Clive Palmer was again Australia’s biggest political spender in the 2019-20 financial year, giving nearly $6 million to… himself.
The donation from Palmer’s company, Mineralogy, to his party, the United Australia Party, represents a significant fall from the $83 million he donated in the previous reporting period when he went on a spending blitz centred around the 2019 election.
But again it was an investment without return for the mining magnate, whose party won just 0.6% of the primary vote at 2020’s Queensland state election.
Following Palmer on the big spenders list was cardboard box king Anthony Pratt, whose Pratt Holdings gave $1.5 million to the Liberal and National parties. Pratt was notoriously chummy with former US president Donald Trump. At a meeting between Trump, Pratt and Scott Morrison, the prime minister called the box billionaire the “Don Bradman of job creation“.
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Next came Woodside Energy ($335,415 to the Coalition and Labor), the Macquarie Group ($251,320 to Labor and the Liberals), and the Australian Hotels Association’s NSW branch ($232,301 to the Coalition and Labor).
Perennial big spenders, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and Westfarmers, also stumped up more than $200,000,
For the major parties, donations came from the usual suspects. Labor got plenty from the unions — notably $249,743 from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, $170,124 from the Health Services Union, and $110,000 from various branches of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union.
For the Liberals, Pratt was the biggest donor, followed by $450,000 from well-known Coalition dark money outfit the Greenfields Foundation. Adelaide businessman Ian Wall and wife Pamela donated $175,000 each to the Liberals in South Australia, both representing the largest individual donations to the party.
The Greens were once again propped up by a suite of individual donors. Duncan Turpie, the reclusive mathematician and high-end gambler, was again the most generous with $150,000 — but only a fraction of the $500,000 he pumped into the party’s coffers in the last reporting period.
It also got $100,000 from Chilla Bulbeck, a retired professor of gender studies.
Although political spending fell over the last financial year, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation recorded a significant increase in donations. The far-right party recorded receipts of more than $5 million, a funding record, and a dramatic rise from the $632,000 it had to show from last year. But much of that seems to have come through payments transferred from its state branches.
Meanwhile, the biggest individual donation was an unusual one: $200,000 given by a William Nitschke to the Great Australian Party, the latest plaything of former One Nation senator, conspiracy theorist and anti-Family Court activist Rod Culleton.