04/02/2010 - 00:00

Palmer tops mixed collection of donors

04/02/2010 - 00:00


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WHAT do Rick Stowe, Clive Palmer, Richard Goyder and Kerry Stokes have in common?

WHAT do Rick Stowe, Clive Palmer, Richard Goyder and Kerry Stokes have in common?

Their companies all feature in the Australian Electoral Commission’s latest report on political donations, which provides a wealth of information on where political parties gain financial support.

Billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer was Australia’s largest political donor last financial year, handing over more than $850,000, mostly to the conservative side of politics.

That put Mr Palmer streets ahead of the next biggest donors, which included the Australian Hotels Association ($300,000) and Frank Lowy’s shopping centre company Westfield ($240,000).

Like many of the big donors, they spread their money across both sides of politics, and across states.

Indeed, some donors appear to have made a conscious effort to be even-handed.

Wesfarmers, for instance, donated $25,000 to the Labor Party and the Liberal Party in WA and $10,000 to the Nationals.

Burswood Casino owner Crown Ltd was also even-handed, albeit with a different interpretation of political odds. It donated $25,000 to Labor and the same amount to the conservative parties in WA, split between the Liberals ($22,000) and the Nationals ($3,000).

Pankaj Oswal’s Burrup Fertilisers and Health Solution WA were also even-handed, donating $15,000 to Labor and the Liberals but their generosity did not extend to the Nationals.

Leighton Holdings and Mid West iron ore developer Gindalbie Metals also supported both of the major parties, but Leighton had a slight bias to the Liberals ($31,500) while Gindalbie erred in favour of Labor ($30,000).

The Liberal Party in WA reported total income in 2008-09 of $6.88 million, but this included a lot more than donations.

Its biggest supporters were the 500 Club, which donated $425,000, and long-time supporter Terry Jackson’s Furama Pty Ltd, which donated $250,000.

Outside of those two traditional supporters, its biggest backer last year was Riverton IGA owner Robert Halvorsen, who donated $67,750.

Another IGA store owner, Greg Brindle, was a big donor to all of the major parties through his company Biljedup.

The IGA stores, via the Independent Grocers’ Association, have been at the centre of the long-running debate over retail trading hours.

The association has fought vigorously to block the freeing-up of retail trading hours, which would erode the competitive edge its members currently hold.

The Labor Party in WA reported total income of $4 million in 2008-09.

Most of its income was from major unions. The two largest donors – the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union, headed by Dave Kelly, and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, headed by Joe Bullock – are widely regarded as the two most powerful players in Labor’s factions.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Transport Workers Union were also major donors.

A conspicuous absence this year was the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, whose leader Kevin Reynolds has severed ties with Labor.

Outside the unions, the biggest donor was fallen coal magnate Rick Stowe. Through his private company Devereaux Holdings, he donated $71,455 to Labor in WA and $21,000 to the Liberals.

Brisbane-based Mr Palmer donated a total of $865,000, including $400,000 to the Liberal Party of Australia through his mining company Mineralogy.

Mr Palmer, whose interests include iron ore projects in WA and coalmines in Queensland, also made a personal donation of $280,000 to the merged Liberal National Party of Queensland.

While the lion’s share of his generosity was reserved for the conservative side of politics, Mr Palmer also boosted the WA Labor Party’s coffers by $25,000 via Mineralogy.

He was the biggest supporter of the Nationals in WA, donating $110,000.

Another major backer for the Nationals was Vikas Rambal’s Perdaman Chemicals, which plans to develop a major coal-processing project at Collie.

The Electoral Commission figures show receipts received by all political parties in 2008-09 totalled $93.7 million, significantly less than the $216.5 million during the previous financial year, which covered a federal election.

The ALP was the biggest recipient at $42.9 million, followed by the Liberal Party at $38.4 million, while The Nationals received $5.2 million, the Greens $3.4 million and Family First $84,000.

“Apart from associated entities, the amounts disclosed are significantly less than for 2007-08 because that year covered a federal election and the Gippsland by-election,” the commission said.

Abbott’s climate plan

IN Canberra this week, the major parties were each trying to demonstrate their mastery of big issues confronting Australia.

While Treasurer Wayne Swan released the intergenerational report, which outlined the challenges of an ageing society, opposition leader Tony Abbott released a new climate plan.

A coalition government would create a $1 billion fund that would be used to purchase initiatives aimed at reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Abbott said.

He unveiled the coalition’s new climate change policy ahead of the government’s third attempt to have parliament approve its planned emissions trading scheme, already twice rejected by the Senate.

“Our policy will be simpler, cheaper and more effective than the government’s,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra, adding it would rely on incentives, not penalties.

He committed the coalition to the same carbon reduction targets as the government, but at a much lower cost.

Mr Abbott said the criteria by which the coalition would judge the bids for spending would fall into four categories.

It must involve a reduction in emissions and it must improve the environment.

“Third, there must be no increase in cost to consumers,” he said.

“(Prime Minister Kevin) Rudd has been out there this morning saying our policy is no good because it doesn’t involve compensation.

“Well you don’t need compensation if you aren’t slugging consumers with high prices.”

Finally, there must be no cost to jobs.

Under the $3.2 billion plan, an emissions reductions fund would be established to provide direct incentives to business and the agricultural sector to cut emissions.

Mr Abbott told reporters the scheme was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent by 2020.

“Incentive-based approach provides practical and affordable environmental benefits as well as reducing carbon emissions,” he said.

Under the plan, businesses that cut emissions below a baseline level will be able to sell their carbon abatement to the government.



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