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Politics

Zou SA Libs' top donor as spotlight falls on party coffers

Politics

Businesswoman Sally Zou was once again the biggest single donor to the South Australian Liberal Party in the last financial year, details released today reveal.

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The Australian Election Commission this morning released its annual financial disclosure returns from political parties, campaigners, associated entities, donors and third parties that incur electoral expenditure.

Zou’s company Transcendent Australia Pty Ltd, which she registered in 2019, contributed $182,755 to SA Liberal coffers in the 2019-20 financial year.

The controversial Chinese-born Zou is a frequent donor to the Liberal cause, whose companies regularly feature among the SA party’s biggest donors.

She raised eyebrows ahead of the 2018 election when she tweeted a photo suggesting she had signed a cheque for $1.2 million made out to the SA Liberals – but the windfall never showed up.

Regular Liberal donors Ian and Pamela Wall contributed $175,000 each in 2019-20, while businessman Robert Stobbe and the SA Australian Hotels Association each chipped in $25,000.

The AHA generally donates an equivalent amount to both major parties, although it did not feature in Labor’s list of major contributors for the same period. General manager Ian Horne told InDaily that would even out over the electoral cycle and that “the general principle” was that the association aimed to contribute equally to Labor and Liberal.

Labor’s major donations came from its fundraising arm SA Progressive Business ($67,535) and the Left-faction United Voice union ($46,732), which has subsequently merged to become the United Workers Union.

The SA Greens received $60,261 from Nunn Media, a Melbourne based media agency that bills itself as Australia’s Largest Independent Media Agency, specialising in “integrated strategy, planning and media buying”.

Nationally, almost half of all federal political donations over the past year came from just four companies and one industry group.

The largest single donor revealed in the Australian Electoral Commission’s figures was billionaire Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy, which gave $5.9 million to the mining magnate’s own United Australia Party.

Other big donors included Pratt Holdings ($1.55 million), Woodside Energy ($335,415) and Macquarie Group ($251,230).

All of the Pratt Holdings donations went to the National and Liberal parties, while Woodside gave to both the coalition and Labor party organisations.

The $8.3 million in donations from five organisations represented 46 per cent of the total received in 2019/20, according to an analysis by the Centre for Public Integrity.

Overall, the Liberal-National coalition received $59 million in donations, compared with Labor’s $50.7 million.

Professor Joo Cheong Tham, a director of the Centre for Public Integrity, said the absence of caps on political donations meant a handful of donors would dominate.

“That the most significant level of government has the weakest political finance laws is a grave weakness of Australian democracy,” Tham said.

-additional reporting by AAP

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