Maths and Mathias: finance minister needs a lesson on political donations

It became apparent during 2018’s prime ministerial coup that Peter Dutton’s best mate Mathias Cormann couldn’t count.

Yesterday, the finance minister and Coalition Senate leader also proved that he’s a duck-and-weave merchant of the highest order when it comes to political donations.

Greens deputy leader Larissa Waters asked Cormann the following straight-forward question in the Senate:

The government accepted half a million dollars in fossil fuel donations in an election year — the most recent election year. Half of that was from Adani, some of which was donated prior to groundwater approvals being issued and some of which was donated after those groundwater approvals were issued. Given the climate crisis that we are in, when will you give the money back?

Cormann replied as follows:

Senator Waters has asked me about donations, and I’m reminded of the single biggest corporate donation ever in the history of the Commonwealth. Where did that go? Did that go to the Labor Party? No. Did that go to the Liberal Party? No. Did that go to the National Party? No. Did that go to One Nation? No. It went to the Australian Greens — $1.6 million to the Australian Greens. You are absolute hypocrites!

This is total garbage, so after a couple of tweets to Cormann elicited no response, Crikey sent his PR team the following email at 4.27pm yesterday:

“Mathias claimed in the Senate today that Graeme’s Wood’s $1.6m donation to the Greens in 2011 was the biggest corporate donation in Australian history.

“This is wrong given that property developer Isaac Wakil gave the Federal Liberals $4.1m in 2018-19 — see this story.

“Could you advise if Mathias intends to correct the record in the Senate or whether he stands by the statement. If so, what are the grounds for claiming Graeme Wood’s donation remains the biggest in history (it was also smaller than Malcolm Turnbull’s donation and many of Clive Palmer’s donations)?”

At around 6pm last night, Cormann replied with the following public tweet:

A spokesperson for Cormann has since come back to say that “the minister’s response to Senator Waters’ question … was in the context of parties represented in the Senate. Clive Palmer’s party is not represented in the Senate”.

Now Cormann is also the special minister of state so he, more than anyone else in the parliament, should be across the detail of our political donations system.

Where do we start on his claim that Wood remains number one? Exhibit A is Clive’s Palmer’s Mineralogy, which declared the following individual donations to Palmer’s United Australia Party in 2018-19:

  • $2.34m: Dec 21, 2018
  • $23.35m: Dec 29, 2018
  • $5.48m: Dec 30, 2018
  • $3.17m: Dec 30, 2018
  • $2.19m: Feb 19, 2019
  • $6.3m: Mar 20, 2019
  • $3.1m: Mar 27, 2019
  • $10m: Mar 28, 2019
  • $7m: May 10, 2019
  • $5m: June 19, 2019
  • $4.2m: June 28, 2019.

Okay, using Cormann’s logic, Graeme Wood may have made the twelfth biggest single donation in history. But this idea that Wakil’s $4.1 million for the Liberals is somehow comparable with Wood’s $1.6 million Greens donation is patently ridiculous.

Wakil’s return to the AEC disclosed 34 different transactions in 2018-19, ranging between $1.5 million on December 24, 2018 and $1736 on May 28, 2019.

When a public company launches a takeover, or any ordinary punter buys a house, they might pay for it using multiple transactions on different days. But ultimately the figure you should mention is the total value of the transaction, not what happened on any given day.

We look forward to Cormann correcting the record and even, heaven forbid, making a sensible contribution to the political donations debate in the Senate next week.

The Greens are right. Pocketing $247,000 from Adani in 2018-19 is clearly dodgy and these tainted funds should be returned.

Adani is yet to reply to Crikey’s queries about how it was able to donate given it is a foreign company and foreign donations were supposedly banned in legislation passed in November 2018.

It was up to German financial services giant Allianz (market capitalisation €95 billion) to clarify this issue when it responded to an email query yesterday about its 43 contributions worth $149,350 to political parties in 2018-19:

Donations are made by Allianz Australia Insurance Limited, an entity incorporated in Australia, which is not a foreign donor as defined in section 287AA of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and is therefore permitted to make political donations.

