Alcohol and gambling companies and their lobby groups collectively made $2.165 million worth of donations to the Labor, Liberal and National parties and their associated entities in the last financial year, an increase from $1.535 million the previous year.
These donations were split almost equally between Labor and the Coalition with Labor receiving $1.12 million and the Liberal and National parties receiving $1.05 million.
The Liberal–National Coalition, commonly known simply as “the Coalition” or informally as the LNP, is an alliance of centre-right political parties that forms one of the two major groupings in Australian federal politics, according to Wikipedia.
The 2022 Australian federal election was held on Saturday May 21, 2022. The incumbent Liberal/National Coalition government, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, sought to win a fourth consecutive term in office but was defeated by the opposition, the Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, according to Wikipedia. The Australian Labor Party achieved a majority government for the first time since 2007, winning 77 seats in the House of Representatives. Albanese was sworn in as Prime Minister on May 23, 2022.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) published an analysis of disclosure returns revealing the unprecedented lobbying spending of health harmful industries.
Alcohol and gambling companies and their lobby front groups donated $2.165 million to Australia’s major political parties in 2021-22.
This level of spending on lobbying represents a 40% increase compared to the previous year.
Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) CEO Caterina Giorgi and Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR) CEO Carol Bennett jointly called for political donations by alcohol and gambling companies to be banned to ensure that community views are prioritised in policy discussions about proposed reforms that would affect them.
Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) CEO Caterina Giorgi said, according to Callum Foote reporting via Michael West Media:
When alcohol and gambling companies are allowed to donate large amounts to political parties, it creates a power imbalance, giving these companies greater access to politicians than the members of the community that they are elected to represent.”Caterina Giorgi, CEO, FARE
Companies and lobby groups with interests in both alcohol and gambling disclosed $905,000 worth of donations in 2021-22, while entities that profit from gambling but not alcohol and their lobby groups disclosed $678,000. Entities that profit from selling alcoholic products but not from gambling, and their lobby groups, disclosed $583,000.
Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR) CEO Carol Bennett said, according to Callum Foote reporting via Michael West Media:
The huge increase in the number and value of donations from alcohol and gambling companies and their lobby groups to the major political parties is concerning. The community expects politicians to make decisions that are in the public interest and not influenced by donations made by these companies.
The Labor and Liberal parties exclude tobacco donations. They could extend this to alcohol and gambling companies tomorrow if they wanted to. Like tobacco, alcohol and gambling cause significant health and social harms to Australians.”Carol Bennett, CEO, Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR)
FARE CEO Caterina Giorgi said it was concerning that alcohol and gambling companies were still allowed to make political donations in Australia, calling for donations from alcohol companies to be banned.
Political donations from alcohol and gambling companies need to be banned if policies are to be prioritised that put the health, safety and wellbeing of the community ahead of the interests of these companies and their lobby groups,” Ms Giorgi said, as per FARE’s media release.Caterina Giorgi, CEO, FARE
FARE and AGR analysed the annual returns of alcohol and gambling companies lodged with the AEC under mandatory disclosure laws with data released on February 1, tallying donations to the three major parties and their associated entities in 2021-22.
This analysis examined the Detailed Receipts data from the AEC and is likely to underrepresent the total donations made from these industries. Previous research has also shown that there is a considerable amount of “dark donations” made to parties that are not required to be disclosed because they are below the threshold, which was $14,500 in 2021-22 and is $15,200 for the current financial year.
The alcohol industry is leading in spending on lobbying
A groundbreaking modeling study published in January 2023 revealed the volume of lobbying and political donations by health harmful industries in Australia. It also shed light on changes over time in how, for instance alcohol companies conduct lobbying.
For example, the researchers found that between July 2014 and December 2020, NSW ministers had 20,607 meetings, of which 634 meetings were with health harmful industries.
- Gambling (n = 331),
- Alcohol (n = 158),
- Ultra-processed foods (n = 142), and
- Tobacco (n = 3).
And between 1998 and 2020, a total of $576,519,472 disclosed donations were made to political parties and other entities, of which $35,823,937 were from health harmful industries.
- Alcohol ($14,329,566),
- Gambling ($10,966,200),
- Ultra-processed foods ($6,144,679), and
- Tobacco ($4,383,492).
- The Liberal party was the largest recipient of harmful industry donations, with most coming from the alcohol industry followed by gambling, ultra-processed foods and tobacco.