Wednesday, 17 June 2020
Questions without Notice
Donations to Political Parties
My question is to the Prime Minister. State governments have led the way with prohibitions on industry donations and anti-corruption watchdogs. In contrast, at the federal level, we still have no national integrity and anti-corruption watchdog and no prohibition on political donations from the property development, mining, tobacco or gambling industries. This is the virus corrupting our democracy. Rather than introducing legislation to bring federal donation laws up to scratch and protect our democracy, your government has introduced legislation to get around stronger state government laws. Why?
I thank the member for her question. I will ask the Attorney whether he wishes to speak to the integrity commission issues that the member has raised. The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is a committee that indeed I served on when I first came into this place and that many members have served on. We review the electoral process and the elections on each occasion they're conducted, and the matters you make mention of are reviewed. I understand that that is still taking place now, from the last election, and I look forward to seeing the committee's report. The Attorney may want to speak to the issues regarding the integrity commission. But I'd be surprised if those opposite in the Labor Party would be asking questions about integrity today.
I thank the member for her question. I might just quickly touch on the electoral issues as well. The government has instituted a number of reforms in recent years with respect to donations, many of them relating to foreign donations, and I'm very happy to provide a summary of those to the member individually. Of course, giving the analogy of the state prohibitions that have existed in some states with respect particularly to property developers, there are issues at a federal level with those types of laws which go back to a range of decisions of the High Court on constitutional matters, going back to the ACTV decision and the implied freedom of political communications. So those comparisons, if I might say so respectfully, aren't perfect comparisons.
With respect to the integrity commission, as the member is aware—and we've discussed the model that the government has for an integrity commission, and I know that the member prefers some features of some other models to those that the government is proposing—there's been serious design attention to that integrity commission body. We have allocated $106.7 million of new money to the integrity commission over the forward estimates. That excludes the $40.7 million of existing funding for ACLEI. By comparison, members opposite promised $58.7 million. So, the commitment we've given to that integrity commission is almost $89 million greater. Obviously there have been other priorities for the government whilst, as the opposition have noted, hundreds of thousands of Australians have, very sadly, lost jobs or are in zero hours now because of the COVID pandemic. But we are now revisiting the issue of the integrity commission, and our legislation, and no doubt you and I will have further conversations on that.