Major parties were again big beneficiaries of fossil fuel money in 2020-21, with gas, oil and coal interests donating more than $2 million to the Liberals, Nationals and Labor.
The political donations data, released today by the Australian Electoral Commission, shows:
“This data shows just how dark and opaque the financing of our politics is, with 38% of the money that funds Australia’s major parties having no identifiable source,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Democracy Campaigner Jolene Elberth.
“Fossil fuel companies and lobby groups are big donors to the major parties.
“More and more we are seeing corporates report their donations while the parties don’t disclose where the money has come from. For example, the Liberal Party didn’t declare any of the money it received from Chevron or from oil and gas lobby group APPEA and the WA Liberals didn’t declare any Woodside donations. The companies declared them.
“Hefty donations and membership fees to exclusive party forums give fossil fuel companies easy access to our elected representatives. Over time, access translates to influence.
“Many smaller contributions are for fundraising dinners or similar events where coal and gas executives can literally buy a seat next to a minister.
“The problem feeds itself: as political parties rely on big donations to run their election campaigns, they have an interest in not putting their donors offside, even when doing so is in the public interest.
“It’s a repeating cycle and it leads to bad policy outcomes – like the so-called gas-led recovery – where private financial interests are put before the public interest.
“Clear and simple reforms could be enacted today to improve integrity and make the system more transparent.
“There are stronger laws regulating donations in almost every state and territory than there are at the federal level.
“Caps on donations, a lower threshold for revealing donations and more regular disclosures would vastly improve the integrity of our political system.”