Media missing in action on political donations yet again

Another year of donations data has passed and, sadly, we’ve had another disappointing effort by the mainstream media in terms of covering the news, seeking reaction and calling for reform.

This is especially so given 2018-19 was a federal election year with record revenues and spending reported by both sides.

Unlike Crikey, which produced five stories on the data yesterday, and several more today, News Corp and the ABC put in disappointing performances.

The data dropped at 9am. Three hours later ABC radio’s flagship program The World Today failed to cover it at midday, although PM got on board later in the day, leading with the record $83 million Clive Palmer spend.

ABC online put together some state-based packages but there was nothing on the main 7pm news out of Canberra, or 7.30, which is partly explained by the news cycle being swamped by the Bridget McKenzie resignation and leadership issues inside the Greens and the Nationals.

With issues that major parties are not keen to talk about, it all comes down to journalists using their access to ask probing questions of both party officials and political leaders.

The Greens weighed in at state and federal level, but was there any on-the-record comment by leaders from the two major parties yesterday? Not that I saw.

ABC Melbourne’s Virginia Trioli had Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on for half an hour leading into the 9am news yesterday. He was not available for the rest of the day to answer questions about why the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) donated a record $761,000 to the Victorian ALP in 2018-19.

Rarely does an industry association so heavily back Labor ahead of the Coalition. There were no public complaints out of the Victorian Liberals or Nationals, probably because the AHA also gave them more than $300,000, presumably to keep them quiet and on board with the new 20 year pokies licences which start in August 2022 and were legislated with bipartisan support two years ago.

Frankly, from here on the media should be insisting on an Australian Electoral Commission lock-up ahead of the data release, and then access to party officials and political leaders for explanations of specific donations.

That’s if we don’t get the obvious reform of moving to real-time online disclosure of donations which would end the farce of the belated annual data-dump on the first working day of February each year — seven months after the financial year ends.

I met with a former premier recently who said that News Corp never covers donations reform properly because it enjoys the advertising windfalls come election time. It doesn’t want to undermine corporate influence over Australia’s political system.

Sky News showed little interest in the issue yesterday, particularly the Sky After Dark conservative commentators. The News Corp tabloids generally managed a single story with no commentary.

The Australian pulled together a single story on page two of the paper which was accompanied by a table which misleadingly labelled the gross revenue reported by the major registered political parties as “donations”.

With Labor and the Coalition parties declaring gross revenue of more than $300 million between them after battling a tight federal election, the media should do better than this.

Where is the commentary calling for reform, such as UK-style spending caps so no vested interest can ever repeat the $83 million spending splurge by fossil fuels billionaire Clive Palmer?

And where was the Labor attack on the Coalition for brazenly pocketing $247,300 from foreign mining company Adani, mostly in the month after federal approval for its project was rushed through shortly before the election?

Would it be worth pointing out that foreign donations were supposedly banned in November 2018, and asking the question as to how Adani was able to make these contributions without breaking the law?

The donations data should present a field day for political and business gossip columnists. However, both The Australian’s Margin Call and The AFR’s Rear Window columns ignored the story yesterday, although at least Nine’s CBD column produced something.

Across all the coverage yesterday, the only additional information ferreted out by media was that Clive Palmer had paid his $8 million debt to Google in full and that Sydney rich lister Isaac Wakil donated $4.1 million to the Liberals because, according to a spokesman quoted by the AFR:

He supports [Scott Morrison’s] policies, his integrity and what he stands for. Mr Wakil had a strong conviction that Mr Morrison was the best person to lead Australia and therefore was pleased to be able to contribute to the Liberal Party’s campaign. The donations were made with no conditions attached.

Given that every single donor above the $13,800 threshold has to disclose an email, postal address and phone number on their donation return, journalists can easily track them down and ask why they did it, how it happened and whether they were happy with the result.

