Yes campaign groups received more than five times as much in donations as no side in voice referendum | Indigenous voice to parliament

Posted by

The main groups for the referendum yes campaign received more than five times as much in donations than opponents in the no campaign, with details of major donations from big banks and major companies revealed in newly published disclosure reports.

The single largest donor was the philanthropic Paul Ramsay Foundation, contributing more than $7m to the yes campaign, according to Australian Electoral Commission disclosures. ANZ bank ($2.54m), Woodside Energy ($2.182m), Commonwealth Bank ($2.05m) and Westpac ($2.048m) donated large sums as well. And Wesfarmers, BHP and Rio Tinto all donated $2m to yes campaign groups, while Woolworths tipped in $1.56m.

The referendum on inserting an Indigenous voice into the constitution was defeated by a 60-40 margin last October. The conservative lobby group Advance, which led the no campaign, and its fundraising vehicle Australians for Unity spent $10.44m and $11.82m, respectively, through the referendum period.

Australians for Unity received $10.84m in donations while Advance itself received $1.32m. Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy spent $1.93m on its campaign, according to its AEC disclosure.

But those figures were dwarfed by the donations and spending of the main yes campaign groups. Australians for Constitutional Recognition, the official yes campaign group, received $47.46m in donations and spent $43.82m. The University of New South Wales, home to the Uluru dialogue group which spearheaded the Uluru statement from the heart upon which the voice was based, received $11.12m and spent $10.03m.

Combined, the two major yes groups received $58.59m and spent $54.13m. Separate donations and spending from other pro-yes groups including trade unions, social groups and political parties contributed millions more.

Major donors to the no campaign individually contributed smaller amounts than the headline figures given to the yes campaign. Silver River Investment Holdings, run by the former fund manager Simon Fenwick, gave $250,000 to Australians for Unity. Fenwick, a longtime donor to Advance, gave another $250,000 in his own name.

Jeffrey McCloy, a former mayor of Newcastle, contributed $169,176 to Australians for Unity. Marius Kloppers, a former chief executive of BHP, appears to have donated $100,000 to the same group.

The largest donor to the no campaign appears to be B Macfie Family Pty Ltd, which gave eight separate contributions of $100,000 each. Its director, Bryant Macfie, gave $100,000 under his own name.

skip past newsletter promotion

Australians for Unity also received $250,000 each from Riley Street Car Park Pty Ltd and Harbig Properties Pty Ltd.

The former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull donated $50,000 to the yes campaign.

More to come …