House debates

Thursday, 11 May 2006

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

Consideration in Detail

10:49 am

Photo of Alan GriffinAlan Griffin (Bruce, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

The opposition will not be opposing the government’s amendments. But I am going to take the opportunity that I have now, given the fact that the gag has been used twice during the consideration of this bill and the earlier amendments, to put on record a couple of comments with respect to the previous set of amendments, which I was not allowed to talk on. As the member for Calare is aware, there were a number of amendments there which in fact the opposition was prepared to support but, in the context of the grouping and their being presented as a whole, the circumstances were that there were a number that we could not support, which is why we voted in that fashion. But we share a range of the concerns with the member for Calare and other Independents, particularly on issues of increases in thresholds. These are real problems and need to be dealt with.

With respect to those threshold issues, which also relate partly to the government’s amendments, I would like to take issue with an earlier comment made by the Special Minister of State in his response to the second reading debate. He quoted some of my earlier comments on the issue of multiple donations and the potential for them to occur. He said:

By his own admission, the member for Bruce believes that the receipt of multiple donations clearly increases the chance of corruption.

He had previously said that the fact that a range of multiple donations had occurred from a range of different trade unions was proof that there were problems and that, in those circumstances, it proved just how evil the union movement and the Labor Party were. The minister once again missed the point. The point is that, where there is potential for multiple donations and where those donations are not disclosed, you leave open the potential for apparent corruption. You remove transparency from the system. The quote that he used, the detail that he provided with respect to what was happening with trade union donations, actually proves the point: those organisations were not only complying with the spirit of the law and the legality required; they were ensuring that they were transparent about what they had done.

That is not the problem; the problem is that, under a system that presents a massively greater incentive by moving the threshold up to 10 grand a pop, who will not declare those multiple donations? There will now be a massive incentive for those who would seek to conceal their donations. I will tell you now: it will not be trade unions taking that opportunity, because they have not been doing it now; it will be others—and they will not be associated with my side of politics. A point that several speakers from the other side have made is that there will be a limit—you can obey the law but you can still declare more. The Labor Party will be obeying the law, but when we are in government again we will be changing the law. We will ensure that we return to a system of full transparency.

I could go on for quite a while, but, as we have already been gagged twice in this debate, the chances are we will be facing a third. Although some might argue it is third time lucky, I may not test that premise. However, the amendments at hand are the result of rushed legislation moved in a shoddy fashion without proper consideration and designed to deliver a political outcome. The government and the previous minister, as the architect of this legislation, were so hot to trot to go after in a political way third-party organisations which they think involve themselves in the political process—whether they are the Wilderness Society, other organisations of that nature or trade unions—that they came forth with legislation that would have caused enormous problems for a whole range of organisations that are not at all political. In his earlier comments, the minister outlined a number of examples.

Their pursuit of an incredibly partisan political outcome in the way they have handled this legislation from the beginning resulted in them bringing forth faulty legislation. Thankfully, elements of those faults have been found. I have no doubt at all that, in the next several years, we will be back here fixing up the mess that they will create by what they are doing today. I have no doubt also that, if we continue to talk about it for much longer, we will be facing another gag. If that is the case, so be it. But the overall point about the issue of donations is that you can— (Time expired)


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