For instance, if you want to know why foreign-owned gambling giant BetEasy split $55,000 between Liberal and Labor in 2018-19, check out this return lodged with the AEC and then email corporate affairs boss Daniel Bevan and ask him.

It’s not hard.

The political donors you’ve probably never heard of

A lot of the money spent on our two major political parties in the last financial year came from expected and obvious places — big business, unions, industry associations and well-known associated entities of the parties themselves.

However, a few very influential donors might not be quite so familiar, and are definitely worth knowing about.

The Greenfields Foundation

The Liberal-affiliated Greenfields Foundation brought in $950,000 to the Liberal Party in 2018-19. But it’s worth noting that Greenfields has a long and controversial history with the party.

Back in ’90s, the foundation took over a $4.6 million debt from then-Liberal party federal treasurer Ron Walker, after he had paid out a Liberal Party loan with the National Australia Bank.

While the Libs insisted at the time it was an independent charitable foundation, Labor argued it was “just the Liberal Party’s old fundraising arm, the old Free Enterprise Foundation, reborn in a new impenetrable form”.

The Free Enterprise Foundation had donated undisclosed funds for the Liberal party until the loophole that allowed it to do so was closed.

The AEC investigated and while it found nothing conclusive, a 1998 report did mention that “it is apparent that a person, or in certain circumstances a corporation, who wished to avoid full and open disclosure could do so by a series of transactions based on the Greenfields model”. It took no further action based on its findings.

However, Greenfields was at least designated as an associated entity — that is, an entity that operates wholly or to a significant extent for the benefit of a political party — the following year.

TWAAJ Investments Pty Ltd

Perhaps the most mysterious of Labor’s donors is TWAAJ. It was registered in 2015 and cropped up for the first time in the 2017-18 financial year, providing $110,000 to the ALP under “other receipts” — what the AEC classifies any payment for which the donor technically receives something in return.

This year, it provided an identical amount, again under “other receipts”. The company itself has not submitted any returns. It has no website we could find, but appears to be based in Melbourne, with its address on the AEC website listed as a PO Box on St Kilda Road.

Sixmilebridge Pty Limited

Sixmilebridge spent just under $140,000 on a variety of conservative parties in 2018-19: $5000 thrown on the fire that was Australian Conservatives; $20,000 for the Nationals. The rest went to the Liberal party.

The company is associated with former concrete magnate Rodney O’Neil. Yesterday’s data fits with Sixmilebridge’s general pattern of support — in 2017, the company donated to the same three parties (although much less).

Dr Roland Williams, CBE

Williams gave the Liberals $100,000. He has a long history with resources — indeed, he received a Queen’s birthday honour last year for his services to sector.

He spent four years as the CEO of Shell Australia in the second half of the ’90s. He was chairman of the Institution for Chemical Engineers, chairman of the Advisory Council to the Centre for Energy and Resources Law at the University of Melbourne, and president of the Business/Higher Education round table, as well as a founding member of the Board of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Sugolena Pty Ltd

The Liberal party’s second-biggest donor — behind its fundraising arm the Cormack Foundation — was Sugolena Pty Ltd, the company of Sydney-based property tycoon and philanthropist Isaac Wakil.

Having sat on a swathe of derelict buildings in Sydney CBD (some of which had been unoccupied since the 1970s), Wakil and his late wife Susan sold off $200 million worth of property in 2014 to fund their charitable foundation.

The reclusive couple made a $20 million donation to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and $35 million to the University of Sydney. In 2018-19, Sugolena donated $4.1 million to various branches of the Liberal party.

Tata Consultancy

The Indian tech multinational made its first donation to the Australian political system in 2018-19, and it didn’t hold back, donating just under $400,000 across Labor and the Liberals.

Spend a buck, gain a thousand: Big Four political donations reach record levels

2018-19 was another big year for donations from the Big Four consulting firms, with Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) together reaching a new record in donations to the major parties.

