Palmer pumps $117 million into United Australia Party

Clive Palmer's $117m gift to the United Australia Party is the most donated to a party in one year.

Clive Palmer's $117m gift to the United Australia Party is the most donated to a party in one year. Photo: AAP

Billionaire Clive Palmer pumped a record $117 million into the United Australia Party ahead of last year’s federal election.

The Australian Electoral Commission’s 2021/22 financial disclosure returns from parties, candidates, donors and organisation shows his Mineralogy mining company donated the staggering figure, including individual donations of $50 million and $30 million.

It is the most money an Australian political party has received in one year, beating the UAP’s record from the 2019 election, when it got $89 million.

This year’s huge spend bought an underwhelming return for the UAP, with Victorian Ralph Babet winning the party’s sole Senate seat, while it received 4 per cent of the national lower house primary vote.

Mr Palmer also donated $250,000 to the Liberal Democrats in mid-December 2021, a few weeks after announcing a preference deal with the minor party that campaigned against COVID vaccine mandates.

The AEC’s data, released on Wednesday, shows Labor took $124 million in donations, while the Coalition took $118 million.

The Greens, who received $22 million, continue to call for coal and gas companies to be banned from giving money and a $1000 cap on all donations.

Key independent senator David Pocock, who represents the ACT, received just under $1.7 million, including $856,382 from the Climate 200 group.

An analysis by the Centre for Public Integrity showed the top 10 donors contributed 76.9 per cent of all donations over the year.

The 10 individual donors, topped by Mineralogy, contributed $137.5 million to parties and independents.

Spending at the federal election reached a record $439.4 million.

“The undue influence of money in politics is getting worse,” the centre’s Anthony Whealy said.

“Record high spending fuelled by a handful of donors is putting our democracy at risk.

“Given the reliance that the major parties have on these top donors, there is a real risk that they receive special access and yield undue influence on our decision makers.”

In late 2022, Greens senator Larissa Waters brought to parliament a bill to ban coal and gas corporation donations and cap all other donations at $1000.

Other industries covered by the ban would include gambling, banking, defence and pharmaceuticals.

The Greens say Labor and Liberal policies are shaped by donations from big industries, pointing to slow action on climate change and hesitancy over financial reform.

The minor party also wants real-time disclosure of donations, lower disclosure thresholds and better data, rather than waiting 18 months for a complex dump of information.

In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the 2022 election, Labor backed real-time disclosure and reducing the disclosure threshold from $15,200 to $1000.

It also called for caps on electoral spending, but said the changes needed to be carefully considered.

The Liberals say real-time disclosure could put too much of a paperwork burden on parties and candidates, as well as lead to bullying or harassment of donors during elections.


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