Far from the grassroots movement it claimed to be, the No campaign against the Voice to Parliament was funded by some of Australia's wealthiest. Anthony Klan reports.
THE ENTIRE PREMISE of the No campaign against the Indigenous Voice to Parliament was a sham.
Not only was its murky network of half a dozen entities “run” from a fake national headquarters – by directors stating fake residential addresses – it was also a fake “grassroots campaign” of fake “ordinary Australians”.
The “elite” and “inner-city woke” were the enemy — according to shadowy outfit “Advance Aus Ltd”, the nerve centre of the whole operation.
Advance, by contrast, was a “grassroots campaign” of ‘everyday Aussies’ with ‘mainstream values’, it told the nation.
It also told Australians:
‘...more of us are worried about what woke politicians and inner-city elites are doing to our country.’
‘We believe Australia is a free country. But you wouldn’t know it from the way woke politicians and the inner city elites carry on.’
It used images depicting hardworking blue-collar Australians, as it ran its clinical campaign against Indigenous Australians being provided a Voice to Parliament.
‘Mainstream Australia is under siege by stupid laws and woke ideologies…cooked up by elites that have no idea what it’s like to work for a living,’ said Advance, all while harvesting thousands of emails.
Only it was a monstrous lie.
The No movement was a precision-executed sham — bankrolled by the super-rich.
The “elite” of the “elite”.
Investigations show they boil down to just ten entities.
Many are obscured with payments made via holding companies, often with post office boxes listed for addresses.
Following the money trail – working backwards from the highly sophisticated campaign of disinformation and the lies that flooded the airwaves and social media – leads to a handful of the mega-rich.
The trail leads to the front doors of mansions in Toorak, Portsea, Vaucluse, Bellevue Hill and Double Bay.
To the owners of super yachts, private aeroplanes, ski chalets, vineyards — even entire sporting teams.
Investigations show these people aren’t even “the 1%” — that storied slither of society’s richest.
These people are the 0.01%.
Eight of the ten entities have estimated wealth of $100 million or more.
Most even appear on the nation’s “rich lists” — again, literally.
On the night of the Referendum, after voting closed, there were extraordinary scenes: the “No” campaign event, at the salubrious Hyatt Regency in Brisbane, was held in secret.
Media weren’t allowed in. Media handlers wouldn’t even say who was in attendance.
It was unprecedented.
A small handful of No campaign funders have publicly stated their position, including storage billionaire Sam Kennard, vitamins tycoon Marcus Blackmore and financier Simon Fenwick — but it appears most don’t want any attention.
A deep investigation into the backers of Advance reveals some fascinating details, including some previously unknown links.
Linked are two of Sydney’s wealthiest families: the O’Neil family, whose inherited riches originated with mining quarries, and the Taylors Wines' Taylor family — with donations coming from the same post office box, in Sydney’s exclusive Double Bay.
1. The O’Neils and the Taylors
Estimated wealth: $240m & $200m+
Five payments totalling $130,000 came from four holding companies all registered to the same Double Bay post office box.
Three of the holding companies, SixMileBridge Pty Limited, Nedigi Pty Limited and Willimbury Pty Ltd (which together contributed $75,000) are all owned by members of the mega-wealthy O’Neil family.
Little known outside the elite of Sydney’s wealthy eastern suburbs, the family made its money in mining, quarries and concrete under late patriarch Les O’Neil, who had eight children.
(The family appeared in the The Australian Financial Review Rich List as far back as 1990.)
The owners and directors of SixMileBridge are Les O’Neil’s 83-year-old son, Rodney O’Neill, and his wife, Judith O’Neil, 78, both of a sprawling mansion in Rupertswood Avenue in Sydney’s super-rich enclave of Bellevue Hill.
The house of a neighbour sold for $28 million late last year.
Rodney is also a director and owner of Nedigi Pty Ltd.
The other director and owner is his sister, Janette O’Neil, 74, of a double-lot absolute waterfront property at Palm Beach, the storied Sydney hamlet of the mega-rich.
The two directors of Willimbury Pty Ltd are Colin O’Neil, 79 (another of Les O’Neil’s children), and his wife Helen O’Neil, 77 — of a sprawling multi-level cream mansion in Vaucluse.
Press clippings show brothers Rodney and Colin in 2017 sold a family boat shed in Point Piper on Sydney Harbour for around $30 million.
Rodney O’Neil is also an owner of the fourth holding company – Telowar Pty Ltd – along with members of the vastly wealthy Taylor family, owners of wine giant Taylors Wines, founded in 1969.
In August, Taylors Wines unveiled a ‘brand new... stunning multi-million dollar cellar door’ in South Australia’s Clare Valley.
