Eagle-eyed journalists hoping that today’s donation disclosure dump from the Australian Electoral Commission for the months leading up to last year’s election would reveal whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tipped millions into his own party’s coffers in the dying days of the 2016 election have been left disappointed.

Turnbull’s reported $2 million donation to the Liberal Party will likely now not be confirmed until February 1, 2018, as it was noticeably absent from today’s disclosure. It suggests that Turnbull made the donation either on July 1 or on the actual election day of July 2. The AEC’s annual disclosure of donations from the last financial year ending June 30, 2016, means it could be excluded. Turnbull is likely to face questions on this omission from journalists when he addresses the National Press Club at lunch time.

Some of Turnbull’s ministers were reported to have donated to the Liberal Party, however, with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton topping the lot at $50,000, followed by Education Minister Simon Birmingham at $20,000, and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann donating $20,000 to the LNP. Former government minister Ian Macfarlane donated $69,502 to the Liberal National Party in Queensland shortly before bowing out of politics.

The largest single donation to the Liberals came from mining magnate Paul Marks at $1.3 million. If the name sounds familiar, it is because Marks was embroiled in the Stuart Robert travel expenses scandal last year, when Robert traveled to China and visited a mining company he had an indirect interest in. Robert travelled to China with Marks.

Aside from more than $6 million in payments from the New South Wales Electoral Commission, the Cormack Foundation, a body set up to raise funds for the Liberal Party — but that also donated to Family First and the Liberal Democrats in the last financial year — donated $2.9 million to the Liberal Party, with $2.5 million going to the Victorian branch of the party and $400,000 going to the federal division. The Cormack Foundation owns shares in some of Australia’s biggest corporations and their dividends went to Cormack coffers, including Commonwealth Bank ($1.1 million), NAB (more than $500,000), Telstra (just under $200,000), Wesfarmers ($548,000), ANZ ($228,000), Westpac ($94,000), BHP Billiton ($175,000), Rio Tinto ($119,000) and Woolworths ($58,000).

Parakeelia, a company wholly owned by the Liberal Party that takes taxpayer money to manage the software Liberal MPs use to contact their constituents, paid $700,000 to the party.

Richard Pratt’s company, Pratt Holdings, donated $820,000 to various branches of the Liberal Party, and longtime lobbyist for strict enforcement of copyright Village Roadshow donated close to $400,000 to various Liberal Party branches.

Amusingly, former Victorian Liberal state director Damian Mantach is listed as an “other receipt” for a payment of $535,000 to the party in the last financial year. Mantach is currently in prison for defrauding the party $1.5 million.

 

UPDATE: This article originally incorrectly stated the dividends from shares to Cormack Fountation were donations.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW