You can learn a lot from digging through 12 years worth of Australian Electoral Commission filings. Yesterday in Crikey, Bernard Keane published his findings after picking through mining company donations to state and federal Labor parties and the Coalition since 2004. The numbers revealed the extent to which the Coalition benefited from a surge in mining company generosity after the Rudd government released its RSPT proposal in May 2010. It’s particularly breathtaking in column graph form:


Today, Keane keeps crunching the AEC data to explore the correlation between out-spending your opponent and winning elections, with some interesting insights for the Queensland election campaign to boot.

Day four of the campaign proper and Queensland Labor enters the 2012 election without one of its key campaigning tools — the ability to massively out-spend its opponents.

Queensland Labor’s success over the past four elections has been built on the ability to out-spend its conservative opponents, often on a massive scale, Australian Electoral Commission data shows. But as Crikey reports today, the Bligh government’s 2011 changes to political donation and expenditure laws capped not just campaign donations but also electoral expenditure since last May.

In 2001, Labor outspent the Nationals and Liberals $8.3 million to $5.6 million. In 2004, it spent more than twice as much: $14.1 million to $6.6 million. And in 2006, it carpet-bombed the conservatives with cash, spending $16.7 million to $7.7 million.

But since 2009 the tables have been turning. A unified Liberal-National Party lifted its fundraising and pulled in more than $12 million that year, and spent $11.5 million. But Labor still outmatched them, spending more than $14 million to achieve a win for Anna Bligh. Under Campbell Newman, the LNP could have expected to generate a significant increase in funding under the old rules and responded in kind to Labor’s spending.

But no longer under the new rules, which the LNP has criticised for favouring Labor. And in terms of electoral cycles, they might have a point.

So the campaigns will have to get more creative with their spends — though perhaps not as creative as this particular flier circulating in the Brisbane seat of Ashgrove right now …

It’s amazing what taking the time to do some careful maths (and checking your letterbox) can reveal about politics in this country.