House debates

Tuesday, 27 November 2018


Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2018; Second Reading

4:33 pm

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am in continuation. I previously outlined our history, the history of those on this side of the chamber in relation to this issue and, in particular, the foreign donations policy we took to the last federal election. That's on the record. Suffice to say, we've been leading in this area. Actions are important. This bill will mean that foreign donations are banned. We will get improved protection of our elections from foreign interference, and that is important. This is going to be achieved without imposing unnecessary and onerous restrictions on charities and the civil sector, and that is important.

It does remain to be seen how effective compliance and enforcement will be, so I just wanted to make the point that consultation with the Australian Electoral Commission, the AEC, will be required to ensure that the practical operation of the foreign donations ban has good outcomes for our electoral processes and our nation. We need to ensure that there are no unfortunate unintended consequences. I hope that all of us in this parliament will remain vigilant to ensure that the integrity of our democracy is maintained and public trust in our democracy is preserved. For our part, Labor have consistently said that we support increased transparency throughout our political system. We believe that the current disclosure threshold for political donations is too high at $10,000, indexed to inflation, which effectively means it is now $13,800. We propose it should be $1,000 and not indexed.

This bill is a significant reform. It's a significant step forward. But it's taken a lot of hard work by many people, including by many charitable and not-for-profit groups, who have had to expend considerable resources—resources that should have gone to their charitable objectives—to save those opposite from their own incompetence. Having said that, this bill is a step forward. It remains to be seen how enforcement will work, but hopefully it will, with proper enforcement, mean that, in the future, our electoral process remains good and without foreign interference.

4:36 pm

Photo of Rebekha SharkieRebekha Sharkie (Mayo, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

I won't take up much of the House's time with respect to the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill. While I think every person in this House believes that electoral funding reform is important, it's fair to say that we've had very slow movement in this place with respect to electoral reform. Now we know that political campaigners will now need to register to disclose their donations, it's disappointing that Labor did not pursue a thousand dollar donation limit for all donors, not just foreign donors. I note that in the other place they got cold feet and moved a second reading amendment instead. Let's face it: that was tokenistic and a meaningless gesture.

It's important to remember that if we want to restore the faith of the Australian people we can do that in no easier way than through donation reform. Personally, I would like to see something closer to Canada's model. I think that politics has become about big business. It has become about big money and less about grassroots movement and grassroots representation. So, for a future parliament, or perhaps even this parliament, I would like to see that we have real and meaningful reform with respect to political donations.

We should have real-time disclosure. We should also have, I believe, a limit of no more than $1,000 being donated by man, woman, child or, indeed, corporation. I think there's a sense out in the community that if you donate a couple of thousand dollars to a candidate or a political party it is a gesture. However, when a organisation or individual donates $100,000—or more than that—one has to question the motives for donating that much. I believe we need to question whether people in this place make decisions based on the donations that they receive and the vested interests that they are.

I will be moving some amendments. These are amendments that were moved in the Senate, and I would hope that the opposition in particular would look at these amendments again. These amendments require the disclosure of gifts and loans that exceed the disclosure threshold to be delivered each calendar month. We need to be sharing this. The value of the gift and loan and the identity of the person who provides the gift and loan must be disclosed, and those disclosures must be made within 10 days after the end of the calendar month. As I said, the disclosure threshold at the moment, which is more than $13,000, is too high. That really means, effectively, a family of five can donate the best part of $50,000 and nobody knows—nobody has any idea of the money flowing, particularly into the major political parties.

In closing, I think we can do a lot more if we want to gain the trust of the Australian community. We need to get money out of politics. I look forward to a time when members from both of the major political parties actually take this issue seriously and we address real funding reform for political parties.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.