News National Climate change push by philanthropists helped fund independents at federal election
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Climate change push by philanthropists helped fund independents at federal election

Donations from philanthropists helped Zali Steggall oust former PM Tony Abbott at the May election. Photo: AAP
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Australia’s richest philanthropists have defied the Morrison government’s warning for corporate leaders to “stick to their knitting” on climate change by bankrolling a war chest for independents including Zali Steggall to turf Tony Abbott out of politics.

Documents released by the Australian Electoral Commission on Monday revealed Ms Steggall amassed a $1.1 million war chest in her battle to win the former prime minister’s Sydney seat of Warringah.

Billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes has emerged as one of the biggest donors to independent candidates calling for action on climate change at the May 2019 election.

Last night, the Atlassian co-founder took to social media to highlight a new KPMG report that warns climate change is the biggest threat to growth over the next three years according to CEOs across all industries.

“What do you know? Turns out they were ‘sticking to their knitting’ after all,” he said.

But only a fraction of Ms Steggall’s campaign was funded by wealthy philanthropists.

The majority of the donations for Ms Steggall’s campaign were below the $13,800 disclosure threshold, with her campaign raising $754,251 from 1369 individual donors.

Ms Steggall’s campaign donors also included Southern Cross Star Group founder Neil Balnaves, who donated $20,000, and businessman Rob Purves and his sister Sandra, who donated $104,000.

Billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes, donated the $50,000 to Climate 200. But such was the success or Ms Stegall’s fundraising, Climate 200 focused donations on other pro-climate candidates.
“We put together $495k in 10 weeks when most thought Labor would be romp it in and we’d be well on the way to half-decent climate and energy policy by now,” climate change activist Simon Holmes a Court said.
“Post election, it clear that science-based climate policy remains elusive and Australia is further than ever from capturing the opportunities of a low carbon economy.
“In the past week we’ve heard from new donors, political advisors and potential candidates. I have little doubt that with more time, talent, donors — and more motivation — Climate 200’s impact will be many times greater in 2022.”

Last week, Ms Steggall criticised the Prime Minister’s call for debate on legislation to ban consumer boycotts against coal companies.

“Are we a free-market democracy or Orwell’s 1984?” she said.

Malcolm Turnbull’s son, Alex also raised around $20,000 for ACT independent Senate candidate Anthony Pesec.

Victorian MP Helen Haines raised $421,001 from 1002 donors for her campaign for the seat of Indi, and former Wentworth MP Kerryn Phelps raised $218,690.

Oliver Yates, who ran against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Kooyong, Victoria, raised $362,578.

But the fundraising by wealthy climate change philanthropists is small change compared to the estimated $70 million election expenditure by pro-coal billionaire Clive Palmer.

He will outline his fundraising and expenditure in the party donation disclosures in February.

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