Mining billionaire and would-be National Living Treasure Clive Palmer gave almost $1 million to the Coalition and LNP last year, according to Australian Electoral Commission figures published yesterday. That matches the $1 million he gave in 2009-10 and the $840,000-odd he ponied up the previous year.

So whatever happened to the Liberals’ resolve to take no more Palmer handouts? Two years ago, in February 2010, the Liberals’ Senator Michael Ronaldson, then shadow special minister of state, was asked about Palmer’s donation by The Courier Mail and replied via a spokesman: “It creates a perception of undue influence over a political party. We don’t believe donations of that size are appropriate for the future.”

But it’s hard to say no when those big cheques pop through the letterbox, especially when the blokes at Queensland’s LNP (which got $635,000) are opening half the mail.

The Power Index asked Senator Ronaldson this morning to explain why the Libs hadn’t sent Palmer’s money back, but we’re still waiting for an answer.

Meanwhile, over in Greenland, sorry make that Greens land, the party coffers were swollen by an even bigger $1.7 million donation from internet multi-millionaire, Graeme Wood, the founder of Wotif, who recently bought that Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania for $10 million so he can close it down.

Could this be the same Greens Party, we wondered, that runs the excellent website Democracy for Sale, which urges a ban on big political donations? And could one of its leading lights be Lee Rhiannon, who wrote in a 2010 op-ed piece:

“Australian democracy has been diminished by more than a decade of political donations bankrolling Labor and the Coalition parties.”

Indeed, could it even be the same Lee Rhiannon who issued a shocked press release yesterday about how much money political parties are getting? Surely not. I mean wouldn’t that be a little hypocritical?

Meanwhile, the biggest donors and spenders in the political arena in the 2010-11 financial year included all the usual suspects.

The big tobacco companies spent $14 million on fighting plain packaging; the Minerals Council of Australia and the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies spent $6.2 million savaging the Mining Resource Rent Tax (on top of the $17 million they spent the year before); the ACTU spent $6.5 million on campaigning for the labour movement; GetUp! spent a hefty $5 million; and Clubs NSW spent $1 million in the early days of its campaign to kill Andrew Wilkie’s pokie reforms.

*Read the full story at The Power Index

Peter Fray

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