AEC returns: Adding up who owns our democracy

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The AEC annual political party returns show a clear pattern, writes Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones: offshore connections, big banks, shadowy foundations and a conga-line of minor, yet substantial, donors, all with their hands out.

IF YOU WANT to see the true face of Australian democracy, you need look no further than the Australian Electoral Commission’s political party annual returns for the financial year 2013-2014. 

Click on the image to access original clickage graph on Sydney Morning Herald website

That’s the period from 1 July 2013, when Labor were in power, to June 30 2014, when they weren’t.

Some of the numbers are very big, others are only terrifying. Let’s have a look at the top few on both sides.

First, Labor.

Its Federal arm grossed $40.1 million, spent $33.5 and had debts of only $180,000.

The main revenue source, $20m, was from the AEC for its per vote $ refund.

Its biggest private donor was a chap called Zi Chun Wang who tipped in $850,000.

According to the Guardian:

'A mystery donor who personally made the largest contribution to the Australian Labor party in the lead up to the 2013 election is linked to a Chinese-Australian property group with major development projects in Victoria.'

Next, at $600,000 was an outfit called Australia Kingold Investment Development Co P/L which has a website saying:

Presumably for insurance purposes, Kingold gave $100,000 to the Libs as well.

The Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees' Association chipped in $500,000.

Then there are the branches of course, all with their separate disclosures.

All up, across the whole party, a chap called Jingui Xu donated $400,000 to Labor; another chap called Wencheng Guo $100,000; the Yuhu Group $100,000; Zhaokai Su (Ken Su) $70,000 and Luo Chuangxiong $50,000. A host of smaller Labor-linked bodies also gave similar amounts.

The Liberal Party nationally out-grossed Labor at $43 million. But, in classic Liberal fashion, it spent $46 million and racked up a net debt of $4.1 million.

The Libs scored $25m from the AEC, but its biggest donor, our old friends the Cormack Foundation, handed over $1.5m; and another of our old friends, the Free Enterprise Foundation, found a further $1.25m.

Nimrod Resources, an unlisted miner owned by Paul Marks – whose fabulous birthday soiree Tony Abbott controversially flew to recently – topped the others list with $500,000 — followed by a long list of corporates with $100,000 plus.

Interestingly, the Senator M Cormann LP Campaign Fund found a spare $80,000.

Like the ALP, the L-NP has branches. But these are on another level.

The NSW Division enjoyed revenue of $19.6m, but suffered expenditure of $20.5m. It carried a debt of $3.4m. That’s $7.5m in Liberal Party debt so far. And a $3.9m loss.

But with backers like Westpac, which tipped in $2m, who cares?

The Victorian Division did not fare as well. Its income of $18.2m fell $2m short of expenses. Thank goodness for the Cormack team, who dug up a separate $2.76m for the Victorian cause. The Federal Secretariat had to tip in $2.6m as well.

On the bright side, Victorian debt was only $2.2m. That’s $9.7m in Liberal Party debt so far. And a $5.9m loss.

By comparison, the South Australian Division presents as a model of fiscal rectitude. Receipts totalled $10.2m against expenses of only $8.5m. As a result, the Division carried debt of a modest $116,000. That’s $9.8m in Liberal Party debt so far but losses pulled back to $4.2m.

SA’s largest donor was the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) Industry Association Ltd which contributed $320,000.

When I looked, the AEC site would only provide information for these states (maybe it’s working now), but the pattern is clear.

Offshore connections, big banks, shadowy foundations and a conga-line of minor, yet substantial, donors, all with their hands out.

This is what our democracy has come to.

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