The David Pocock campaign outspent all its rivals to get the former Wallaby captain into the Senate at last year’s Federal election, buoyed by big donations from some of Australia’s wealthiest people.
The Australian Electoral Commission has published financial disclosure returns for the election showing the Pocock campaign spent nearly $1.8 million to oust Liberal Zed Seselja from the Senate, compared with the Liberals at $1.4 million and a wary Labor at $1.2 million.
The Pocock campaign received $1,687,671 in cash and kind from 768 donors.
Senator Pocock ran as the David Pocock Party so his name would be above the line on the ballot paper where most Canberrans vote.
The biggest donation of $856,382 came from the Climate 200 group followed by $224,000 from sharemarket trader Robert Keldoulis, $50,000 each from Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes through his Boundless Earth organisation, and Keep them Honest, a private company owned by investment managers Fred Woollard and Therese Cochrane.
Then came $30,000 donations from Perth mining industry software entrepreneur Norman Pater and investor James Taylor.
Investment manager David Paradice gave $25,000, businessman and environmentalist Robert Purves $20,000 and Canberran Sam Holden $15,000.
Senator Pocock’s press secretary Fiona Scott provided $78,375 in kind as services.
Despite being a beneficiary of the current donations system, Senator Pocock said he would pursue donation reform alongside other electoral changes such as more equitable representation for the Territories and the introduction of federal truth in political advertising laws.
Senator Pocock said donations were necessary to run a campaign, but he had put guidelines in place for campaign donations and to vet donors.
“When you look at the amount of money spent by the major parties, and who they are accepting donations from, I think it highlights the urgent need for reform,” Senator Pocock said.
“We know that companies seeking to buy influence is not good for our democracy.
“Today we see that the major parties once again accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations from fossil fuel companies, developers, banks, alcohol and gambling companies and their representatives – people with clear vested interests in key national policy debates.
“States and territories already have far stricter laws around political donations and people want this addressed at a federal level.”
Senator Pocock also said Australia needed a more equitable system to allow a broader range of people to competitively run for election and represent their communities.
The Liberal Party’s ACT Division did not hide its chagrin at the Pocock spend in a letter to members seeking donations.
“Today, the true cost of our opponents’ 2022 election campaigns was revealed,” ACT director Kieran Douglas said.
“Climate 200 donated half of the $1.8 million David Pocock spent on his election campaign, in addition to receiving donations from Keep Them Honest, whose directors took part in a $45 million takeover bid for an oil and gas company.
“Labor can always rely on millions of dollars in donations from unions and will always put the interests of union bosses ahead of you and our economy.
“Despite large campaign spends against us, we continue to rebuild ahead of the next election.”
The Liberals received just over $1 million for the campaign, mainly to defend Mr Seselja’s Senate seat.
Labor received $1.4 million, including $317,000 from its investment vehicle, the 1973 Foundation.
Canberra lawyer Kim Rubenstein also ran as a party and spent almost $420,000 on her Senate campaign from donations worth nearly $473,000, including $84,000 from Climate 200.