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Billionaire Cannon-Brookes top donor to cashed-up election climate fund

Other beneficiaries of the fund included Rob Oakeshott and Julia Banks, who each raised more than $100,000 ahead of the election, and ACT independent Senate candidate Anthony Pesec, who also received a $20,000 donation from former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s son Alex.

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Mr Holmes a Court, who put $25,000 into his group, said there was “quite a network of climate donors” across Australia who were frustrated with how little traditional environmental non-profit groups were moving the needle on policy.

“Unfortunately, political donations are a critical part of Australian democracy,” he said. “To date, climate action hasn’t been at the table and we realised that we were going to have to have that at the table.”

Five more philanthropists have approached Mr Holmes a Court since the federal election and Climate200 is hoping to raise funds again for the 2022 campaign. The organisation’s name is a spoof of the Kooyong 200 Club, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s high-powered fundraising group.

“This is not hippy, greeny stuff anymore,” said Ben Krasnostein, a member of the wealthy Smorgon family who, with his wife and adult children, donated a “significant” sum to Climate200. “There is a massive wealth transition happening right now, from baby boomers to another generation … this is a real opportunity for a new generation looking for a sustainable future for this country.”

Mr Cannon-Brookes and Mr Holmes a Court are the only two individuals named in Climate200’s donor disclosure. Electoral laws require all donations greater than $13,800 to be attributed.

Climate Outcomes Foundation director Charlie Caruso said her organisation was similarly made up of a group of wealthy donors who were “passionate about the expansion of climate leadership”. The foundation’s website says its key aim is to identify and address “the social, institutional and political barriers that have traditionally held Australia back from adopting science-based climate policy”.

Ms Caruso declined to say how much the organisation, which like Climate200 was founded in April, had raised or who its main funders were.

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Climate200 and the Climate Outcomes Foundation join a crowded field of climate activists plunging money into federal election campaigns, including activist juggernaut GetUp, which spent $4 million ahead of the May poll.

Mr Cannon-Brookes, who was contacted for comment, has been an outspoken critic of political inaction on climate change, in September saying Australians could not rely on governments “at all” to address the problem.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week accused environmental activists of “economic sabotage” and said he would look into laws restricting protests that damaged business revenue.

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