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A deep dive into Larissa Waters' political donations Tweets

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

Yesterday, Larissa Waters, Greens senator for Queensland and co-deputy leader of the Australian Greens Party, dropped some tweets about information the Greens themselves are calling 'some cooked shit'. So what's the problem with the donations? Who are they from? Who received them? Do the Greens accept donations? Let's get into it.

The Greens and donations

The Greens do take donations, like any other political party or independent candidate or elected official, they take donations on their website. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), the impartial governing body in charge of organising, conducting, and supervising Australian elections, requires political parties to report any donations over $14 000, however The Greens have an internal policy that mandates they report all donations over $1 500.

The Australian Greens reported $19 million in donations in the 2019-20 financial year, according to ABC. The party publishes a full list of donors (updated quarterly) on their website, which you can view here. Some notable donors include the Bouddi Trust, of the Bouddi National Park in NSW, and Sally Perini, Director of Zeromow, a non-profit initiative creating awareness of battery electric alternatives for mowing and gardening equipment.

The Greens are somewhat of a political watchdog in all levels of government, and one of their promises to voters is that they don't take 'dirty' donations. The Greens have gone so far as to launch a campaign to stop any party accepting dirty donations, which you can read more about here. The Greens and Labor parties are reportedly pushing for donations to be capped at $1 000.

As long as there is big money in politics, politicians will represent the interests of big business and big polluters - not the people who elect them. The Australian people can see through the government’s inaction on global warming - and on the other side there is money from big coal, big mining and big business.

- Greens Dirty Donations campaign

The Donations

Larissa Waters Tweeted about some notable donations to the Liberal Party and Coalition she found in the data drop of political donations.

Trevor St Baker

Trevor St Baker is involved in multiple companies in the mining, power, and fuel industries. He has been vocally opposed to renewable energy, saying "Baseloading of intermittent renewables to replace coal in the foreseeable future... will just drive business out of the country." He believes South Australia's reliance on renewable energy sources has led to an increase in the cost of wholesale power. His personal net worth is $699 million according to The Australian Financial Review.

St Baker's company donated $25 000 to the Liberal Party in financial year 2019-20 according to the data drop, and The Guardian reported his company ERM Power donated upwards of $197 640 to political parties in the past decade, the recipients including the Queensland LNP and Queensland and NSW Labor. St Baker worked closely with (widely disliked) previous Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, and said he switched from supporting Labor to LNP because the LNP could not match the support Labor received from unions and other businesses were reluctant to donate out of fear they would be accused of lobbying. He also stated, on the record, that he has never lobbied for business benefit.

Vales Point power plant from Newcastle Herald

So back to the donation at hand... St Baker applied for a government grant to upgrade his company's Vales Point coal plant, which, by the way, was sold to him in 2015 by then-Treasurer, now-Premier Gladys Berejiklian for only $1 million (it's now valued at $700 million), after the NSW government had declared it was on the way out. The company was successful in their application, and received the $8.7 million government grant amongst criticism that:

  • it's an unnecessary intervention into the energy market, that may discourage investment in new, lower emissions, power stations,

  • the grant would not extend the plant's lifespan, with it still being expected to close in 2029, and of course

  • that the recipient was a long-time Liberal donor.

Nine Entertainment

Nine Entertainment is an entertainment company giant in Australia, which owns a huge number of national news media outlets. Aside from the obvious Channel 9 and it's associated channels like 9Gem, 9HD, 9Go!, etc., Nine also owns a number of radio stations across the country, The Australian Financial Review, Brisbane Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the majority of Domain Group, Pedestrian Group, streaming platform Stan, and is merged with other media giant Fairfax.

From nineforbrands.com.au

In 2017, the Coalition, with support from Nick Xenaphon's party and One Nation, removed the media regulation laws that stated one media company:

  • cannot own newspapers, radio, and TV stations in one city, and

  • cannot reach more than 75% of the population.

In short, passing these laws benefits large media companies and gives them free range across the nation. This can lead to a complete saturation of biased media.

Nine Entertainment made a donation to the Liberal Party, and hosted a fundraiser during the 2019-20 financial year. The impacts of this go beyond the above media deregulation and make us concerned about the saturation of biased reporting on the side of conservative government. We know that Murdoch's News Corp also favours the conservative side of politics, and between these two media giants, there aren't many news outlets left to report from any opposing perspective.

It's also pertinent to note that some mainstream media outlets appear to be reluctant to report on the donation data drops each year, with Crikey reporting that this time last year, the mainstream media was missing in action on political donations yet again.

Consulting Firms

Last but certainly not least, the 'big four' accounting/consulting firms. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), KPGM Deloitte, and Ernst & Young Global (EY) are global networks of professional services, providing everything from payroll ang HR consulting to law advice, to tax help, to automation and tech solutions. Basically they are massive companies who can provide almost every service.

In total, the four firms donated $208 869 to the Coalition over financial year 2019-20, and booked around $600 million in government contracts. There's not much to dive into about this one, aside from agreeing with the sentiments of Senator Waters. They saw a great return on investment.

This is not an exhaustive collection of Senator Waters' Tweets, you can view all them here.

The Palmer problem

There was one more donation that we found notable but not surprising.

Clive Palmer donated $75 000 to the National Party. Didn't his party run against them in 2019? We hear you ask. Yes it did. Clive Palmer's only objective in running, which costs him tens of millions in every election, is to oust the Labor Party, which he successfully helped do in 2019.

The receipts

In financial year 2019-20 Australian political parties reported the following funding:

$57 million for the Liberal Party

$55 million for the Labor Party

$19 million for The Greens

$12 million for The Nationals

$6 million for One Nation

These numbers include the AEC's allocation of $2.75 per first preference vote in the 2019 federal election.