Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Palmer's companies biggest electoral donors -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: But first - following the money in Federal politics.

The Australian Electoral Commission has released the latest figures on corporate donations to Australian political parties.

And Federal MP Clive Palmer's businesses have emerged as the biggest donors for the past financial year, giving almost $10 million to his Palmer United Party.

One of those businesses, Queensland Nickel, donated almost $6 million. That's the same company that went into voluntary administration last month, sacking 237 of its employees.

David Mark has our report.

DAVID MARK: The Palmer United Party only has two members in the Federal Parliament; Clive Palmer himself and the Senator, Dio Wang.

But donations to the party from Mr Palmer's private companies dwarf all other political donations for the past financial year.

One of those companies is Queensland Nickel. Last month it went into voluntary liquidation and sacked more than 230 workers.

But before that, it'd donated almost $6 million to the Palmer United Party.

Those donations were in widely varying amounts, from as little as seven dollars and five cents on the seventh of February last year, to $2,866,000, one month later.

Another of Mr Palmer's companies, Mineralogy, donated more than $3,600,000 to his political party. His Palmer Coolum resort donated $191,000.

All up the Liberal Party received almost $76 million and the Labor Party, almost $66 million.

The Nationals were given $11 million and the Greens, $9 million.

The next biggest single donor after Mr Palmer's private companies was the lobby group, the Australian Hotels Association, which donated a total of $414,000 to the Liberal, Labor and National parties.

The Macquarie Group was in fourth spot, with total donations of $325,000 to the same parties.

The Gold Coast software entrepreneur, Sean Tomlinson, was the biggest single donor to the Labor Party with $253,000.

The biggest single donation to the Liberal Party of $235,000 was from Pratt Holdings, which is linked to the cardboard and recycling company, Visy.

These figures only relate to corporate and private donors. By far the biggest donors to the political parties are unions and the parties own investment vehicles.

The biggest single donor is the United Voice Union, which provided $98 million to the Australian Labor Party.

Senator Lee Rhiannon is the Australian Greens democracy spokeswoman.

LEE RHIANNON: We're seeing very clearly here with the donations between the Palmer United Party and Palmer companies a very serious problem in how our political process is going.

Overall February 1 is where you see the corrupting influence of donations.

I'm not talking about paper bags and money being handed over, but more and more we're seeing donations being handed over from companies who have been getting a pretty good return from the MPs and the parties they fund because you're seeing a change in law that brings benefits.

And particularly with the gambling industry, alcohol developers, mining industry they do pick up benefits when the law is changed to favour those companies.

DAVID MARK: They are quite serious accusations you're making. Can you back that up with specific examples?

LEE RHIANNON: Yes certainly. Within New South Wales, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act over decades, in which donations from developers went through the roof for both Labor and the Liberal parties.

During that time those parties regularly voted together to weaken the planning laws that have allowed so many problems with regards to how mining companies operate in that state and also with over-development, particularly in many urban areas.

And overall obviously the alcohol and the gambling industries get a pretty good ride in this country.

So I'm not saying that there's paper bags of money handed over or even the donations are given for direct projects, but there's certainly a shift in how Australian politics work, that you come to the conclusion that many MPs are not operating to the common good, to the benefit of the direction Australia should take for everyone, but there are certain client interests that gain a benefit here.

DAVID MARK: When you look at the donations though - yes there are some very big corporate donations and yes there are some corporate donations and yes there are some very big donations by single individuals but overwhelmingly the biggest donors to the political parties are still the union movement to the ALP and the Greens, to a lesser extent, and also the Liberal parties own investment vehicles.

They're still the biggest donors aren't they?

LEE RHIANNON: The - ah I haven't done the categories yet. There has been periods when developer donations have been bigger than union donations.

But I think what this highlights is how we need to clean up how electoral funding operates in this country.

And this is where Prime Minister Turnbull needs to honour some commitments he has spoken about many years ago, that he wanted to act in this area.

We achieved the Greens and community action in New South Wales has been successful in bringing in very tight limits on political donations.

We now need those laws to be uniform across the country and that means bringing in changes in Canberra.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s the Green's Senator Lee Rhiannon ending David Mark's report.