Chinese businesswoman Sally Zou was the single highest donor to the SA Liberal Party during the 2019-20 financial year, according to the Australian Electoral Commission’s (AEC) latest donation disclosures.

Key points:

  • Sally Zou’s company donated more than $180,000 to the SA Liberals in the past financial year
  • She also made payments of $130,000 to the federal branch of the party in the same year
  • The SA state director said the party had strictly followed the “legislative requirements” on donations

Ms Zou’s company Transcendent Australia Pty Ltd donated $182,755 to the SA Liberals, AEC records published today have revealed.

The same disclosures, which cover the period from July 2019 to June 2020, also reveal millions of dollars in other donations, including from Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy company to his United Australia Party.

Ms Zou also made separate payments to the Federal Liberal Party totalling $130,568 in the same financial year.

It is not the first time Ms Zou — who made headlines in 2017 after setting up a company called the ‘Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation’ has donated to the political party.

In 2018, another company owned by Ms Zou, AusGold Mining, donated a smaller sum of $31,788.88.

Transcendent Australia was registered in June 2019, two months before AusGold Mining was placed into voluntary administration.

At the time, Ms Zou entered a deed of company arrangement to repay secured creditors, including employees, in full. Unsecured creditors received a portion of what they were owed.

Ms Zou also mysteriously tweeted a photo of a cheque for $1.2 million made out to the SA Liberals in the lead-up to the 2018 state election.

Ms Zou tweeted an image of a cheque for $1.2 million made out to SA Liberals in 2018.(Twitter: @sally_ausgold)

The donation was never made.

While the 2019-20 donation was declared to the AEC, the Liberal Party has not disclosed the payment under the Electoral Commission of South Australia’s reporting regime.

Liberal Party State Director Sascha Meldrum said the amount was not required to be disclosed, because it was for federal purposes.

The state regime includes much greater levels of disclosure than the federal regime.

Gifts of over $25,000 must be declared within seven days of receipt so the donation can be made public immediately.

The state policy also requires donors who are dual or foreign citizens to disclose their allegiances.

Ms Zou became renowned for cryptic messages on social media.(Twitter)

When questioned about donations, Premier Steven Marshall told reporters that “from a political perspective, we don’t get involved”.

“We abide by all of the rules, and that question you can easily direct to the state director,” he said.

“I’m very proud that in our state we have had a number of reforms in terms of donations to our party.

“We certainly abide by all of those arrangements and I’m sure all parties do.”

Union, hotel industry lobby among other donors

The SA Liberal Party also received $175,000 donations each, from CODAN founder Ian Wall and his wife Pamela.

The Australian Hotels Association paid the party $25,000 while SA Power Networks chief executive Robert Stobbe donated $25,000.

The SA Labor Party received $46,732 from the left-wing union United Voice. 

A further $67,535 was provided from Labor’s corporate fundraising arm SA Progressive Business.

Each major party received $128,279 in public funding from the Electoral Commission of South Australia.

The SA Greens received a $60,261 payment from Nunn Media and a $20,000 donation from former state candidate Scott Matthews.

Centre Alliance had no donations above the disclosure cap of $14,000.