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Latest AEC data reveals $5.2m donations to anti-Voice lobby group

The annual disclosure of funding to political parties and activist groups has revealed anti-Voice lobby group Advance Australia received $5.2 million in donations in 2022-23.

The Australian Electoral Commission's annual release of donations to political parties, unions and activist groups showed a swathe of donations to the conservative organisation, including $1.025 million from little-known Perth company Hadley Holdings, to help fund its campaign against introducing a Voice to Parliament.

The two donations by Hadley Holdings in November 2022 made it the country's second biggest political donor this past financial year, behind mining magnate Clive Palmer's Mineralogy company, which poured $7.08m into his United Australia Party.

The donation from Perth-listed Hadley Holdings was the single biggest contribution to Advance Australia's campaign to defeat the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum last October.

According to ASIC records, the two directors of the company are Brian Hadley Anderson and Lena Hilton.

Advance's cause was boosted by contributions from prominent investors and business identities, including regular donors such as vitamins entrepreneur Marcus Blackmore ($25,000), storage baron Sam Kennard ($125,000 via his company Siesta Holdings), Melbourne Storm director Brett Ralph ($50,000 through his JMR Management Consultancy Services company), as well as seperate $100,000 donations from Perth doctor Bryant Macfie and Sydney millionaire Rodney O'Neil, through his companies Sixmilebridge and Nedigi.

Another long-time Advance Australia donor, former fund manager Simon Fenwick, gave the lobby group - which used Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Warren Mundine as their lead spokespeople - $400,000 through his Silver RIver family trust to help finance their campaign.

Well-known political donor and billionaire Anthony Pratt, contributed over $1 million to the Labor party, while Climate 200, a fundraising organisation that played a significant role in supporting independent candidates like Kate Chaney, received a substantial donation of $3.5 million in the fiscal year 2022-23.

The AEC's annual disclosures are released on February 1 each year but the data does not provide a complete picture of all contributions due to the disclosure threshold of $15,000.

The Albanese government plans to lower the threshold to $1000 - which is the threshold the Australian Greens already voluntarily apply to their own party - and introduce real-time reporting of donations.

Integrity advocates including think tanks the Centre for Public Integrity and the Australia Institute have long urged for reforms in the face of record-high election spending and donor transparency.

See the full list of donors on the AEC website here

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