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Yes camp received millions more in donations than No side during Voice campaign

Dechlan Brennan -

Groups campaigning for the Yes vote at last year's Voice to Parliament referendum received tens of millions more in donations than the No campaign, newly publicly disclosed documents have revealed.

The data, released on Tuesday by the Australian Electoral Commission, also shows the amount spent by groups during the referendum.

The philanthropic Paul Ramsay Foundation was the biggest donor across the board, contributing more than $7 million to the Yes campaign, whilst MYOB founder Craig Winkler's firm gave $4.5 million to the Uluru Dialogues.

Other large donors for the Yes campaign included financial institutions ANZ ($2.54 million), Commonwealth Bank ($2.05 million) and Westpac ($2.048 million). Woodside, Wesfarmers, BHP and Rio Tinto all contributed in excess of $2 million to the Yes campaign, with Woolworths tipping in $1.56 million.

Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, the fundraising body for Yes23 received $47.5 million in donations, whilst the Uluru Dialogues group received more than $11 million, via the University of New South Wales.

Other Yes groups to receive large donations include left-wing advocacy group GetUp ($1.7 million) and the ALP ($400,000).

On the No side, the Jacinta Nampijinpa Price-led Australians for Unity received close to $11 million in donations, the Liberal Party received $1.9 millions and the right-wing advocacy group Advance - who have been modelled as a conservative response to GetUp - received $1.3 million.

Clive Palmer's Mineralogy - who are regular big spenders during elections - spent $1.93m on anti-voice advertising, whilst the B Macfie Fund - run by long-time right-wing think tank donor Bryant Macfie - made eight separate $100,000 donations to Australians for Unity.

Marius Kloppers, the former BHP boss, gave the same group $100,000, and they received $250,000 donations from both Riley Street Car Park Pty Ltd and Harbig Properties Pty Ltd.

On the spending side of things, the Liberal Party spent $1.9 million, close to three times as much as Labor. However, they were dwarfed by the spending of the main campaigning bodies.

The two major Yes groups spent a combined $54.13 million. This does not include spending by other yes-aligned groups, including trade unions and political parties.

On the No side, Advance and Australians for Unity spent a combined $22.26 million. There was also spending by Mineralogy and $188,356 by the Voice No Case Committee - a recognise a Better Way group founded by Nyunggai Warren Mundine.

Like in federal elections, many donations are not visible as they fall under the $15,200 disclosure threshold. There is currently no legislation to stop groups or individuals making a significant number of smaller donations under that amount to avoid disclosure.

GetUp says the discrepancy in total donations to reportable ones is "dark money." They have called for the reform of political finance laws - including real-time donations disclosure.

Chief executive Larissa Baldwin-Roberts said Advance's disclosure showed their campaign was "entirely funded by dark money."

"If you look at the number of donors who gave across all the campaigns, small donations did not materialise at the volume that we would see during an election. We've never seen this volume of large donations before, in any disclosure," Ms Baldwin-Roberts said.

Advance reported receiving 9,400 donations in their $1,320,089 of total received finances. However, since none of the donors are listed, it indicates they were all below $15,200.

Ms Baldwin-Roberts said no one knew who was funding Advance, or their "racist campaigns" and called for loopholes in the electoral system to be closed.

"The impacts of racist and vitriolic no campaigns are still being felt by First Nations communities and families across Australia, many in the days after couldn't send their children to school due to the way our families were targeted," the Widjabul Wia-bul woman said.

The Voice to Parliament referendum was defeated in all states and territories except the ACT in October last year, with a 60-40 No vote nationally.


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