Australia

Zali Steggall $1.1 million in donations leads funding push for climate action candidates

Independent candidate for Warringah Zali Steggall received $1.1 million in donations at the last election. Source: AAP

Electoral disclosures for federal independent candidates have revealed big donations for campaigns in support of strong climate change action at the last election.

Zali Steggall has led a list of independent candidates to take in big donations at the last election on the back of pro-climate action campaigns.

The Warringah MP who toppled former Prime Minister Tony Abbott to claim his seat in Sydney's northern beaches raised a total of $1.1 million in donations - the highest of any independent - according to election disclosures.

The Australian Electoral Commission on Monday revealed donation figures for the independent candidates, with the former Winter Olympian collecting 1,378 of them towards her campaign.

Independent candidate for Warringah Zali Steggall.
Independent candidate for Warringah Zali Steggall.
AAP

Her biggest donor was environmentalist and businessmen Rob Purves and his sister Sandra – who pledged $104,000 between them to help her election win.

Under electoral laws, only donors who gave more than $13,800 have to register their individual returns. 

Nine such pledges passed this mark as part of Ms Steggall's donations with her campaign attracting $754,25 from 1369 donors below this disclosure threshold.

She won an 18.3 per cent swing in her favour to win the seat from Tony Abbott.

Environmental lobby group biggest financial backer

The disclosure figures revealed an environmental lobby group known as Climate 200 was the biggest individual donor to independent candidates during the election.

The organisation backed by high profile businessmen Simon Holmes a Court and Mike Cannon-Brookes pledged $354,500 to independents backing pro-climate action campaigns.

Simon Holmes a Court has built a reputation as an advocate for tackling climate change - while Mike Cannon-Brookes is the billionaire co-founder of Atlassian.

Their non-profit group has been described as a non-partisan project aimed at assisting political candidates with a "clear commitment" to a science-based response to climate change.

Helen Haines, whose winning campaign in Indi attracted the second most donations among independents with a total of $421,011 – was one of those backed by the donation powerhouse.

Independent member for Indi Helen Haines and former Indi MP Cathy McGowan.
Independent member for Indi Helen Haines and former Indi MP Cathy McGowan.
AAP

She received $35,000 from the lobby group, but this figure was far from the biggest donation.

Oliver Yates – the former head of the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation – earned the third-highest total donations among independents with $362,578 from 261 donors.

This included $145,000 from Climate 200 in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the Victorian seat of Kooyong.

The lobby group also gave $50,000 to ACT independent candidate Anthony Pesec, $47,500 to former independent MP for Wentworth Kerryn Phelps, $40,000 to former Liberal MP turned independent Julia Banks and $37,000 to former independent MP Rob Oakeshott.

Ms Phelps received the fourth largest donation total of all independents with $218,690 from 333 donations in her failed attempt to hold off now Liberal MP David Sharma.

Former MP Kerryn Phelps.
Former MP Kerryn Phelps.
AAP

The independent had previously won the eastern Sydney seat during a by-election against Mr Sharma after the resignation of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Annual disclosure returns for political parties are not published until 3 February next year meaning these returns have not yet been revealed.

With additional reporting from AAP

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