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Donations to political parties


10.1 The global tobacco manufacturing industry

10.2 The manufacturing industry in Australia

10.3 Retail value and volume of the market

10.4 The tobacco companies operating in Australia

10.5 Major importers operating in the Australian market

10.6 Market share and brand share

10.7 Trends in products and packaging

10.8 The tobacco growing industry

10.9 The tobacco industry and the illegal tobacco market

10.10 The tobacco industry exposed: tobacco industry document repositories

10.11 Corporate responsibility and the birth of good corporate citizenship

10.12 The tobacco industry’s revised stance on health issues

10.13 Encouraging young people not to smoke

10.14 The environmental impact of tobacco production

10.15 Ethical farming issues

10.16 The environmental impact of tobacco use

10.17 The tobacco industry’s response to tobacco litter

10.18 Corporate links with charities and social causes

10.19 Tobacco industry lobbying—overview

10.20 Tobacco industry lobbying—the tools

10.21 Tobacco industry lobbying—the targets

10.22 Donations to political parties

10.23 Public attitudes to the tobacco industry

10.24 The future of the tobacco industry



In Australia it is a legal requirement that donations made by individuals or entities to registered political parties to the value of or greater than $10,000[62] are declared to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). The AEC posts on its website[63] donor annual returns dating back to the financial year 1998?99. Table 10.22 shows the total amounts of tobacco money received by the three major political parties in Australia since then.

Table 10.22
Political donations declared by tobacco companies in Australia to registered political parties; financial years 1998/99–2006/07

Labor (ALP) Liberals (LPA) Nationals (ANP)
Financial Year $ (unadjusted)
1998–99* (Oct)
Philip Morris 41,610 62,800 25,000
BATA 61,000 45,000 10,000
Philip Morris 50,000 124,960 30,000
BATA 19,815 33,123
Philip Morris 64,520 63,000 32,500
BATA 122,025 131,655
2001–02* (Nov)
Philip Morris 74,800 84,815 37,500
BATA 60,450 146,423 27,500
Philip Morris 9000 41,620 10,000
BATA 26,150 114,200 15,000
Philip Morris 5950 10,100 2200
BATA 31,040 148,739 15,400
2004–05* (Oct)
Philip Morris 103,700 35,500
BATA 159,267
Philip Morris 94,940 34,275
BATA 114,311 16,600
Philip Morris 92,050 30,100
BATA 161,409 3300

* Denotes a financial year in which a federal election was held; month of the election is in brackets.

Note: Total funds donated by Philip Morris Ltd to the Liberal Party also include gifts to The 500 Club*[1] and Bayside Forum, organisations which support the Liberal Party of Australia.326 Donations to the Labor Party include those to Progressive Business, a satellite group of the Victorian ALP.*[2]

Source: Australian Electoral Commission.333



In February 2004, the then leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) opposition, Mr Mark Latham, announced that the ALP would no longer accept donations from tobacco companies.326 The Liberal Party of Australia (LPA)327 and the Australian National Party (ANP)328 have continued to receive donations from PMA and BATA on an ongoing basis, and have publicly stated that they see no reason to stop doing so. Neither the Australian Democrats329 nor the Australian Greens330 take tobacco company donations as a matter of policy.

Soon after Mr Latham’s announcement in 2004, a Private Members’ Bill was proposed by ALP MP Mr Duncan Kerr and seconded by LPA MP Dr Mal Washer. If passed, the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Preventing Smoking Related Deaths) Bill (2004-05)[64] would have prevented political parties and individual candidates from accepting donations from tobacco companies. The Bill was first read in the House of Representatives on 16 February 2004331 but was to founder quietly the following year in the absence of support from the then Liberal-National Coalition government.

Prior to the ALP’s refusal of donations from tobacco companies, all three major political parties received significant contributions from PMA and BATA. ITA does not appear to have made political donations. In general, substantially larger amounts of funding have been directed by both tobacco companies towards the conservative parties (LPA and ANP) even prior to the ALP ban, which is likely to reflect preference by the tobacco companies for conservative politics, as well as the fact that the Liberal/National Coalition was in power for the entire period shown in Table 10.22.

Australian political parties have received in total about $1.46 million in donations from BATA, and $1.16 million from PMA since 1989–99. Since the ALP’s rejection of tobacco donations in 2004, the Liberals and the Nationals have jointly received between $200,000–$300,000 annually.

In December 2005, under the Coalition federal government led by Mr John Howard, rules concerning the minimum value of donations requiring disclosure were changed and the reportable limit increased from $1500 to $10,000. According to The Agenewspaper, this has simultaneously led to an increase in political donations from all sources as well as opacity in tracing their origins.326 For example, investigations by the The Age showed that although the donor annual return filed by the LPA for the financial year 2005–06 detailed income directly received by the party from tobacco companies; it could not be ascertained from the return that some of the LPA’s closely-allied fund-raising organisations such as The 500 Club and the Bayside Forum were also in receipt of tobacco money.326 Although these donations were declared by the tobacco companies in their own annual returns to the AEC, the current system of reporting does not guarantee clear, one-stop disclosure of funding sources.

In February 2008, ALP Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd announced his intention to reform political donation laws.332 Inquiries are currently underway federally[65] and at the state level in Victoria[66] and New South Wales.[67]

[62]Previously the limit was $1,500 – see discussion later in this section.



[65] The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and other Measures) Bill 2008 has been referred by the Senate to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters for inquiry and report (as part of its inquiry into the 2007 Federal Election). The Bill reduces the donations disclosure threshold to $1000 and strengthens the disclosure obligations of candidates and political parties. See

[66] In Victoria, the Electoral Matters Committee is conducting an inquiry into whether the Electoral Act 2002 should be amended to create a system of political donations disclosure and/or restrictions on political donations. For more information, see

[67] Following a similar inquiry in NSW, the Election Funding Agreement (Political Donations and Expenditure) Bill 2008 was tabled in the Legislative Council in June 2008. The purpose of the Bill is to strengthen disclosure obligations and reduce the disclosure threshold to $1000 (consistent with the Commonwealth proposal). See:!OpenDocument

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