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EXCLUSIVE

ANTHONY KLAN

The biggest funder of disinformation group “Advance” — which is bankrolled by a handful of the super-rich while falsely claiming to be a “grassroots” movement of “ordinary Australians” — funnelled it more than $1 million via an illegal company structure whose true ownership is hidden. 

It can further exclusively be revealed that corporate regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is now investigating — after The Klaxon alerted it to the illegality earlier this month, amid a deep-dive investigation. 

The annual Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) donor disclosures data dump on February 1 revealed Hadley Holdings Pty Ltd — a Perth shell company which gives its address as a post office box — had given Advance $1.025m across two “donations”. 

Those payments — $25,000 on November 3, 2022, and $1,000,000 four weeks later, on November 28, 2022 — make the entity Advance’s biggest funder by far, with the payments more than double Advance’s next biggest donor in 2022-23.

The $1m payment was also the second biggest individual political donation in Australia in the financial year. 

Yet the use of a complex and highly-unusual company ownership structure — which also repeatedly exploits a notorious Australian regulatory black hole — means it is impossible to verify the true source, or sources, of the money. 

(The AEC has confirmed to The Klaxon it doesn’t know the legal source of the $1.025m payments). 

Further, the ownership structure is actually illegal — the company at the top of the “ownership” chain officially claims that it “owns” itself. 

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The ownership structure behind the biggest donation to “Advance”. Source: ASIC, AEC. Graphic: The Klaxon

 

The revelations come as Advance, which has repeatedly been caught spreading disinformation and is a “false flag” operation run by fossil fuels and other vested interests, is aggressively targeting the Melbourne electorate of Dunkley ahead of Saturday’s Federal by-election. 

“The revelations come as Advance is aggressively targeting Dunkley ahead of Saturday’s by-election”

It also comes as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese this week in Federal Parliament pointed to the “billionaires” behind Advance as to why donation law reform was needed — although he has announced zero changes since being elected almost two years ago. 

A full-page newspaper add Advance ran in News Corporation’s Herald Sun last week. Source: Advance/Herald Sun

 

The secretive Advance ran an aggressive campaign of disinformation ahead of the October 14 Indigenous Voice to parliament referendum, which it is now replicating in a bid prevent the election of ALP candidate Jodie Belyea. 

Dunkley, currently held by the ALP on a margin of 6.3 per cent, became vacant after the ALP MP Peta Murphy died of breast cancer in December. 

Support for the Voice, which had been running at around 60 per cent, nosedived after Advance aggressively ramped up its campaign in April last year, and the proposal was defeated. 

Support for the Voice collapsed from April last year. Source: Resolve Political Monitor

 

Hadley Holdings Pty Ltd is connected to a relatively unknown 95-year-old Perth businessman called Brian Anderson, who has been widely reported as the source of the two donations totalling $1.025m. 

A wealthy former car salesman and mining investor, whose fortune was bolstered selling engineering products in the resources haven of Western Australia, Anderson has publicly stated he is the source of the money, or at least some of the money.

Yet Anderson’s statements raise yet more questions — and the retired businessman has repeatedly refused to comment when contacted by The Klaxon. 

In a February 2 article the Australian Financial Review reported Anderson had been “struck by No campaigners Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Nyunggai Warren Mundine” and “wanted to do what he could to support them”.

“My motives were because I thought the argument for the No case was correct, that [the Yes case is] divisive, and I wanted to support two of the Indigenous proponents, Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine,” Anderson is reported as saying.

Yet the $1.025m payments were made in November 2022, which was not only almost a year before the referendum — but months before either Price or Mundine joined Advance’s “No” campaign against the Voice. (More below). 

“The donations were made months before either Price or Mundine joined Advance’s ‘No’ campaign”

Hilton and Anderson pictured in Perth in July last year. Source: Facebook

 

The two directors of Hadley Holdings Pty Ltd are Anderson and Perth accountant and tax agent Lena Hilton, 77, who owns accounting firm Hilton Partners. 

Hilton has repeatedly refused to respond when approached by The Klaxon. 

The Hadley Holdings AEC donor disclosure form was filed and signed two months ago on December 20 by Siva Paramalingam, who is also an accountant and tax agent at Hilton Partners.

He also refused to respond when approached for comment. 

Part of the disclosure form for Hadley Holdings Pty Ltd. Source: AEC.

 

The “address” for Hadley Holdings Pty Ltd stated on the AEC form is “PO Box 1236, West Perth”. 

Investigations show that while the directors of Hadley Holdings are Anderson and Hilton, the true ultimate owner, or owners, of the entity is hidden — even from authorities. 

There are three key points. 

First, the $1.025m payments have been declared as made in two payments by a shell company, Hadley Holdings, which is 100% “owned” by another shell company, Anderson Nominees Pty Limited, which is 100% “owned” by another shell company, Yardia Pty Ltd. 

