THE Palmer Coolum Resort was one of three businesses that poured a total of more than $5.5 million into the Palmer United Party's coffers in June, despite the resort operating on skeleton staff after 40 employees were sacked earlier this year.
The donations come as Fairfax MP and party leader Clive Palmer attempts to wrangle a preference deal with two Senate crossbenchers in a bid to install himself in the Upper House.
A political finance expert also said the unusually large donations could be linked Mr Palmer's potential run amid doubts about his potential for re-election in Fairfax.
A spokesman for Senator David Leyonhjelm has confirmed Mr Palmer had offered the deal to both Senator Leynohjelm and Senator Bob Day, but neither senator had accepted yet
Documents filed with the Electoral Commission Queensland show three companies linked to Mr Palmer donated a total of $5,680,007 to the party in June this year.
While Mr Palmer remains a director of two of the donors, Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd and Palmer Coolum Resort Pty Ltd, he resigned as a director of third donor Mineralogy Pty Ltd last year.
Most of the funds came from a single Queensland Nickel donation, at $4,939,855, despite one of the firm's parent companies, QNI Resources, reporting a $55 million loss for the 2013-14 year to the corporate regulator in May.
Mr Palmer's resort also donated $190,346 to the political party, despite the resort running on skeleton staff since March this year, while refurbishment plans at the resort appear stalled.
Resort general manager Simon Stodart declined to answer questions about the donation, referring all questions to Mr Palmer, who did not respond to questions on Thursday.
A third and final donation, worth $549,806, came from Mr Palmer's Mineralogy Pty Ltd, a resource holding company the politician has repeatedly failed to have listed on the Singapore stock exchange.
While Mr Palmer no longer directs Mineralogy, his nephew Clive Mensink, who was appointed as PUP national secretary in June, is understood to be a director of the company, as well as a director of Queensland Nickel and resort-linked firm Palmer Leisure Coolum Pty Ltd.
The donations did not breach any political funding laws and were reported to the ECQ by both the donors and Mr Mensink as party secretary.
University of Queensland political finance expert Professor Graeme Orr said the donations had come at an unusual time in the election cycle, with a federal election up to a year away.
Prof Orr compared the timing of the donations to United States political campaigns, where "to have raised a lot of money early is the opposite of shameful - it puts fear into opponents".
He said the donations were also much greater than Mr Palmer would need to mount a re-election campaign in Fairfax, and could be a precursor to a potential Senate run.
"Either he didn't pre-empt the recent changes in Queensland law, or it's 'big swinging dick bravado," Prof Orr said.
"It seems strange he'd be moving big sums with no election on the horizon, but (it's) possibly preparatory to mounting a big campaign in Queensland at next year's national election."
The donations follow similar gifts to Mr Palmer's political party during the 2013-14 year, with Queensland Nickel donating some $15 million, Palmer Coolum Resort donating $2.2 million and Mineralogy donating $8.2 million.
- APN Newsdesk
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