fossil fuel, gambling, banks give big to Libs, ALP

Today is the annual day for what passes for accountability when it comes to political donations, and it’s once again a demonstration of how some of Australia’s most rotten industries spend up big to influence politicians.

With the 2022 federal election done and dusted, the total figure for donations and “other receipts” in 2022-23 revealed by the Australian Electoral Commission today was a small fraction of the previous year, with the NSW and Victorian elections the primary opportunity for election donations. But there are plenty of familiar faces.

The gambling industry was again dominant: it handed over $1 million to state and federal branches of the major parties, led by the various arms of the Australian Hotels Association, which gave $285,000 to politicians. The former Woolies pokies arm, now Endeavour Group, gave nearly $170,000 to federal, NSW and Victorian parties, roughly split between both sides.

The fossil fuel industry was, as always, a key donor, giving over $1 million to the parties, with arch-climate criminals Woodside and Santos together paying nearly $270,000 to their servants in Labor and the Coalition. Big polluter Bluescope Steel handed over $131,000 to the parties, and will now enjoy some taxpayer largesse as well: Labor is giving one of the world’s least efficient, most carbon-intensive and most cossetted steel manufacturers $137 million to keep polluting (and well done to the climate denialists at the Australian Workers Union for helping with that handout).

The big four consulting firms were once again big donors: Deloitte splashed $177,000 on the parties, EY $270,000 (heavily skewed to Labor — $127,000 to federal Labor alone, $56,000 to other branches). KPMG spent $163,000 and PwC, in its final year of buying influence (for now), went out in style, vomiting $370,000 on politicians who were by early 2023 queueing up to kick the tripe out of the firm. Nearly $89,000 of that came from PwC after its appalling misconduct was revealed.

The banking and finance industry made its usual contribution: ANZ $91,000, CBA $137,000, Macquarie $202,000, NAB $138,000, and Westpac $150,000, as part of a broader contribution from the finance and insurance sectors of over $1.7 million.

An emerging donations powerhouse is the pharmaceutical industry, which gave the parties $690,000 during the year — that’s separate from the Pharmacy Guild’s $355,000 contribution, which it may be regretting in the wake of Labor’s unusually consumer-friendly dispensing changes.

Individual donations were of course dominated by Clive Palmer, who continues to spend tens of millions to win virtually no seats in parliaments. It was a relatively quiet year for Clive, who gave $7 million to his political party via Mineralogy. Anthony Pratt, as always a high political roller, gave over $1 million entirely to Labor, confirming that Pratt’s generosity, which has traditionally favoured the conservative side of politics, has shifted with Labor’s political fortunes.

Entrepreneur and climate activist Marcus Catsaras gave Climate 200 $1 million, as part of over $3.5 million in contributions reported by donors to the grouping, including $700,000 from investment guru Robert Keldoulis, and a $20,000 contribution from Crikey investor Nick Fairfax, who also gave to the teals and GetUp. Christopher Pyne’s firm, doubtless to the rage of Cory Bernardi, gave over $37,000 to Labor.

Rex Airlines gave the Liberals and Nationals over $110,000 (thank you John Sharp). The far-right clone of GetUp, Advance Australia, enjoyed a $1 million payout from mystery donor Hadley Holdings, a $100,000 donation from climate denialist Bryant Macfie and $50,000 handouts from traditional Coalition donor Sixmilebridge and fossil fuel fan Trevor St Baker.

Labor promised to introduce lower reporting thresholds and real-time disclosure of donations before the last election. As yet there is no sign of any reform, with less than 18 months to go before the next election and donations likely to be ramping up in 2024 from companies keen to shape policy and cultivate politicians.

Do our political donations laws need overhauling — and do you believe Labor will actually do it? Let us know your thoughts by writing to Please include your full name to be considered for publication. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

Leave a Comment