If you follow the money, ACT Labor must be hot favourites to retain government for a record sixth term with the party bringing in two-and-a-half times more donations than the Canberra Liberals in 2019-20.
ACT Elections’ annual returns and gift disclosures also reveal connections between former Liberal leader Bill Stefaniak’s Belco Party and Liberal members and donors, and an auspicious Chinese number among donations to the Canberra Liberals.
All parties’ MLAs also make regular contributions.
For 2019-20, the Liberals pulled in only $731,828.76 in donations, slightly up on the previous year’s total of $609,520.46.
Their biggest donor was again L.J. Hooker Commercial with $197,861.73 *, while Craig and Eva Edwards of Forrest gave $25,000 each. A $18,888 gift from Sun and Sea Australia at 108 Bunda Street in the city, the address of the Tasting China restaurant, might attract attention. Eight is an auspicious number in Chinese culture and the party will be hoping it can bring it luck come 17 October.
Labor donations totalled $1,785,759.91, half a million more than the previous year, with unions again dominating the list of Labor’s big donors, especially the CFMEU ($57,500) and the CPSU with a $24,448.75 donation plus a recent gift of $10,420.20.
The CFMEU also provided free use of facilities worth $6,670.
But Labor’s investment vehicle, the 1973 Foundation, is the anchor with a total of $843,522, including a $600,000 loan.
Labor notched up a total of $1,204,159.05 in the 2018-19 return, meaning that over the past two financial years it has raked in $2,989,918, compared with the Liberals’ $1,341,349.
Suspicions that the conservatively bent Belco Party is just another version of the Liberals may grow with prominent party figure Diane Anderson, who opposed the Seselja coup that cost moderate Gary Humphries his senate seat, flicking Bill Stefaniak a couple of grand, the same amount she has put towards the Liberals’ campaign.
Craig Edwards also found $1,500 to help out the Belco Party.
Interestingly, Belco Party candidate Alan Tutt is listed on the Liberals’ annual return for $1,786.36.
Mr Stefaniak said the donations were from family friends and rejected suggestions that voters would view the Belco Party, which is only standing in the seat of Ginninderra, as another Liberal Party.
”One donation was from a very good family friend who played the organ at my son’s funeral, and one donation was from an old mate who I played a lot of rugby with and have known for 40 years,” Mr Stefaniak said.
He was encouraging people to not vote for the major parties and instead turn to independents or small groups who could make a real difference in the ACT’s political system.
The latest addition to the Belco team is former Liberal candidate Vijay Dubey who fell out with the party.
Mr Stefaniak blamed this on the Canberra Liberals’ factionalism, which was not as bad as Labor but remains a real problem.
”I think one of the major problems with the major parties is their factionalism, and often that means they don’t want good people to stay in their party,” he said.
The Greens’ biggest single donor, apart from MLAs Shane Rattenbury and Caroline Le Couteur, was David Gibson with $6,900, but ANU renewables researcher Professor Andrew Blakers gave $1,200 and peace campaigner Dr Sue Wareham donated $1,230.
The returns of gifts received of $1,000 or more is available at Elections ACT.
*Amended to clarify that the Liberal Party’s major donor is LJ Hooker Commercial.