A handful of major unions dominate donations and other funding for the Labor Party across its branches in the 2015-16 political donations data.

The powerful right-wing, socially conservative Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) was the party’s funding powerhouse, providing a total via its federal and state offices of over $550,000 to federal Labor, another $450,000 to NSW Labor, over $240,000 to Victorian Labor and $170,000 to Queensland Labor. The Shoppies also demonstrated why they have such clout in WA, providing around $420,000 to WA Labor — a much bigger proportion of division revenue compared to eastern state branches — and gave another $120,000 to SA Labor.

The left-wing United Voice — formerly the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union — was also a key funder with over $530,000 to the party’s federal branch from the union’s national office. The union, via its state and federal offices, also gave over $140,000 to NSW Labor, over $330,000 to Queensland Labor (Labor ran particularly hard on 457 visas in Queensland, which affect hospitality as well as mining and construction) and over $200,000 to WA Labor. The CFMEU was a bit-player federally, with just $46,000 to Labor, but its divisions and branches were a major funding source at the state level: over $200,000 to NSW Labor and $430,000 to Victorian ALP, as well as over $130,000 in the west. The left-wing AMWU gave over $320,000 to federal Labor and just over $90,000 each to the NSW and Victorian parties.

[Turnbull donation kept secret for another year]

Federal Labor’s biggest private donor was its regular source of copyright cartel funding, Village Roadshow, which gave both federal Labor and the federal Liberal Party huge donations: $250,000 for Labor (plus some pocket change for state branches) and $295,000 to the Liberals. A surprise donor to federal Labor was the Salary Packaging Association (the parasites behind the novated lease tax rip-off), which gave just under $150,000 (and $175,000 to the Liberals); Gold Coast entrepreneur Sean Tomlinson was also a big donor to Labor, stumping up $110,000, along with resources giant Woodside (Woodside tends to play a straight bat — it gave $110,000 to both sides).

But Labor failed to enjoy the traditional largesse of Chinese donors, which has been on the wane since the glory days of the late 2000s: Hong Kong Kingson (which has switched the bulk of its funding to the Liberals in recent years) gave $50,000 to federal Labor and $100,000 to the NSW division; Xiangmo Huang’s Chaoshan No.1 gave NSW Labor $30,000, supermarket owner Chuangxiong Luo gave another $50,000 to NSW Labor; mystery donor Ying Zhou of Carlton in Sydney gave $100,000 — but what was once a rich source of six-figure donations for Sussex Street and, to a lesser extent, federal Labor has now waned significantly. After the disaster that befell Sam Dastyari last year, it may not recover when we have a chance to look at the current year’s figures. But for that, you’ll have to wait 12 months.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey