nonetheless, while the Liberals' fund-raising and spending is similar to 2007, Labor's crashed from more than $60 million in 2007 as Julia Gillard led Labor to a near defeat. Overall figures are also skewed by the run of big-state elections in late 2010 and early 2011, with the Victorian, federal and NSW elections all occurring within the financial year, meaning there was a big call on donors' pockets. The Liberals' fund-raising is notable for huge donations from individuals: Clive Palmer's Mineralogy donated $300,000; IT sector millionaire Danny Wallis gave $100,000; Perth Liberal supporter Josephine Armstrong $92,000, Richard Pratt's Pratt Holdings $150,000; Tory peer Michael Ashcroft, who is the subject of intense scrutiny in the UK over his business and tax practices, donated more than $270,000, a donation that would have been banned under the electoral funding reforms introduced into Parliament by John Faulkner and blocked by the Coalition and Steve Fielding. In accordance with those failed reforms, federal Labor reported all donations above $1000, while the Liberals have only reported those above the legal threshold of $12,500. Labor had its own big individual donors: Chinese-Australian businessman Dr William Chiu gave $100,000; Chinese property developer and prolific Chau Chak Wing gave $50,000 to the Liberals but his Honk Kong Kingson company gave $250,000 to Labor. Richard Pratt also gave $75,000 to Labor. But Labor's donations are dominated as always by the union movement: the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing union donated $500,000; the CFMEU $100,000; the Health Services Union, which may yet bring down the government, $161,000, the National Union of Workers $100,000, the Shoppies $200,000, the AMWU $100,000. As usual, Dick Honan's Manildra was also a generous donor, giving $150,000 in donations and another $22,000 in other funding to Labor and $100,000 to the Nationals. Macquarie Telecom (for which there's not yet a donor return) was again a big Labor donor, with $120,000. NAB, Westpac and Macquarie Group were the only banks to donate -- NAB gave $100,000 to Labor and $150,000 to the Liberals; Macquarie Group $40,000; Westpac gave more than $55,000 to both sides in small donations and "other" contributions (e.g. buying a table at a party fund-raiser). But ANZ, which has previously been a big and regular donor to both sides even outside of election years, gave $100,000 to both sides in May 2010 (i.e. before this reporting period) and then appears to have stopped. Not surprisingly, the federal Liberals also benefited from big donations from resources companies -- Queensland coal miner New Hope gave $100,000; Straits Resources $100,000. The WA Liberals branch, which gave by far the biggest state branch contribution to the federal party, managed more than $7 million in donations, with huge offerings, often in the multi-hundred thousand dollar range, from mining companies. And the pathology industry also gave generously to the Liberals in their efforts to overturn Labor's changes to pathology funding, with Sonic Health giving $200,000, Ramsay Health $100,000 and the publicity-shy and litigious Edmund Bateman of Primary Health Care donating $50,000 to the Liberals. Of the media companies, only Village Roadshow -- $200,000 to Labor and $140,000 to the Liberals -- and Ten Network, with $75,000 for each, were major donors. The Greens also picked up $30,000 from the AMWU and the CFMEU, but their donations were dominated by $1.6 million from Graeme Wood. *Tomorrow: exploring the data -- who gave what to whom?

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8 thoughts on “Electoral funding figures show Labor’s donations collapse

  1. Patriot

    Spot on, Bern. More and more people are realising that you just can’t trust Labor with your money. I’d only add that Graeme Wood is under “intense scrutiny” himself regarding his dealings with the Greens in relation to the Triabunna woodchip mill. Great analysis.

  2. milton louis

    Will we now see our new media owners bankrolling federal parties with budgie policy who ‘promise’ to overturn mining tax and carbon policy?
    What would stop a generous miner dropping a lazy few million in donations and then offering free press to their pet party?
    Its ‘not against the law’ is it? and if it is perhaps the law is wrong and we can lobby that one too!

  3. Ravenred

    Seems reasonably commonsense. Pay big bucks to buy influence with a party that’s ABOUT to enter Government, but don’t tear out any cheques for a party that is likely to leave government. Love to see a cyclical analysis for major parties before expected poll wins/losses (Hewson’s donors might have done their dough a bit unnecessarily…)

  4. Andybob

    Perhaps we could persuade Stephen Colbert that his Super PAC should come down under ! I understand it is considering a change of name to John Colbert Cougar Super MellenPAC.

  5. Suzanne Blake

    Support collapses, confidence collapses, donations collapse. Make perfect science. Why back losers

  6. Lord Barry Bonkton

    Patriot ??? , you don’t believe anything in that opinion rag do ya ? Dr. Bob Brown has been attacking those Forest Thugs and thieves for decades . Just another beat up for the rusted on right wingers .

  7. Edward James

    @ PATRIOT Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink Dealing with politicians first hand for as long as I have. I write that voters are learning they can’t trust the Labor party with their vote! Even Labor Party members and supporters are beginning to understand Labor as a political party is rotting from the head, Prime Minister Gillard on down. Consider what Rodney Cavaliar had to say about the decline in membership in his book Power Crisis. Labor have so few party faithful they are now politically inbreeding across Federal, State and Local government. Nationally teh Labor Party have ignored the abuse of due process which is identified as the heiner report/shreddergate. And other elements of misgovernance which can be identifed as political sins against the peoples. Edward James

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