The firms jointly donated $1.02 million to political parties’ state and federal branches during the year, according to data released yesterday by the Australian Electoral Commission. That was up from $916,000 in 2017-18.

Big Four donations have steadily risen in recent years to the point where they represent one of the largest sources of political contributions.

The biggest donor by far was PwC, which gave over $386,000 in contributions to the major parties — $200,000 to the Coalition and the remainder to Labor branches.

That was a substantial increase over 2017-18, when the consulting and auditing giant gave $291,000 to the parties. EY also increased its contributions substantially, from $228,000 to $270,000, and leant more toward Labor, giving $157,000 to various Labor branches.

Deloitte gave $176,000, down from $182,000 the previous year, while KPMG gave $190,000, down from $213,000.

In all cases, the donations represent extraordinary value for money for firms that have been routinely criticised for conflicts of interest between auditing and consulting roles; displacing higher quality public sector sources of advice; and providing the resources for systemic tax avoidance by major corporations that have stripped governments across the globe of hundreds of billions of dollars in tax revenue.

In 2018-19, PWC secured over 250 contracts worth at least $192 million from the federal government, according to the Austender website.

Seen as a return on investment, that’s $494 in federal contracts for every dollar donated — and that does not include the contracts secured from state and territory governments as well, which may well be worth as much again or more as federal contracts.

But KPMG garnered the best return: with contracts worth $289.4 million in 2018-19 from the federal government alone, that amounts to over $1500 in contracts for each dollar donated.

Deloitte, which obtained $174.6 million in federal contracts, managed $992 for every dollar spent, while EY, the perennial also-ran of the Big Four when it comes to Australian governments contracts, has to settle for just $340.

As the big consulting firms have come to dominate donations, 2018-19 marked the end of a long era of big bank donation dominance.

With the Liberal Party having for the most part ended its decades of regulatory protection for the banks, both the Commonwealth Bank and ANZ have now joined the NAB in not donating to political parties at all.

Only Westpac handed just over $200,000 to the parties — split $125,000 to the Coalition and $75,000 to Labor.

Macquarie Bank, which is a traditional big donor and which escaped the odium of the banking royal commission, gave $130,000 to Labor and $125,000 to the Coalition (reversing a trend in recent years to favour the Coalition).

Big bank front group the Financial Services Council also had a relatively quiet year, donating just $87,000. The Australian Banking Association has lifted its contributions in recent years and gave $98,000 to the parties, but remains a relatively minor player.

As the big four banks have withdrawn from the donations game, they’ve been replaced with another foursome even bigger and potentially more lucrative — lucrative for both political parties, and the donors themselves.

Financial firms hedged their bets on election outcome

It appears that all of Australia’s major accounting firms hedged their bets as to who would win the 2019 federal election, with each largely splitting donations down the middle for the Labor Party and Liberal Party, with most tossing a small amount to a National Party branch for good measure. 

The Big Four firms — PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young — receive billions of dollars from taxpayers each year thanks to government contracts; political donations are less about ideology and more about making an investment in future income security.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, which brought in a massive $2.6 billion last year, was the biggest donor amongst the country’s four largest accounting corporations with $386,635.

Over $180,000 of this went to the ALP and Country Labor Party, while just under $200,000 went to the Liberal Party and $2,000 to the Nationals Party. 

Ernst & Young was the second highest donor with $269,758. Unlike PwC, Ernst & Young appeared to believe the ALP’s predicted win, with over $155,000 going to the Labor Party. But they didn’t discredit the Liberal Party’s potential (and eventual) victory, donating over $110,000 to the LNP, and over $1300 to the National Party. 

KPMG came in third, having made $190,540 in political donations in the last year, divvied up between just over $100,000 for the Liberal Party and just under $90,000 for the Labor Party, missing off the Nationals. 

Finally, Deloitte, who despite being the second largest firm in Australia in terms of its $2.3 billion revenue last year, only donated a total of $175,779. Over $82,000 of this went to the Liberal Party, $90,000 to the ALP, and almost $3,000 to the Nationals Party.