Second, the “beneficial” owner, as in, the actual owner, of each of the three companies is hidden. 

Finally, the company at the top of the structure, “Yardia Pty Ltd”, claims it is 100 percent owned by — “Yardia Pty Ltd”. 

Put another way, the biggest “donor” to Advance is a shell company, “owned” by another shell company, which is “owned” by a third shell company; the “beneficial” (actual) owner of all three companies is hidden; all the directors of the three companies are refusing to talk; and, the company at the top of the structure claims it 100% “owns” itself.  

Hilton Partners in Perth. Source: Supplied

 

At the heart of Australia’s financial system is a black hole which allows the true owner, or owners, of any registered entity to remain entirely hidden. And it’s perfectly legal. 

In what has drawn international condemnation from groups such as Transparency International, Australia has no register of “beneficial owners”. 

That means the true ownership of any company can be hidden by naming a “legal” owner, who is different to the actual owner or owners. 

That proxy owner has no rights to the company or its assets, and must only act in accordance with the instructions of the actual owner/s. 

The Klaxon discovered the stated 100% owner (that is, the proxy owner, not the actual, “beneficial”, owner) of Yardia Pty Ltd is itself. 

We alerted ASIC on February 3 and asked how it could be legal — or even possible — for a company to be the stated “owner” of itself. 

On February 7 ASIC said it was looking into the matter further. 

“I need to clarify a few things but it would appear a company, can, in some very limited circumstances, own shares in itself as outlined in [Corporations Act] section 259a & 259b ,” an ASIC spokeswoman responded. 

“However those acquired under 259a must be cancelled immediately after the transfer and ASIC notified…and those acquired under 259b have 12 months to cease the shares”. 

When we asked in response, repeatedly, whether Yardia Pty Ltd fell outside those laws, ASIC did not respond. 

Investigations show that even if Yardia Pty Ltd meets other “very limited circumstances”, it fails to meet either Section 259a (that such a structure is replaced “immediately”) or Section 259b (that it is removed after 12 months) of the Corporations Act. 

The legislation states: “If, at the end of the 12 months (or extended period), the company still holds any of the shares (or units of shares), the company commits an offence for each day while that situation continues”. 

“The company commits an offence for each day while that situation continues” — Corporations Act 2001

Yardia Pty Ltd became the owner of Yardia Pty Ltd on 30 June 2021 — more than two-and-a-half years ago. 

Twelve months from then was 30 June 2022, which was more than 600 days ago.

Yardia Pty Ltd has been the 100% “owner” of itself since June 30, 2021. Source: ASIC

 

ASIC filings show Yardia Pty Ltd has four shares, each with a stated value of $1, and on 30 June 2021 those four shares were all transferred to Yardia Pty Ltd itself. 

(The ASIC form detailing the “ownership” change was filed by Hilton). 

The Klaxon was this afternoon made aware the matter had been substantially escalated, with investigations now in the hands of specialist teams within ASIC. 

Anderson, who turned 95 earlier this month, lives in a multi-million-dollar waterfront home in the exclusive inner Perth suburb of Dalkeith. 

It is possible that he is the (hidden) “beneficial owner” of all three companies.

It is also possible Anderson is the only “beneficial owner” of all three companies. 

But the central issue — and point of serious concern for Australian democracy more broadly — is that there is no way of knowing. 

“There’s no way of knowing — that’s the central issue”

On February 2 we asked the AEC whether it knew the “identity/identities of the beneficial (and so actual) owner of Hadley Holdings Pty Ltd”, and if so, who that was. 

“We administer the Commonwealth funding and disclosure scheme detailed in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, this includes publishing disclosure data that is provided to us,” a spokeswoman responded. 

“These questions are outside of our remit as the AEC”. 

“The AEC doesn’t know the legal source of the payments”

Advance claims to be a “grassroots” movement of “ordinary Australians”, uses imagery of exhausted looking blue-collar workers and campaigns against the “elite” and the “inner-city woke”. 

“More of us are worried about what woke politicians and inner-city elites are doing to our country,” it told Australians ahead of the Voice referendum. 

Advance falsely claims to be a “grassroots campaign” of “ordinary Australians”. Source: Advance

 

In fact, as previoulsy reported, it is bankrolled by a handful of the mega-wealthy – the super-elite. 

Of the Advance’s ten disclosed donor entities in 2021-22, all have fortunes in the tens of millions of dollars and least seven have estimated fortunes of $100m or more, including billionaire Sam Kennard, owner of Kennards Self Storage.

Most are so wealthy they appear in published media “rich lists” naming Australia’s wealthiest people.

