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Old figures on new money


ONCE a year, on the first day of February, the Australian Electoral Commission publishes, verbatim, the political finance disclosures of the political parties and of some donors and third party or lobby groups. The timeliness of this annual data dump – the figures relate to the previous financial year, making the information up to a year and a half old – is a serious problem that has been tackled overseas successfully but is only slowly being recognised here.

The usual media focus is on the size of corporate donations and the total amount of money being burnt in the boiler rooms of political campaigns. This time round, the amounts are certainly big – around $230 million in total receipts for the four biggest parties – and the resources were relatively evenly shared between the two majors: around $115 million to the Coalition and just under $100 million to Labor (with $12 million to the Greens). The total three years earlier was $210 million, with Labor ascendant. But 2010–11 was a little different: inflation aside, the year included three major election campaigns, nationally and in Victorian and New South Wales. After a couple of decades of growth that fitted the “arms race” metaphor, things flattened out a bit in the last cycle…


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