The 2013-14 political donations data confirms a long trend in Australian politics, with the ALP still fundamentally reliant on the union movement and the Liberal Party in the thrall of big business, rent-seekers and a few wealthy families.
It shouldn’t take until almost halfway through Tony Abbott’s first term in office to be told who funded the campaign that dislodged Kevin Rudd, but the figures were only released by the Australian Electoral Commission at 9am today.
There are dozens of interesting stories in the deluge of data, but perhaps of most interest is the breakdown of donors to the federal Liberals in 2013-14. The election was held on September 14, 2013, and most major donations tend to happen in the weeks leading up to polling day.
Under Australia’s anything goes system of campaign finance, there are no legal restrictions on who can give money to federally registered parties. Ivan Milat, Sir Prince Philip, Vladimir Putin, the Hells Angels … no problems, step right up.
Even businesses that are directly licensed or funded by Canberra have an unfettered right to provide unlimited amounts of cash.
And that’s what you see across the 10 pages of donors disclosed by the federal Liberals who gave more than $12,400. This is hardly comprehensive, but here’s a summary of those who contributed more than $50,000 to the Abbott campaign to unseat Kevin Rudd:
Adani Mining, $49,500: Indian conglomerate developing the giant Galilee coal fields in Queensland.
Ross Adler, $50,000: former CEO of Santos, whom Libs appointed to the Telstra board. Made plenty as chair of Dominos Pizza.
ANZ Bank, $150,000: easily Australia’s largest financier of carbon-intensive energy sector and most politically generous of the big four banks. Now chaired by David Gonski.
Lord Michael Ashcroft, $250,000: controversial British business and conservative political figure who gave Libs a record $1 million donation back in John Howard’s day.
Australian Salary Packaging Industry Association, $250,000: responded generously when Liberals promised to overturn Kevin Rudd’s clampdown on tax breaks for packaged salaries. McMillan Shakespeare is the largest industry player.
ASX Ltd, $110,000: gave the same to both sides and was clearly relieved when Bill Shorten was persuaded not to introduce competition into its monopoly-clearing business.
Balmoral Pastoral, $400,000:As Bernard Keane reported, this outfit also gave $200,000 to the federal Libs in 2012-13. Is owned by billionaire Bob Oatley, who made his fortune selling Rosemount to Southcorp for $1.5 billion and now focuses on Hamilton Island and winning Sydney-to-Hobart races.
Joseph Brender, $100,000: wealthy businessman who made his fortune in textiles and retail and lives near Malcolm Turnbull in Point Piper.
Century Plaza, $220,000: the private company of retail billionaire Solomon Lew, who has lobbied hard for a higher GST on online purchases.
Chevron Australia, $47,300: one of the 10 biggest global oil super-majors with major investments off Western Australia.
Clubs Australia, $180,000: not-for-profit pokies lobby, which was relieved when Liberals helped fight off the Gillard-Wilkie pokies pledge on mandatory pre-commitment.
Coca-Cola Amatil, $55,000: controlled by Atlanta, chaired by David Gonski and a long-time litigant and lobbyist against container deposit schemes globally.
Coles Group, $55,000: part of Wesfarmers and Australia’s grocery duopoly along with Woolworths. Exposed to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and political intervention due to enormous market power over suppliers.
Coogee Chemicals, $50,000: manufacturer exposed to carbon tax. Controlled by Rich Lister Gordon Martin, the inaugural president of the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ Western Australian chapter and former chancellor of Curtin University in Perth.
CST Mining Group, $50,000: Hong Kong-based miner, which owns the Lady Annie copper mine in Queensland.
Dow Chemical, $55,000: US-based chemical giant. Exposed to carbon tax.
Peter Edwards, $100,000: the most politically generous member of the Smorgon family.
Jon Fogarty, $100,000: former WA footballer who made the media with some controversies over contracts running public hospitals.
Sir Michael Hintze, $75,000: made his fortune running hedge fund CQS.
Hong Kong Kingson Investment: $500,000: prolific donor which gave a range of parties a total of $761,000 as far back as 2007-08, as The Australian reported at the time. Also gave federal ALP $600,000 last year through its associated Kingold division.
Jiebo Huang, $200,000: lists a Mosman address, little known publically.