“This is the beginning of an exciting new era for our family winery,” said ‘third-generation winemaker’ Mitchell Taylor.
Mitchell Taylor (59, of Rose Bay) and brothers Justin Taylor (53, of Vaucluse) and Clinton Taylor (52, also of Vaucluse) are directors and owners of Telowar Pty Ltd.
The other directors and owners are Loretta Anne Taylor, (86, of Vaucluse); Angela O’Neil Cattana, (61, of Rose Bay); and Victoria O’Neil Taylor (63, of Darling Point, also in Sydney’s east).
Telowar Pty Ltd and Nedigi Pty Ltd (along with sharing the same Double Bay post office box in AEC filings) list the same “registered address” in company records — a Sydney CBD office at Level 24, 1 O’Connell St.
2. Brett Ralph
Estimated net wealth: $100m+
Two payments, one $25,000 and one $50,000, were made to Advance in the 2022 financial year by JMR Management Consultancy Services Pty Ltd, a company fully owned and controlled by multi-millionaire Brett Ralph.
The relatively little-known Ralph owns couriers company Jet Couriers, which has ‘branches in all six Australian states’ and ‘an international presence in Auckland, Dallas, Houston, New York and Philadelphia’.
In January, he became the majority shareholder in Dick Johnston’s V8 Super Car racing team, adding to his “expansive sporting portfolio” which also includes the Melbourne Aces Baseball Club and 20% of the Melbourne Storm NRL Club, which he co-owns with his brother Shaun.
(The ‘notoriously private’ Ralph has been ‘quietly building a sporting empire,’ reports V8 Sleuth).
3. Simon Fenwick
Estimated wealth: $50m million+
It was made via Silver River Investment Holdings Pty Ltd “ATF” (which means as trustee for) the Fenwick Family Trust.
Fenwick publicly ‘pledged to spend up to $250,000 to oppose the Indigenous advisory body,’ the AFR reported in April.
He is a board member of U.S.-style dark money group, the Institute of Public Affairs.
The IPA actively seeks to influence public policy but refuses to say who funds it.
Fenwick purchased his Mosman mansion, with views straight out to Sydney’s Heads, in 2016 for $9 million.
He is, very conservatively, estimated to have a net wealth of $50 million.
Fenwick is a director of the University of Queensland Endowment Fund.
4. John and Gabrielle Hull
Estimated wealth: $40 million+
John is the owner of major Brisbane-based civil engineering contracting company, JF Hull Holdings, which ‘specialises in the field of concrete construction’ and turns over tens of millions of dollars a year.
The Brisbane couple are substantial donors to the University of Queensland.
They have a conservatively estimated net wealth of $40 million.
5. Sam Kennard
Estimated wealth: $1.87 billion (Kennard and Family)
Sam Kennard, via Siesta Holdings Australia Pty Ltd, gave $20,000 to Advance in the year to June 2022.
In February, in a list of Australia’s 50 richest people, Forbes estimated Sam Kennard and his brothers Walter and James and a combined wealth of US$1.2 billion (AU$1.87 billion).
Siesta Holdings is owned by Sam and his wife Claire, who own a harbour-front mansion at Longueville, on Sydney’s Lower North Shore.
6. Andrew Abercrombie
Estimated wealth: $512 million
He made headlines in 2020 when a ‘high-society party’ at his Aspen, Colorado ski home became the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak.
On returning to Australia, some members of the group – dubbed the “Aspen Nine” and the “Colorado Cluster” – failed to quarantine, attending cocktail parties and private school functions, infecting ‘wealthy Victorians from Toorak to the Mornington Peninsula’.
The Age reported at the time:
‘Abercrombie is rarely named in the press, other than his annual mention in the BRW rich list, which recently estimated his fortune at $512 million.’
In 2013, Abercrombie, a commercial lawyer and businessman, bought the 1890s Toorak mansion Edzell, on over 6,000 square metres on St George’s Road on the bank of the Yarra River, for $11.5 million.
He owns another riverfront mansion on the same street, a “faux chateau” that he bought for $14 million in 2007.
He also owns property in the exclusive enclaves of Victoria’s Portsea – on “Portsea’s clifftop” – and Queensland’s Noosa, where he bought an oceanfront “penthouse-style” apartment for $6.9 million in 2018.
Abercrombie was a ‘strident defender of News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt in 2011, when he was found to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act during a Federal Court trial,’ The Age reported in 2020.
7. Marcus Blackmore
Estimated wealth: $500 million+
When vitamins tycoon Marcus Blackmore was asked why he’d bought his latest superyacht, his answer was simple: “I don’t know.”
