Corporate donors — dominated by resources giants — piled huge amounts of cash into the coffers of the Queensland Liberal-National Party in the lead-up to last year’s state election, official Australian Electoral Commission data released this morning reveals.

With the writing on the wall for Anna Bligh, major corporates were desperate to hitch their largesse to “Can Do” Campbell Newman’s bandwagon, tipping $1.8 million into the LNP’s accounts.

The party sucked in a grand total — including public funding — of $17,612,936, dwarfing Queensland Labor’s $11,665,295.

The Queensland election, on March 24 last year, was held just 13 weeks before the end of the audit period, which stretched across the 2011-12 financial year.

Newman’s total take was nearly $3 million more than the previous non-election financial year, when the LNP could only manage $15 million and Labor $8 million. In 2010-11, corporate donations to the LNP totalled $1.2 million, $616,000 of which was sourced from mining tsar Clive Palmer through his companies Mineralogy and Queensland Nickel.

Palmer, despite being banned by the party three years ago, was back on the LNP balance sheet this year in a more modest fashion, with contributions of $176,700 and a further $27,500 to the federal Nationals. But recent re-estrangement with the party hierarchy over preselections may have called a halt to any further cash splashes (we won’t find out for another 12 months).

Prominent developer Harry Trigaboff’s apartment conglomerate Meriton stumped up $50,000, while Nathan Tinkler-associated Boardwalk Resources donated $22,500 to the pineapple state conservatives.

Underground coal gasification specialists Linc Energy donated $99,999 — a striking amount given the Queensland government was at the time wrangling over approvals and endorsments for the controversial technology. Frackers Beach Energy, with coal seam gas activists in its and the government’s ear, gifted $55,000. Geologists Energy Minerals flicked $95,000 to the LNP.

Village Roadshow, which owns the Gold Coast theme parks Movie World, Sea World, Wet’n’Wild and the Australian Outback Spectacular, donated $75,000 as part of a big $260,000 total national spend. Further receipts, including $83,000 from ticketing upstarts Trybooking, were listed under the AEC’s mysterious “other” classification, meaning the cash could have related to almost anything.

But by far the biggest donor was Newman’s fundraising entity Forward Brisbane Leadership, which donated $555,175 before it was wound up late last year over controversial contributions from developers. And Brescia Investments, the investment vehicle for developer Silvio Pradella that has links to former Howard government minister Santo Santoro and stood-aside public servant Michael Caltabiano, was good for $22,000.

A loan of $471,305 was received from LNP headquarters and Redcliffe MP Scott Driscoll, a retail industry WorkChoices warrior before entering state parliament last year, was good for the biggest individual donation of $55,000.

State Labor, by contrast, generated a pitiful 20 corporate and individual donations for a total of just $179,199 — about 10% of the LNP’s corporate stash. It was again forced to rely on the affiliation fees and donations of big unions, including the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association and the Australian Workers Union, and public funding from the Queensland Electoral Commission, to take total receipts to $11.7 million. Traditional bankroller Labor Holdings was missing in action, despite declaring income of $4,840,767 as an associated entity. It holds debts of $11,858,123, according to its related-party return.

(In previous years the Ian Brusasco-4KQ sell-off vehicle has donated tens of millions to both the Queensland and federal Labor parties, including the bankrolling of a quarter of funds for the 2007 Ruddslide).

The 2011-12 totals mean the public only finds out about donations made in July 2011 — 18 months later. And under federal disclosure law, parties are only required to declare all donations north of $11,900. While federal Labor took the high road, declaring all donations above $1000, the Queensland branch (and the LNP) disappointingly stuck to the letter of the law.

Peter Fray

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