With total donations exceeding $1 million, it’s an increase in the Big Four firms’ political expenditure from previous years: In 2017-2018, they gave just over a combined $900,000 to the ALP and Coalition, compared to the $830,000 given in 2016-2017 despite their being no federal, Victorian or NSW election that financial year.

Who were the most generous major party donors?

The annual donations data dump gives us our best glimpse into who major political parties get their money from. Between out-and-out donations and what the AEC calls “other receipts” (where the donor technically got something for their money), here are the biggest spenders of the last year:

ALP

Unsurprisingly, Labor got the majority of its funds from various affiliated unions. The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union gave $280,000, the Electrical Trades Union $1.25 million, the CFMMEU gave $850,000, United Voice $950,000 and the shoppies donated a million (plus another $38,000 or so from various state branches).

In the private sector, Anthony Pratt’s packaging company Pratt Holdings gave $1.56 million, including $200,000 in other receipts. Westpac gave a total of $2.5 million (all of which was classified as “other receipts”). Labor-linked law firm Maurice Blackburn chipped in $136,212 in explicit donations and $264,112 counting all services. Advertising agency Ikon Communications provided $166,741, all in other receipts.

Eric Forday gave the biggest individual donation with $100,000.

Labor also got a lot of money from the party’s investment arm, which donated $300,000. State branches also did their part, which Victoria being by far the most generous with $559,953 in donations — its contribution goes up to $1.23 million with other receipts. Queensland donated $211,000 ($433,405 with other receipts) and SA $10,000 ($109,451 with other receipts). NSW Labor, perhaps needing the cash for their own election fight contributed $306,344, entirely in other receipts.

Many companies managed to contribute over a $100,000 without making a single explicit donation: Tata Consultancy ($164,000), Pharmacy Guild of Australia ($152,100) and TWAAJ Invetments Pty Ltd ($110,000).

Liberal Party

The Liberal party got its biggest donations from the Cormack Foundation with $3.5 million, closely followed by Sugolena Pty Ltd — linked to property investor and philanthropist Isaac Wakil — with $3.45 million. Pratt Holdings netted them $1.32 million.

The mysterious Greenfields Foundation brought in $950,000 while a group called the Cormann LP Campaign Committee gave $418,990 all up, and $385,000 in donations.

The New South Wales Liberals were more generous than their Labor counterparts, giving $357,212 ($255,000 in donations). But, again, the most from a state branch came from Victoria: $411,923 in contributions ($200,000 in donations).

The Liberals had more big individual donations, Dr Roland Williams ($100,000), Danny Wallis ($171,000) and Simon Fenwick ($125,000).

Other notable donors include apartment developers Meriton Group with $200,000 and Mathias Cormann’s buddies at Helloworld Travel with $110,000 (all under “other receipt”). In the big four, PwC contributed $200,000 while KPMG gave a modest $55,000 and neither made an explicit donation.

Minor parties, major cash

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”.

How fossil fuel donations dominated the 2019 election

Political donations from fossil fuel interests dominated federal politics in 2018-19 as Clive Palmer’s historic spending dominated the federal election campaign, Australian Electoral Commission figures for 2018-19 show.

Palmer’s company Mineralogy handed his United Australia Party (UAP) more than $83 million in by far the largest political donation ever made, aimed at preventing Labor from winning the election. Palmer, a climate sceptic, is pushing for the development of mammoth coal mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin via his coal company Waratah Coal, which also donated $150,000 to the UAP.

Right-wing industrial relations employer group the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association was also a major donor, handing more than $160,000 to the Coalition and $77,000 to Labor across different branches.

Energy company Woodside, which enjoys extraordinary access to and protection from the federal government under both sides, gave $148,000 to the Coalition and $135,000 to Labor. Gas company Santos, which will enjoy a taxpayer-funded windfall courtesy of Scott Morrison’s energy deal with NSW, gifted $79,000 to the Coalition and $69,500 to Labor, while Origin Energy handed around $50,000 to both sides. Adani gave just under $100,000 in total to the Coalition.

