Money and power: Labor spent $7.8 million campaigning for re-election

Queensland Labor spent about $7 for every primary vote it received in the October state election. Achieving a third term would have cost even more.

Feb 01, 2021, updated Feb 01, 2021
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk led Labor to a third term in power. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk led Labor to a third term in power. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

The Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party has submitted its expenditure return for the October 31 election. It reveals the party HQ spent $7,817,350.78 on the campaign, keeping it under the caps introduced by the Palaszczuk government.

While Labor is the first major party to submit its return, the figure should not be considered the total outlay. Supporters and candidates can also fund their own campaigns, but have an obligation to submit returns to the Electoral Commission of Queensland in the coming weeks.

Labor also ramped up its social media strategy for the election, which arguably provided more value for money than traditional election advertising.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk held power easily, putting a larger Labor team in charge of Queensland’s first four-year fixed term. The Liberal National Party, meanwhile, has started the process of rebuilding under new leader David Crisafulli.

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In the 12 months before the election, Labor raised $3,056,148, most of it from the union movement. In the last six months, primarily outside of the campaign, Labor’s biggest union donor was the United Workers Union ($249,273) and biggest corporate donors were consultancy firms EY ($66,000) and KPMG ($28,292). The party has also continued its controversial corporate access program.

On the other side of politics, the LNP complained of being hamstrung by a ban on developer donations but has yet to submit its election return for 2020. Big-spender Clive Palmer directed almost $5 million in donations into his United Australia Party but they failed to win a seat, demonstrating that, even in politics, money isn’t everything.

Initial disclosures suggest Palmer’s candidates spent significantly less than he made available. If his largesse was used in full, it would have amounted to more than $272 per primary vote.

Nationally, the Australian Electoral Commission has today detailed political donations made during the 2019-20 year. Palmer’s company Mineralogy was the biggest corporate donor, followed by Woodside Energy, Macquarie Group and the Australian Hotels Association, the five accounting for almost half of all donations.

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