House debates

Wednesday, 10 May 2006

Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2005

Second Reading

6:23 pm

Photo of Gary NairnGary Nairn (Eden-Monaro, Liberal Party, Special Minister of State) Share this | Hansard source

I will withdraw. My point is that everything the ALP say in criticising the electoral reforms before this House is absolutely and categorically refuted by their own actions and by the actions of their union masters. The truth is that these changes will not affect transparency and accountability. The hypocrisy and misinformation the opposition continues to spruik contributes nothing to this debate.

With respect to the tax deductibility of political donations, the government agrees with the JSCEM’s view that a higher tax deductibility level would encourage more people to participate in the democratic process. The government believes that public involvement in the democratic process has a significant social value. By changing the tax deductibility arrangements, the bill will encourage greater public participation in the democratic process. The legislation also provides tax deductibility for donations to Independent candidates and members at a federal or state election. This will provide parity of treatment between Independents and political parties.

I reject opposition claims that these changes are somehow aimed at benefiting the Liberal Party. In making these claims, the opposition have clearly missed the point that the parties with the greatest reliance on donations of less than $1,500 are the minor parties and Independents. The reality is that these tax changes will make it more economically viable for the supporters of the minor parties and Independents to contribute to their campaigns. That will actually lead to an increase in the competitiveness of the democratic process. By opposing these provisions, the ALP have shown their hand. The last thing the Labor Party want is a more competitive, democratic process. It is not the first time the ALP have shown their hand on what they think of a competitive democracy—need we be reminded of Labor’s intentions when they changed the electoral system in 1984. Former Labor frontbencher Graham Richardson revealed in his book Whatever It Takes that when Labor changed the electoral system they did so with the aim of ensuring:

... that Labor would embrace power as a right and make the task of anyone taking it from us as difficult as we could.

That appears on page 144 of the book. Who was the Special Minister of State at the time? It was none other than the current Leader of the Opposition.

With respect to prisoner voting, the government remains firmly of the view that people who commit offences against society sufficient to warrant a prison term should not, while they are serving that prison term, be entitled to vote and elect the leaders of the society whose laws they have disregarded. People being detained on remand, those serving alternative sentences such as periodic or home detention, those serving a non-custodial sentence or people released on parole will still be eligible to enrol and vote.

On the subject of third-party disclosure, the government believes that NGOs must be held accountable for any activities that they engage in which are clearly related to electoral matters. The provisions in the bill will require third parties who are engaging in political campaigning in the non-election period to disclose their expenditure on an annual basis where expenditure incurred exceeds $10,000. I will be moving government amendments to this part of the bill. Changes will be canvassed in more detail when I formally introduce those into the House shortly. Let me say that they were developed in consultation with the not-for-profit sector and the response has been very positive.

In conclusion, there are a number of other measures in this bill that will strengthen our electoral system that have not been covered in great detail during the debate. In summary, these provisions relate to expanding AEC demand powers, increasing nomination fees for candidates, removing requirements for publisher and broadcaster returns, requiring divisional offices to be located in the electorate they service, setting minimum requirements for the continued registration of political parties following a federal election and providing for the deregistration of parties that do not meet the requirements, and a number of other matters. Most importantly, through this bill this government achieves, more than any government before it, a reduction in electoral fraud, the removal of vulnerabilities in our electoral system and the protection of the integrity of the fundamental democratic right of Australian citizens to cast a vote. I commend the bill to the House. (Time expired)

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Griffin’s amendment) stand part of the question.


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