Outside of Palmer’s efforts, mining and energy companies handed a total of $867,000 to the Coalition’s branches across Australia and $574,000 to the ALP. Climate sceptic Michael Hintze also gave the federal Liberals $35,000.

While donations from the fossil fuel sector were consistent with previous years, Palmer’s spending dramatically shifted the political playing field against climate action.

Even grouping the Labor and Greens spending together and combining it with third-party spending like GetUp ($2.3 million) and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition ($360,000), election spending aimed at promoting any kind of climate action, limited or ambitious, was hopelessly outmatched by fossil fuel interest cash in the system.

In a year that would become known for the catastrophic consequences of climate change across the country, its election was dominated by fossil fuel interests spending up big to prevent any climate action.

Record Labor war chest couldn’t compete with Liberal and Palmer onslaught

A $50 million election war chest — its biggest since Kevin ’07 — was insufficient to get Labor over the line at last year’s federal election. Today’s political donation data, released by the AEC, shows that the Liberal Party able to overcome its leadership turmoil to equal its main opponent’s fundraising effort, political donation data released by the AEC today shows. But Clive Palmer outspent both of them with the biggest ever intervention in Australian politics.

With Bill Shorten expected to win over a chaotic Coalition last May, federal Labor dramatically upped its fundraising and turned over just under $50 million in the course of 2018-19, its best year since 2007-08 when the prospect of a Rudd-led Labor victory fueled a surge in donations.

But unlike in 2007, when the Howard government struggled to lure business support, the federal Liberal Party was able to tap into the pockets of vested interests worried by Labor policies, and turned over $48.2 million.

Both figures include $25-26 million in public funding, paid after the election based on primary votes received, from the Australian Electoral Commission.

Labor still outspent the Liberals $50 million to $43.6 million, federally. But separately, the federal Nationals raised $3.1 million and spent $3.6 million. The Queensland LNP also raised $13.2 million and spent $14.7 million, compared to $10.3 million in receipts and $9.3 million in spending by Queensland Labor, meaning combined Coalition parties managed to narrowly outspend Labor over the course of the year.

But Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party spent $89.5 million — nearly all of it provided by Palmer’s company Mineralogy — in an advertising blitz aimed, Palmer later said, at keeping Bill Shorten out of the Lodge.

In NSW, where the Berejiklian government defeated NSW Labor in March, the Liberals massively out-raised and out-spent NSW Labor: the NSW Liberals raised a staggering $48.9 million (including around $14 million in public funding received after the election) and spent $48.4 million, utterly dwarfing NSW Labor, which turned over $19.5 million (including around $8 million in public funding) and spent just $18.2 million.

The NSW Nationals also produced a powerful fundraising performance, generating receipts of over $9 million (including $5 million in public funding) and spending nearly $12 million.

It was a more even battle in the Victorian state election in November 2018, won in resounding fashion by Daniel Andrews. Victorian Labor spent $29 million during 2018-19, funded by receipts of $31.3 million, including $12 million in post-election public funding. The Victorian Liberals spent $32.7 million during the year off $36 million in receipts ($9 million of which was public funding), but also went deep into hock, racking up $9 million in debt from NAB during the year.

The expenditure figures do not relate entirely to election spending, but the size of the spending gives an indication of how much money the party branches directed at their respective campaigns.

Palmer’s $89.5 million spend was by far the greatest amount ever spent in an Australian election campaign — dwarfing both sides’ spending and more than doubling the spending of the major parties in some recent elections. It meant Labor, despite being heavily tipped to win, faced well over $100 million in campaign funds designed to stop it from winning power.

Palmer ended up spending over $1000 per vote his party received — but given his stated goal was to prevent Labor from winning, he may deem his staggering expenditure a success.

Money dominates Australian politics, now more than ever.