pill testing
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

The CFMEU might be Australia’s richest union with audited net assets of more than $200 million across its various divisions, but the conservative side of politics also has plenty of financial fire power. But tensions between the Liberal Party and its largest donor are having serious financial consequences for the party. 

As Michael West reported last month, the NSW Business Chamber is sitting on an investment portfolio worth a staggering $184 million. But more directly connected to the Liberal Party is the Melbourne-based Cormack Foundation, which is sitting on a $70 million share portfolio.

The AFR’s Rear Window columnist Joe Aston, who exposed the rorts at CPA Australia, has been scathing of another wealthy not-for-profit, Cricket Australia, for similarly opaque disclosure of the $5.67 million going to the brass running their shop each year.

However, for opaqueness, the Cormack Foundation really does take the cake, which might explain why Victorian Liberal Party President Michael Kroger recently lawyered up to try to establish who really owns it.

Cormack got its seed funding when the Victorian Liberals sold radio station 3XY for about $15 million in the 1980s.

The money was put in a trust to build for the future and dutifully delivered almost $30 million back to the Liberal Party over the past 20 years.

However, after a factional fight with Kroger, the Cormack directors then inexplicably started giving away funds to rival political parties such as Family First and the Liberal Democrats.

And these are no backyard leaders, as when that happened the Cormack directors included former ANZ chairman Charles Goode, former Western Mining CEO and Reserve Bank director Hugh Morgan and John Calvert-Jones, who is Rupert Murdoch’s brother-in-law.

Morgan and Calvert-Jones have only just resigned as the Kroger fight heats up, including obvious briefings to the likes of Terry McCrann and to the Herald Sun for today’s piece revealing that NAB has knocked back a loan application from the Victorian Liberals.

Kroger is on shaky grounds resisting the advice of the Cormack directors and PPB Advisory (currently made famous as receiver of Ten Network Holdings) to remove himself as non-independent chair of the Liberal Party’s Victorian finance committee, but he’s right to be outraged about the diversion of Cormack funds to rival parties of the right.

What next, Liberal cash going to Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives or the DLP?

Crikey has covered the history of Cormack more comprehensively than any media outlet over the years, but the outcome of the present fight could very well determine if Daniel Andrews remains Labor premier after next year’s Victorian election.

Just like Malcolm Turnbull’s $1.75 million donation helped save the federal Liberals, a $10 million campaign contribution from Cormack is arguably all Liberal leader Matthew Guy needs to turn Daniel Andrews into a one-term premier.

Then again, If Andrews looks like going down, he might be able to prevail on the CFMEU to dip its $200 million-plus national asset pile and help him out with a bigger-than-usual donation.

Peter Fray

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