Bernardi reveals party donors seven months early

July 05, 2018

Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi has declared early the financial donations made to the Conservatives, including donations he could avoid disclosing until next year.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports, the South Australian senator has posted on his website the details of the $2,376,241 in income his party made last financial year.

He said they comprised more than 29,000 transactions averaging $81.81 per donation.

He listed nine donations in excess of the disclosure threshold including:

$204,016 distributed by the South Australian electoral commission for votes his party received in the March state election and returned candidate fees;

$100,000 from a private company called PG Consolidated Pty Ltd and another $20,000 from a private company called Willimbury Pty Ltd (both companies were set up by private individuals);

$30,000 from Frank Hargrave, the founder of Australia's first labour hire firm Skilled.
$25,539 from the tax office in a GST refund;

$14,798 distributed by the Australian electoral commission (AEC) for votes won in the Batman byelection;

$13,826 from Australian Conservatives candidate Kevin Bailey who ran in the seat of Batman.

By law the parties have until November 17 to tell the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) the details of their major donations. The AEC does not publish these until the first working day of February in the following year, meaning there can be up to 20 months between a donation being made and the transaction being made public.

This most notably occurred when Malcolm Turnbull donated $1.75 million of his own money to the Liberal party for the 2016 election.

Because the donation was made in the early days of the 2017/18 financial year, it meant the donation was not disclosed by the AEC until February this year.

The Prime Minister was forced to reveal the donation in 2017 after pressure from the media and he defended not telling the public earlier.

Senator Bernardi has long called for more transparency around political donations and their disclosure, has twice declared his donations at the close of the financial year, even though he could wait for the information to be published in February.

Senator Bernardi has told ABC Radio Adelaide the Conservative Party has lodged its returns with the AEC more than three months before it is legally required, and in the interests of transparency and disclosure reform disclosed them publicly even though it does not have to.

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