Thursday, 21 June 2007
Corporations Legislation Amendment (Simpler Regulatory System) Bill 2007; Corporations (Fees) Amendment Bill 2007; Corporations (Review Fees) Amendment Bill 2007
Bill—by leave—taken as a whole.
I move Democrats amendment (1) on sheet 5282:
(1) Schedule 1, page 13 (after line 28), after item 43, insert:
43A After Part 2M.3, Division 8
Division 8A—Disclosure by companies of political donations
323DB Object of Division
The object of this Division is to authorise gifts and other political donations as defined in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and in this Division, made by companies to political organisations.
323DC Prohibition of gifts and political donations by companies
(1) It is unlawful for a gift or other political donation as defined in this section to be made by a company to a political organisation or a candidate except as authorised by this Division.
(2) In this Division:
candidate means a candidate for election to the Commonwealth Parliament, a State Parliament or for a position in a registered organisation as defined in the Workplace Relations Act 1996.
political donation means:
(a) a gift as defined by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918; or
(b) a disposition of property as defined by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
political organisation means a registered political party or an associated entity as defined by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
relevant time, in relation to any political donation made by a company, means:
(a) the time when the donation is made; or
(b) the time, if earlier, when any contract or undertaking is entered into by a company in pursuance of which the political donation is made.
323DD Approval of gifts and political donations by companies
(1) It is unlawful for a company or an officer of a company to make any political donation to a political organisation or candidate unless:
(a) the political donation is authorised by a resolution passed at a general meeting by a majority of shareholders of the company before the relevant time; or
(b) the political donation is made on the authority of the company, board or management body in accordance with a donation policy which has been approved by a general meeting of the company before the relevant time.
(a) in the case of an individual—by a fine not exceeding 2000 penalty units; or
(b) in the case of a body corporate—by a fine not exceeding 10,000 penalty units.
(2) For the purposes of this section, an approval resolution is a qualifying resolution which specifically authorises the company to make donations to nominated political organisations not exceeding in total a sum specified in the resolution, during the requisite period beginning with the date of the resolution and concluding at the expiration of 3 years after the date of the resolution, after which a further resolution is required in accordance with paragraph (1)(a).
(3) In this section:
qualifying resolution means an ordinary resolution or, if the directors so determine or the articles so require:
(a) a special resolution; or
(b) a resolution passed by any percentage of the members greater than that required for an ordinary resolution.
requisite period means three years or such shorter period as the directors may determine or the articles may require.
(4) The directors may make a determination in relation to a qualifying resolution or the requisite period unless any provision of the articles of the company operates to prevent them from doing so.
(5) An approval resolution must be expressed in specific terms which conform with subsection (2).
(6) If a company or an officer of a company makes any donation in contravention of subsection (1), no ratification or other approval made or given by the company or its members after the relevant time is capable of operating to nullify that contravention.
(7) For the purposes of this section, company includes a subsidiary of a company.
If the Senate is in agreement, unless the shadow minister or the minister wish to ask questions about this amendment, I believe I have motivated it sufficiently in my second reading speech and I will not continue. I would be happy to take it on the voices.
In response to the amendment moved by Senator Murray on behalf of the Democrats, the Labor Party will not be supporting this amendment. I think, as Senator Murray referred to his second reading stage contribution, he has moved the same amendments in other legislation. Labor will not be supporting the amendment for a couple of reasons. Whilst Labor has always argued for transparency for political donations, businesses do have their own internal processes in place to decide how their money is spent in the best interests of their shareholders, just as trade unions do. We have to have some eye to practicality in terms of the decision-making process when considering how best to deal with the issue of political donations.
I think Senator Colbeck was at the Liberal Party Federal Council and he can outline to us what the approach of the Liberal Party is on this particular matter. I expect they will be opposing the amendment. I have not read the Liberal Party council resolution so I do not know the precise details, but on the word of Senator Murray it would appear to be inconsistent with the resolution they passed, supported by the Prime Minister. I am sure that Senator Colbeck can outline what I suspect is the government’s opposition to this particular amendment.
Labor will not be supporting it. If any changes are required in this area we have various laws that specifically deal with electoral process and political donations in this country and that would be the appropriate place to move such an amendment if it were required after review of the particular body of legislation that governs and the determines electoral law in this country. So Labor will not be supporting the amendment.
The government likewise will not be supporting the amendment moved by Senator Murray. Senator Sherry is right: I was at the federal council and I am aware of the motion that was passed. But motions passed at Liberal Party Federal Council are recommendations to the political party organisation. That is the form they take; they are not binding on the parliamentary Liberal Party at a federal level, unlike the situation that exists with the Labor Party where the motions at the federal Labor council are binding on the Labor Party at a political level. The government recognises that political donations offer opportunity for individuals and organisations to support the party or the candidate of their choice and this is an important part of the democratic process. The government does not support intervening in the operations of individual companies in the way proposed by Senator Murray.
Bills—by leave—taken together and as a whole.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendments or requests; report adopted.