Cardboard magnate Anthony Pratt was Australia’s biggest political donor for the 2020-21 financial year, data from the Australian Electoral Commission shows. Pratt Holdings, a key plank of the billionaire’s business empire, made a series of political donations to state and federal Liberal Party branches worth $1.29 million.
It’s less than the $1.5 million Pratt gave in 2019-20 and the $3 million in 2018-19, but in a cycle notable for the conspicuous absence of Clive Palmer it was enough to top the big spenders list.
During the donations period, Pratt received a $10 million grant from Australia’s bushfire recovery fund. Prime Minister Scott Morrison referred to Pratt — one of Australia’s richest men — as “the Don Bradman of job creation” in the presence of former US president Donald Trump.
Following Pratt on the list are two political donations worth $1 million to conservative activist group Advance Australia — one from Silver River Investment Holdings ($650,000) and Cartwright Investment Corp Ltd ($350,000).
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Silver River Investments’ directors are Simon and Elizabeth Fenwick of Mosman in Sydney. Elizabeth is also listed as the sole director of Cartwright Investment Corp. Simon, a former fund manager, announced his intention to start bankrolling Advance Australia in 2020, citing concerns about “left-wing agendas” and “dictatorial” politicians like Dan Andrews.
Created ahead of the 2019 election as a right-wing GetUp, Advance Australia has recently focused its energy on attacking COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates. Recent Facebook ads claiming Australians were being forced to get vaccinated were removed from the platform.
Also high on the list of donors was the National Automotive Leasing and Salary Packaging Association, which gave $150,000 each to Labor and the Liberals.
The largest individual donor was William Nitschke, who made four donations worth $300,000 to Rod Culleton’s Great Australian Party, which is running conspiracy theorist Pete Evans as a Senate candidate at the election. It’s the second year running in which Nitschke has been the largest individual donor.
Usual suspects like the Pharmacy Guild of Australia ($295,000 between Labor and the Liberals) and the Australian Hotels Association ($260,000 to Labor, Liberals and the Nationals) were prominent donors.
For the Liberals, most political donations flowed from the big end of town. Pratt Holdings was its biggest donor, and property giant Meriton chipped in $285,000. Its biggest individual donation was $224,000 from Scott Edwardes, an unsuccessful candidate at the last Western Australian state election.
Labor’s biggest donor was the National Automotive Leasing and Salary Packaging Association, and key unions like the United Workers Union, Rail Tram and Bus Union, and Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Alliance all poured money into Queensland, where a state election was held in late 2020. In Western Australia, another election state, Labor got $200,000 from Perth Trades Hall, and $110,000 from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Alliance. Commercial law firm Holding Redlich gave $134,880 to the ALP, the bulk of its money donated.
The Greens’ biggest donor was once again reclusive high-end gambler Duncan Turpie, who gave $110,000. The Nationals’ largest individual donation ($55,000) came from waste management company JJ Richards and Sons. It also received $55,000 from tobacco giant Philip Morris.
This article was first published by Crikey.