This week it was revealed that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation had lobbied for up to US$20 million (AU$28 million) in funding from American pro-gun groups, as shocking footage of Chief of Staff James Ashby and Queensland leader Steve Dickson emerged as part of a new two-part documentary.
The explosive footage was recorded by Australian undercover reporter Rodger Muller from Al-Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, who posed as a pro-gun advocate, and showed Ashby and Dickson meeting with officials from the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) and other pro-gun groups to discuss cash donations to loosen Australia’s gun laws.
The footage was recorded in Washington DC in September last year, just two months before legislation was passed which banned foreign donations to Australian political parties and individual players. However, Ashby has since claimed he was “on the sauce” at the time, and never said he never promised to “water down” the country’s gun legislation.
Following the screening of How to Sell A Massacre on the ABC, the story triggered debate about whether it matters who donates to a political party or whether the donation to One Nation, had it actually come to fruition, would have constituted foreign interference in Australian politics.
Starts at 60 readers got involved in the debate, with one user saying: “All political parties lobby for funding for their policies. If that’s their policy, where’s the problem? The public can back or reject the policy. No news here.”
Another argued: “So what, the ALP, LNP AND AUSTRALIAN GREENS have been accepting donations from overseas interests for years. Now just because ONE NATION jumps on the band wagon all hell breaks lose [sic]. What a bunch of bloody hypocrites.”
However another wrote: “Quite happy to sell Australia to USA interests.”
Each year the Australian Electoral Commission publishes details of all donations and payments received by political entities over a certain amount. Here’s the low-down on who donated substantial sums to some of Australia’s major political parties in 2017-18.
For the financial year 2017-18, Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party filed a return for $62.8million in total receipts across all its state and territory divisions. Total receipts are comprised of all amounts received by the party, irrespective of whether the amounts received are a donation or not. This figure includes ‘other receipts’ which are those amounts received by a party which do not meet the legislative definition of a donation, as well as sums donated or gifted to the party, returns on investments and asset sales.
The Liberals received the largest single donation of any party, with Vapold Pty Ltd donating $2.3 million to its Victorian division during the 2017-18 financial year. On top of that, they declared two donations from ANZ worth a total of $250,000, a $150,000 donation from billionaire Anthony Pratt’s company and $200,000 from the NSW Liberal division’s Cook Endeavour forum – taking the federal Liberals’ total receipts to $5,643,463.
Labor fell shortly behind the Liberals with a total receipts sum of $60 million overall for the same 12-month period.
Bill Shorten’s party bagged several union donations, along with donations from gambling and alcohol companies, banks and energy companies – taking their federal branch total to $11,543,515. While the ACT branch of the Labor party’s 1973 Foundation declared $607,396 from G8 Education, but the company specified that it was from rent paid for a property – not a political donation.
The Nationals received a sum of $56,000 from the tobacco industry alone, adding to their $8.18million in total receipts.
In addition, gaming company Tabcorp donated $25,550 to the federal division of the party, along with a further $10,800 to other state and territory branches of the Nationals. While the Manildra Group parted with a total of $171,350.
By far the largest donation received by the Greens was a hefty sum of $599,860 from emeritus scholar Professor Chilla Bulbeck. Richard Di Natale’s party also declared receipts of $200,000 from the Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union of Australia, while private donor Mr Duncan Turpie donated $50,000 to both the party’s Tasmanian and Victorian branches.
The Australian Conservatives declared total receipts of $216,826 for the past financial year, with the biggest sums coming from a private trust – PG Consolidated Pty Ltd as Trustee for PG Trust – which accounted for two donations of $50,000 to each the Queensland and New South Wales branches of the party.
The Conservatives, headed by Cory Bernardi, also listed receipts for $28,600 from the Australian Hotels Association, as well as $20,000 from Willimbury Pty Limited.