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Millions in corporate donations proves need for urgent reform

Media Release
Larissa Waters 1 Feb 2022

Political donations data published today by the Australian Electoral Commission shows that the Liberals, Nationals and Labor raked in a combined $14.6 million in donations in the 2020-21 financial year, including more than $1 million from the fossil fuel sector alone.

The Greens yesterday launched their donations and lobbying reform policy which would ban donations from coal and gas corporations and other sectors with a track record of buying influence, and introduce a political donations cap of $1000 per year for all donors.

Lines attributable to Greens deputy leader and spokesperson on democracy Senator Larissa Waters:

“Today’s data once again shows that big money runs politics, it’s legalised corruption. 

“The major parties pocketed $14.6 million in donations during the last financial year - and that doesn’t include the millions in undisclosed dark money our weak donations laws don’t capture.

“Coal and gas, banks, pokies, alcohol, private health sectors all feature heavily. Is it any wonder those sectors are poorly regulated and get billions in taxpayer handouts?

“Empire Energy, which received $21 million in public money to frack the NT’s Beetaloo Basin for dirty gas, gave $40,000 to the Liberals and $25,000 to NT Labor. Empire’s Chair has personally previously donated over $200,000 to the LNP in the past. That’s a pretty good return on investment!

“The Minerals Council, who toppled a Prime Minister over a proposed super-profits tax, gave nearly $200,000 to the major parties in 2020-21. It’s no wonder we have such terrible climate policy.

“In total, fossil fuel companies gave more than $1 million to the Liberals, Nationals and Labor - even in a non-election year. In return, they get billions of public handouts via grants and subsidies and policies that maximise their profits. It’s democracy for sale.

“The Big 4 consultancies (EY, Deloitte, PwC and KPMG) donated $670,000 to the Coalition, then got paid over $1 billion in government contracts, many for reports that won’t even be made public. Meanwhile, the public sector gets gutted. 

“These are only the donations that Australians are told about: more than a third of all donations fall below the $14,300 disclosure threshold and rely on weak categorisation to stay hidden from public view as ‘dark money’.

“Even for those donations we get to see, it can be up to 19 months since the donation was made. Donations are only disclosed once a year, rather than in real time so people know who’s paying the major parties before they vote. Voters will head to the polls in the next few months but won’t know who’s been funding the election campaigns until February next year!

“The Greens have been campaigning for decades to clean up our democracy. The big parties have voted against our reforms because they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. But in balance of power after the next election the Greens will push the next government to reform election funding and clean up politics.

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

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