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The disclosed donors to Advance in 2021-22. Source: AEC/Various. Graphic: The Klaxon

 

Advance claims to be non-politically aligned, despite aggressively campaigning against the ALP in favour of the Coalition. 

The outfit has heavily exploited Australia’s lack of truth in political advertising laws. 

Ahead of the 2022 federal election Advance was caught lying by falsely claiming independent candidates David Pocock, now a Federal Senator, and Zali Steggall, now a Federal MP, were actually Greens candidates in disguise. 

Some of the lies being spread by Advance ahead of the 2022 federal election. Source: Supplied

 

“Mundine and Price” 

On February 2, as well as in the AFR, Anderson was quoted in an article in The Australian newspaper. 

Comments attributed to Anderson in both articles are nearly identical to Advance campaigning points. 

“Mr Anderson stressed he was in no way politically inclined, and had never donated to, or been a member of major political parties,” the AFR wrote. 

“I’m not an activist,” Anderson was quoted as saying. 

“I’m not right wing, I’m a democrat”. 

What the Perth-born, life-long West Australian resident meant by “democrat”, or why he used that particular term, was not stated. 

The disinformation and “astroturfing” tactics being used by Advance have been imported from the US, where they have undermined democracy for several years, at great cost to the nation. 

The directors of Advance (legal name Advance Aus Ltd). Source: Supplied

 

It was Anderson’s “first political donation” the AFR wrote. 

Anderson said “any of the money” that he had donated “I made myself”. 

“I thought ‘What can I do?…I’ve got a bit of money, I can give them some money’,” the paper quoted Anderson as saying. 

“I was appalled at what I saw as the unfairness of the corporates and the government laying out millions”.

Yet those statements were regarding the payments Hadley Holdings made in November 2022 — which was almost a year before the referendum.

The donations were made in November 2022, months before Mundine and Price were with the Advance “No” campaign. Source: AEC

 

“Yes” campaign group “Yes Alliance” launched its “ground campaign”, and announced $5m in donations from anti-disadvantage charity the Paul Ramsay Foundation, on February 23 last year, three months after the Hadley Holdings payments. 

Fellow Yes campaign group, “Yes” 23, didn’t launch its  first national advertisements until April 26 last year.

The Australian wrote “the $1.025m donation” was “critical to the success of the No campaign”. 

Anderson was quoted saying he was a “non-activist private individual”; that it was “not really” political; that “I deplore the rubbishing of Australia and Australia Day”; and “I felt I should do what I can because the government had thrown plenty of money at it and so had the corporates”. 

“I made the donation as a private, non-political person on the principle that Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine made very public: that it was discriminatory, undemocratic and divisive, and racially discriminating,” the Australian quoted him as saying. 

The AFR wrote: Mr Anderson said he was struck by No campaigners Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Nyunggai Warren Mundine, and wanted to do what he could to support them”.

“I wanted to support two of the Indigenous proponents, Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine” — AFR quotes Anderson

Yet Mundine and Price didn’t launch their No entity, “Recognise a Better Way”, until January 30 last year, more than two months after the $1.025m donations — and that wasn’t with Advance.

Much earlier, in November 2020, Advance announced Price had joined it as a “spokesperson”, although that was not related to the Voice — it was 18 months before the ALP came to power, let alone having called the referendum. 

Rather, according to Advance, Price, a “freedom fighter”, had been appointed as part of “providing a Voice to mainstream Australia and taking on the likes of GetUp”. 

 

2022: 

Nov 1 – Hadley Holdings $25,000 donation to Advance 

Nov 28 — Hadley Holdings $1m donation to Advance 

 

2023:  

Jan 30Mundine and Price launch “No” campaign group “Recognise a Better Way” 

Feb 12 — Price leaves Recognise to join “new grassroots No campaign” by Advance 

Feb 23 — “Yes Alliance” campaign launches its “ground campaign” and announces $5m donation from Paul Ramsay Foundation 

Apr 26 — “Yes 23” campaign launches its first national advertisements 

May 10 — Reported that Advance “No” campaign will merge with Mundine’s Recognise 

Oct 14 Voice referendum 

 

On Feb 11, 2023 it was reported that Price, in an unexpected move had quit Recognise a Better Way, and would join “a new grassroots No campaign funded by right-wing activist group Advance”. 

That Mundine had also joined the Advance “No” campaign only emerged in May last year — six months after the $1.025m donations from Hadley Holdings. 

The Sydney Morning Herald reported, on May 10 last year, that Mundine’s Recognise was to “merge” with Advance’s No campaign, and so Mundine would join Price.

This article is part of an in-depth investigation exposing aggressive disinformation outfit “Advance”. It has been solely funded by readers who care about our democracy and are prepared to fight for it. You can help by donating here. Thank you.

More to come… 

Do you know more? anthonyklan@protonmail.com 

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Anthony Klan

Editor, The Klaxon

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