Gas industry players were big donors to Australian political parties in 2019-20 – a year that saw the Morrison government trumpet a ‘gas-led recovery’ – with gas companies and peak bodies giving $698,339 to the major parties.

The 2019-20 political party returns, released today by the Australian Electoral Commission, reveal:

  • The major political parties declared a total of $120,133,740 in donations and other receipts – down on the amount declared in 2018-19 (an election year).
  • Fossil fuel industry sources gave a total of $428,404 to the major political parties. However, when the ambiguous ‘other receipts’ category is included, this amount rocketed to $1,329,754.
  • Gas industry players were the biggest fossil fuel donors, giving $698,339 to the major political parties, while coal companies and peak bodies gave $316,224.
  • The top three fossil fuel funders were Clive Palmer’s Minerology ($5,910,341 to Palmer’s United Australia Party, Woodside Energy ($197,750 to the Liberal and National parties, $137,665 to Labor), and the Minerals Council of Australia ($65,383 to the Liberals, $55,000 to Labor).
  • 32% of the total income declared by political parties was ‘dark money’ (it has no identifiable source).
  • Trevor St Baker, who is seeking federal money to upgrade his Vales Point coal-fired power station, donated $84,250 to the major parties.
  • In some cases, donors declared amounts that were far greater than what the parties themselves revealed. For example, the Liberal Party declared $27,500 from the Minerals Council of Australia, although the MCA’s donor return showed $65,383 to the Liberal Party.

Which party was the big fossil fuel winner?

  • The Coalition received the most from fossil fuel industries, receiving a total of $731,534.
  • However, Labor received $598,220 in donations from fossil fuel industries.
  • The Cormack Foundation, a fundraising body and associated entity of the Liberal Party, also reported investment income from Rio Tinto of $541,302 and BHP totalling $462,212.

Dark money

  • Labor disclosed a total of $50,704,906 in receipts, but only provided the source details for $36,288,405.
  • The Liberal Party disclosed a total of $46,607,680 in receipts, but only provided the source details for $30,662,993.
  • The National Party disclosed a total of $12,427,565 in receipts, but only provided the source details for $10,001,599.
  • The Liberal National Party of Queensland had the worst record on disclosure, disclosing a total of $10,393,589 but only declaring $4,402,745.
  • Between the parties, $38,777,998 of receipts have undisclosed

“Donations help big corporations gain greater access to decision makers and, over time, this access becomes influence,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Democracy Campaigner, Jolene Elberth.

“Gas companies continue to be some of the biggest fossil fuel donors to the major parties.

“When the government pushes a ‘gas-led recovery’, contrary to the science and the economics, voters have grounds to worry the gas industry has achieved unfair influence.  

“The consequences of listening to big donors, rather than the Australian public, means decisions are made that put corporate profits ahead of the health of people and the planet.

“There is a severe lack of transparency in our donations reporting regime. The public only gets small glimpses into the vast flow of money that goes into the coffers of the major parties.

“We urgently need sensible reforms to bring greater transparency to the sources of money flowing to political parties.

“ACF urges the government to enact reforms – which the public supports – such as lowering the donations disclosure threshold and real time disclosure of donations.”

ACF Media Enquiries

Journalists with enquiries may contact Josh Meadows on 0439 342 992. For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email [email protected]