South Australian Opposition Leader Calls for a Ban on Political Donations

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at
January 27, 2022Updated: January 27, 2022

South Australian Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas has called for a ban on what he calls the “arms race” of political donations.

Speaking to the ABC this week, Malinauskas said he’s been on the record for over a decade expressing his concern that political parties and candidates, not only in Australia but right across the Western liberal democracy, have been in a permanent race for greater resources to fight ever more expensive election campaigns.

“I think the best example of that … is of course in U.S. politics, where we now see over 90 percent of successful electoral candidates being the one with the most money,” he said.

“So, the more money you get, the more likely you are to win, and I just don’t believe our democracy is enhanced if the people who are winning election battles are those with the deepest pockets.”

“It should be those with the deepest ideas,” he said, adding that by removing donations altogether, politicians will spend less time trying to raise funds for their own campaign and more time doing their job of engaging with constituents and thinking about the future.

According to a report by the Centre for Public Integrity, the Australian Labor Party and Liberal-National coalition collected more than $100 million (US$70.8 million) in donations over the 2019-2020 financial year.

Examples of contributions that year include Pratt Holdings, owned by billionaire Anthony Pratt, who handed $1.3 million to the Liberal Party, $250,000 to the Nationals, and $20,000 to Labor.

Gas company Woodside Energy donated $110,000 each to Labor and Liberal, as well as $55,000 to the Nationals, while the Macquarie Group and the Australian Hotels Association contributed around $251,000 and $232,000 respectively, divided between Labor and Liberal.

Meanwhile, mining giant Clive Palmer topped the list of donors, funnelling $5.9 million into his United Australia Party.

When pressed about Labor’s history of fundraising, including their business arm, SA Progressive, Malinauskas said that all major political parties accept donations and have business fund-raising arms.

Malinauskas admitted that certain fundraising efforts “undermines people’s perception of democracy, which undermines democracy,” he said.

He emphasised that the ban should not only be on business donations but apply equally to unions and everybody.

In addition, he wants to see a total ban on political donations, not just at election time.

“I think that it would be better if our major political parties didn’t have to engage in substantial periods of fundraising in order to fund election campaigns, and I think there are ways you can achieve that objective, and that’s what I want to pursue if we form Government,” Malinauskas said.

He said that he first advocated for this long before he was in parliament and now he’s putting up his hand to be premier.

“I’m not going to abandon my principles if we get there. If we get there, I want to use the authority invested in that position to achieve what I think is a good outcome for democracy more broadly,” he said.

The SA premier’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they viewed a ban of political donations as necessary or if they would be considering implementing a one on political donations if returned to power after the state election.