Clive Palmer (Image: AAP/Dan Peled)

The parties might be small, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t spending big money. Crikey takes a look at the political players who splashed their cash at the last election — and how effective that spending has been.

United Australia Party

Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) failed to win a single seat in last year’s federal election despite beating out every other party in political donations and expenditure, according to the Australian Electoral Council’s political donations records released today. 

The records reveal the UAP received more than $80 million in political donations, and spent almost $90 million during the election campaign. But all of the donations came from companies owned by Palmer himself. The largest donation for $83.2 million came from Palmer’s mining company, Mineralogy Pty Ltd. 

Smaller donations came from Waratah Coal, Palmer Coolum Resort, and Queensland Nickel Sales. 

An estimated $60 million was said to have been spent on the UAP’s election advertising alone. 

One Nation

One Nation, who also failed to win any additional seats in the 2019 federal election, ran on a much smaller donations budget of just over $3 million.

The party received a contribution from Australians Against Counterfeit and Contraband Products — a subsidiary lobby group of the Australian Retailers Association — who also donated $11,000 to the Australian Labor Party during the election.

Comments from the launch of Australians Against Counterfeit and Contraband Products reveal its predilection for strong border control, One Nations’ biggest policy platform.

“The government, especially the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, deserve credit for their insight in establishing the Australian Border Force (ABF) as an agency with a holistic perspective and powers across the border continuum,” ARA Executive Russell Zimmerman said in 2016. 

One Nation also received other contributions from Adani Mining, the Australian Hotels Association, the Strategic Political Counsel, and Pauline Hanson herself. 

The Australian Greens

Donation records reveal that the Australian Greens continue to be propped up by enormous individual donations from “reclusive mathematician, investor and high-end gambler” Duncan Turpie.

Turpie, who purchased progressive online magazine New Matilda in 2007 and helped launched GetUp with a $25,000 donation, gave $450,000 to the national Greens during the last federal election.

Turpie’s funding forms a significant part of the Greens’ total of just over $5 million during the last election. The rest was comprised of funding from the Greens state branches and individual donations from Kristina Stefanova and the estate of Michelle Wellard. 

Australian Greens national manager Brett Constable confirmed to Crikey that Stefanova is a former communications director at The Climate Institute and the part-owner of Terra Carbon, a company that develops and sells carbon offsets to fund forest and wetland conservation. She is also chair of women’s rights campaign group ActionAid, and cofounder and director of Bundaleer Sustainable Investments. While we don’t know for sure who Wellard is, the Greens website acknowledges a Michelle Wellard passed away in 2015. There is a Michelle Wellard who has been closely associated with the Greens for a number of years, having run for the Greens in the Eurobodalla Shire Council in 2012.

But Turpie’s donation, in particular, raises questions for how much influence the professional gambler has over the party’s pokies policies. 

As Van Badham pointed out last year, it was an “incredible coincidence that the Greens are pursuing a legislative agenda to restrict legal gambling activity to the fora in which one of their biggest donors makes his millions”.

Peter Fray

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