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Donations Data Shows Major Parties Working for the Highest Bidder

Media Release
Larissa Waters 2 Feb 2021

The political donations data released today once again shows how corporations are buying influence in the major parties, said Greens Leader in the Senate and democracy spokesperson, Senator Larissa Waters.
 
“We know that political donations to the two major parties have tripled between the 2016 and 2019 elections, and that big money is playing more and more of a role in our politics,” Senator Waters said.
 
“Political parties still raked in over $150 million in donations from big corporations in the last financial year even though it wasn’t an election year.
 
“The coal, oil and gas industry has continued its regular donations spree, with $313,500 worth of donations disclosed to the Liberals and Nationals, and $346,850 to Labor.
 
“And these are only the donations that Australians are told about: around a third of all donations fall below the $14,000 disclosure threshold and rely on weak categorisation to stay hidden from public view as ‘dark money’.
 
“We also only know about these donations up to 19 months after the fact, as donations are only disclosed once a year, rather than in real time so people know who’s paying the major parties before they vote.
 
“Once again, we see that the big companies splashing cash are the same ones being awarded federal government contracts and approvals.
 
“The four biggest consulting firms – PwC, KPMG, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young – donated $208,000 to the Coalition in the 19/20 financial year. In that same period, they were awarded $600 million in federal government contracts. Some would say that is a pretty good return on investment.
 
“Mining magnate Trevor St Baker’s trust donated $25,000 to the Liberal Party while his company’s successful application for an $8.7 million federal grant to upgrade its coal plant was going through the department.
 
“Another mining company, Santos, gave $60,000 to the Coalition parties. In the same year, Australia got a 'gas-led recovery' and Santos’ Narrabri gas project got federal approval.
 
“Pratt Holdings, which owns Visy printing, donated an eye-watering $1.6 million the Coalition parties. Visy has won a $10 million grant from Australia’s Bushfire Recovery Fund, and benefited from the Government’s recycling export ban, which forces recycling collectors and sorters to sell to Visy, which has a near monopoly in paper and glass reprocessing in Australia.
 
“Today’s data also reveals a rise in shell companies and front groups laundering millions of dollars to the major parties in order to keep the original donors’ names off the public books. A holding company called ‘LNP nominees’ laundered $366,615 in donations to, you guessed it, the Liberal Party.
 
“The Greens have been campaigning for decades to clean up our democracy. We have a bill to ban corporate donations from dirty industries and cap donations at $1,000. But the major parties have blocked reform because they don’t want to stop the millions of dollars flowing into their coffers.
 
“We need to stop the perception – and the reality – of legalised bribery in federal politics.
 
“That’s why the Greens will be introducing a bill to prevent companies seeking approvals or government contracts from making a political donation while their application is on foot, or six months on either side of it. It’s a common-sense plan that even the donations-addicted major parties should support.

“Elected representatives should be working for the people, not the highest bidder.”

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