Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2010
I was remarking on the legislative history of this bill. Members who were present during the last term might recall that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters had initially delivered its advisory report on that bill in October 2008. In December 2008, the government tabled amendments to the bill in response to that report. Disappointingly, that bill was rejected by the Senate. The government tried to introduce another bill in early 2009, but again, unfortunately, the second bill lapsed with the end of the last parliament. Given the protracted nature of deliberations around the reforms proposed in this bill and the recalcitrance of members of the opposition to date on the topic, it is important that the bill be enacted as law as soon as possible and that the commencement date of 1 July 2011, contemplated in the bill, should have effect.
This government has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to electoral reform in this area by pursuing reform at the earliest opportunity available to it. I hope that other members ultimately in this place will be as committed to genuine reform of campaign finance in Australia. The member for Mackellar remarked earlier this evening that the opposition would like to advocate for further reform. Unfortunately, we have heard little of it and their obstruction on this matter paints a fairly unpalatable picture of their commitment to election reform generally. The practical reforms which are proposed in this bill will have a significant impact upon the functioning of our electoral processes and, ultimately, the representative nature of our democracy. It is critical that they be handled sincerely and implemented as swiftly as possible.
Although the bill includes a substantial number of provisions, I propose to refer only to those key changes which go to the heart of the electoral reform package. Central to the reforms proposed in the bill is a new lower threshold for the disclosure of donations. The current threshold of $11,500 will be substantially reduced to a threshold of $1,000. This disclosure level would apply equally to donors, registered parties and candidates. It will provide transparency and accountability in the donations received or given by key participants in the political process and it reduces the scope for undisclosed gifts. It is curious then that such a relatively innocuous proposal should be so vehemently opposed by members opposite. Central to the reforms also proposed by the bill is the capacity to make anonymous donations—