Blackmore, who was estimated by Forbes in 2016 to have wealth of US$500 million (AU$778 million), gave Advance $20,000 in the 2022 financial year, AEC filings show.
Blackmore was paid “around $400 million” for his stake.
“If Jacinta tells me I should vote ‘No’, I am voting ‘No’,” Blackmore said. “She obviously knows a lot more about the Aboriginal issues than I do.”
Blackmore said he wasn’t totally across the details personally.
“I don’t sit here reading the Constitution every day,” he said.
In mid-2020, Blackmore and his wife Caroline sold their home on Sydney’s Pittwater for $8.125 million.
The “Newport trophy home” came ‘complete with home cinema... swimming pool, boat shed and private jetty’.
The couple bought another waterfront home to move into: a property known as Sandgate, “across the Bay in Bayview”, which they’d bought in 2016 for $9.25m.
(They were “nearing completion on a $3.37 million rebuild” of the 1500-square-metre property, it was reported in 2020.)
Blackmore took possession of his latest superyacht, the 103-foot Ammonite 2 (he’d had its predecessor, Ammonite, for three years) in 2020.
He was asked by Boat International at the time why he’d decided to buy a bigger boat.
“Oh that’s a really simple answer to that question — I don’t know,” said Blackmore.
Why did I buy it? I don't know, I just did.
I suppose because I can.
8. Ian Tristram
Estimated wealth: $100 million+
Trisco Foods, ‘one of Queensland’s oldest businesses’, was founded in 1875 and the family has ‘developed an enviable reputation for quality, service and expertise over five generations’, its website says.
Originally based in Brisbane, where its ‘historic West End factory remains a landmark today’, the company created “Trisco” soft drink, before selling the brand to multinational giant Cadbury Schweppes.
Now based in Ipswich, to Brisbane’s west, the company has a ‘strong presence throughout the Asia region’ and a “U.S. headquarters” and manufacturing plant in Colorado Springs.
In 2020, the Tristram’s lodged an application for a multi-million dollar redevelopment of their absolute beachfront Gold Coast property on Mermaid Beach’s Hedges Avenue, also known as “millionaires row”.
In March last year, a rich list reported that Trisco generates ‘an estimated $33.510 million in sales each year’.
9. Lyn Brazil
Estimated wealth: $300 million
Advance received $20,000 from Brazil Farming in the 2022 financial year.
Brazil Farming is owned and controlled by cattle tycoon, property developer, venture capitalist and mining executive, Lyn Brazil.
‘Lyn Brazil... said media estimates that he is worth $210 million are conservative and indicated it could be closer to $300 million,’ the AFR reported in 2016.
At the time he was selling a giant Northern Territory cattle station for around $18 million.
Brazil is a director of open-cut mining group Aurelia Metals.
In November, through Brazil Farming, he spent $7.9 million doubling his holding in Aurelia, to 85.5 million shares, or 6.9% of the company.
10. Louis Denton and Rayleen Giusti
Estimated wealth: Unknown
Estimated Wealth: $60 million+
Louis Denton and his wife, ‘glamorous influencer’ Katherine, in January, appeared in a list of young rich-listers ‘dominating Melbourne’s social scene’.
‘The uber-modern couple always look like a Vogue cover and frequent trendy places,’ said the Herald Sun.
Denton, 30, is an accountant and chief operating officer at a company called Devcos International, his LinkedIn profile states.
According to the AEC filing, Denton made four payments to Advance in the 2022 financial year, totalling $75,000 (three payments of $20,000 and one of $15,000).
Also donating to Advance, the filing states, was a Rayleen Giusti, with two payments, one of $20,000 and one of $17,500.
As first revealed by Crikey, both Denton and Guisti are directly connected to Melbourne multi-millionaire financier Chris Garnaut.
Rayleen Giusti is Garnaut’s personal assistant, her LinkedIn profile states.
The address provided for Denton is an office in the same St Kilda, Melbourne building as the offices of Garnuat’s firm, Garnaut Private Wealth.
The firm ‘is one of Australia’s most trusted private wealth firms’ and provides ‘holistic advice to over $3.5 billion in assets’, Garnaut says on its site.
Company filings show Denton is an “alternate director” of real estate fund management company Fawkner Property, of which Garnaut, 62, is a director (and which is also based in the St Kilda office building).
The latest donors to Advance, for the year to June, won’t be known until next year, given peak federal political disclosure laws.
In the 2022 financial year, its AEC filing states, Advance received total donations of $2.24 million.
The sources of donations of $14,500 or less were not required to be disclosed.
The disclosed 21 donations, from the ten entities, totalled $723,422.
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