Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Hansard 2008-04-16 Political Donations

Mr Greg Barber MLC for Northern Metropolitan moved the following motion in the Legislative Council on 16 April 2008:
“That this house requires the Electoral Matters Committee to inquire, consider and report no later than 30 April 2009 on --
(1) whether the Electoral Act 2002 should be amended to create a system of political donations disclosure and/or restrictions on political donations; and
(2) the outcome resulting from similar legislative reforms introduced in Canada, the United Kingdom and other relevant jurisdictions”.

Mr Kavanagh’s comments in Parliament on Hansard are below:

Date: 16 April 2008
Page: 1268

Page 1268

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- I would like first to congratulate the Greens on initiating this motion, which strikes me as being both important and timely. It is important because of suspicions that political donations have the potential to corrupt our political system. It is timely, particularly this week with the Four Corners story on the influence of political donations in New South Wales. If the suspicions about the potential of political donations to corrupt are misplaced, the reference to the committee will still be useful, because, as we know in law, justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.

Perhaps in government we could say that political processes must not only be clean but must be seen to be clean, if we are to have a healthy democracy.

Mr Barber expressed concerns about the lack of a requirement for small parties, such as Country Alliance and People Power, to report donations to the Australian Electoral Commission. I would be fairly confident in guessing that those parties, like the Democratic Labor Party but unlike the ALP and the Liberal Party, do not receive corporate donations, particularly not from developers in search of rezoning. Relatively recent legislation has made things very difficult for small parties in Australia -- and, I have to think, intentionally so. The DLP objects to requirements that it provide lists of 500 members to be checked by the electoral commission in order to remain registered.
In practice, to have 500 people write to the electoral commission requires you to have probably 1000 names to send to the commission, because so many people will be away, will move house, will forget to send in their form on time or will not do so for other reasons.

This has relevance to the present motion about political donations, because a requirement for small parties to regularly disclose donations is likely to place an unfair administrative burden on those parties. It seems to me that, without discriminating between different parties, it would be possible to address this potential problem by limiting reporting requirements to fairly substantial donations -- for example, if a party received less than, say, $20 000 a year in donations, it would not be unreasonable to not require it to report in the same way as large political parties, which receive millions of dollars in donations a year, are required to report.

As a matter of fairness to small parties and to serve the interests of political diversity I think allowances should be made by the committee in its recommendations for small political parties.

Motion agreed to.


Peter Kavanagh MLC
Member for Western Victoria
Parliament of Victoria

"La Cabine"
2nd Floor
1 Yarra Street
Geelong VIC 3220

Ph: 03 5222 1503
Fax: 03 5222 8677

Email: peter.kavanagh@parliament.vic.gov.au
Blog: http://peterkavanagh.blogspot.com/
Site: http://www.dlpwestvic.org/

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