The top 10 independent candidates at the 2022 federal election splashed $11.5 million on their political campaigns, smashing spending records and the number of crossbench MPs elected to date in the lower house.
The Australian Electoral Commission on Monday published its disclosure returns for candidates, Senate groups and election donors, which largely covers independent MPs, as well as details of donations to political candidates.
Teals Sophie Scamps, Zoe Daniel, Monique Ryan, Allegra Spender and Kylea Tink all ousted Liberals at the federal election.Credit:Jessica Hromas, Penny Stephens, Luis Enrique Ascui, James Alcock, Getty Images
Allegra Spender spent more than any other independent candidate, splashing $2,124,058 on her campaign, including $1.9 million in donations, to win the blue-ribbon seat of Wentworth in Sydney’s eastern suburbs from former diplomat Dave Sharma.
The Climate 200 group that bankrolled the so-called “teal” independents was by far the biggest donor to Spender’s campaign, tipping in $701,776.
William Taylor Nominees ($100,000), Keldoulis Investments ($80,000), Nicholas Fairfax ($50,000 – a member of the family that once owned this masthead) and Alex Turnbull ($25,000), the son of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, were among other notable donors.
Fellow independent Monique Ryan was close behind Spender, spending $2,122,231, including a bit over $1.8 million in donations, to blast then-treasurer Josh Frydenberg out of the former Liberal stronghold of Kooyong in Melbourne’s inner east.
Ryan’s major donor was also Climate 200, which spent $749,347, while LB Conservation donated $100,000 and Brian Snape spent $50,000. Climate 200 founder Simon Holmes a Court personally donated $20,000 to Ryan’s campaign to unseat Frydenberg, a man he had once supported.
In 2019, Frydenberg defeated a challenge from Liberal-turned-independent Oliver Yates, who spent $483,804 – nearly five times less than Ryan’s 2022 outlay. Yates’ wife Jacqueline also donated $20,000 to Ryan’s campaign.
Among other successful 2022 candidates, Goldstein MP Zoe Daniel ($1.6 million), North Sydney MP Kylea Tink ($1.4 million) and Mackellar MP Sophie Scamps ($1.2 million) also crossed the $1 million spending threshold on their campaigns, while Curtin MP Kate Chaney spent just under $1 million.
Warringah MP Zali Steggall spent close to $800,000 winning re-election, while failed candidates Rob Priestly (Nicholls) spent $702,286 and Carolyn Heise (Cowper) spent just under $700,000 as did Georgia Steele in Hughes.
In all, the spending by independent MPs and candidates at the 2022 election revealed on Monday occupies 10 of the top 11 spots for outlays by an independent at any election. Steggall’s $900,000 spend on her successful first campaign in 2019 is the only entry in the top 11 not from 2022.
On Monday, this masthead revealed Climate 200 received donations from Atlassian founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes worth more than $2.5 million.
The biggest single donor to Climate 200 and the teals was Rob Keldoulis, a relatively unknown share trading firm founder from Sydney’s eastern suburbs, who put in $1.85 million.
In total, Climate 200 raised $13 million to spend on the independent candidates it supported.
By comparison, businessman Clive Palmer spent about $83 million on United Australia Party candidates at the 2019 election, while Liberal donations topped $165 million and Labor received $126 million.
The number of independent MPs in the lower house grew from three to 10 at this year’s election, doubling the previous record of five crossbench MPs in 1996. The Greens also gained three seats to have four MPs in the lower house.
The donations and spending reported by the AEC on Monday are mostly for independent candidates, Senate groups and election donors. Candidates and Senate groups that have been endorsed by a political party are allowed to delay their reporting and put it into political party returns for 2021-22, which will be published on February 1.
Candidates and unendorsed Senate groups are required to disclose the total donations they receive to fund their campaign, the number of donors and details of donations over $14,500 from a single source.
Donors must report donations totalling more than $14,500 made to an individual candidate or member of a Senate group.
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