Clive Palmer spent an eye-watering $83 million on the 2016 election – and didn't win a single seat

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Clive Palmer’s failed attempt to disrupt federal politics cost the Queensland billionaire more than $83 million, new data from the Australian Electoral Commission has revealed.

Mr Palmer’s Mineralogy company donated $83.6 million to the Palmer United Party in June 2019, bankrolling the biggest individual spending spree in Australian political history.

Despite the cash splash – previously thought to be closer to $60 million – United Australia Party did not win a single seat in either house of Parliament.

As of June 30, the party had debts of $8.8 million, the majority of which was owed to Google Australia. The data covers the 2018-19 financial year, including the period around the May 2018 federal election.

Mr Palmer’s Coolum resort chipped in $103,495 to the party. His wife, Anna Palmer donated $330,000 to the Nationals.

Sugolena Pty Ltd, a company linked to philanthropist and property investor Isaac Wakil, donated $4.1 million to the Liberal Party and its state divisions, one of the biggest donations ever in Australia.

Mr Wakil is a major donor to the Art Gallery of NSW and the University of Sydney, along with his wife Susan who died in 2018. The couple sold off major property assets in Sydney’s CBD and Pyrmont to fund their charitable foundation.

Rich Lister Anthony Pratt’s Pratt Holdings donated $3 million to both major parties and state Liberal and Labor branches.

His mother, Jeanne Pratt, donated $75,000.

Regular donor Ros Packer, widow of the late media mogul Kerry Packer, donated $140,000 to the NSW Liberal Party.

James Packer’s Crown Resorts donated $45,000 to Labor and $15,000 to the Liberal Party.

A subsidiary of Adani Australia gave $100,000 to the Nationals and $50,000 to Liberals.

Liberal MP Gladys Liu donated $90,000 as she campaigned to win the Melbourne seat of Chisholm.
Liberal donations topped $165 million ahead of Scott Morrison’s shock election victory, with Labor banking $126 million, the Greens about $20 million and One Nation about $3 million.

The Cormack Foundation, a regular cash source, was the Liberal Party’s biggest donor. Tobacco manufacturer Philip Morrison donated more than $24,000 to the Nationals.

Big donors including the CFMEU, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, and law firm Maurice Blackburn. The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union electrical, energy and services division donated $650,000 to Labor.

Employer group the Australian Hotels & Hospitality Association gave more than $1 million to the major parties, including $761,000 to the Victorian Labor Party, despite Labor under former leader Bill Shorten promising to reverse penalty cuts for workers in the industry.

Former ALP minister Martin Ferguson chairs Tourism Accommodation Australia, influential within the AHA.

Reclusive mathematician and high-end gambler Duncan Turpie, understood to be part of the secretive Punters Club with MONA founder David Walsh, donated another $545,000 to the Greens around the country.

wotif.com founder Graeme Wood donated another $30,000 to Greens.

The disclosure scheme requires registered political parties, political campaigners, associated entities, donors and third parties to disclose incurred electoral expenditure with the AEC.
The disclosure threshold for the 2018-19 financial year was $13,800.

Consulting PwC donated $386,635 to the major parties, along with fellow big four player EY which spent $269,758. KPMG spent $190.540 in the period, with Deloitte spending $175,779.

Rich listers and philanthropists the Gandel family, owners of Melbourne’s Chadstone Shopping Centre, donated $299,000 to the major parties through their Gandel Group.

Joy Chambers-Grundy, the widow of TV executive Reg Grundy, donated $300,000 to the NSW Liberal Party.

Nine Entertainment, owner of The Australian Financial Review, donated $33,000 to the Liberal Party and $27,500 to Labor.

Centre for Public Integrity director Joo Cheong Tham said the disclosure data was incomplete, lacking significant income from associated entities, party fundraising events and membership fees.
Donations can also be split to stay below the reporting threshold.

Professor Tham said donations over $1000 should be disclosed. Research by the centre found $1.040 billion in donations had not been disclosed between 1998-99 and 2017-18, 35.89 per cent of all donations.

“Any breaches of disclosure regulations are unlikely to be investigated, as the AEC lacks the resources and there is no national integrity commission.”

Other major donations included $500,000 to the National Party Victorian division from the Bus Association of Victoria; $294,000 to the major parties from the National Automotive Leasing and Salary Packaging Association; $285,900 from Macquarie Group and $283,240 from Woodside Energy.

This story originally appeared in the Australian Financial Review. Read the original story here.

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