Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Electoral Matters Committee; Government Response to Report
I present the government's response to reports of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters and seek leave to incorporate the document in Hansard.
The document read as follows—
Australian Government response to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters reports:
Second interim report on the inquiry into the conduct of the 2016 Federal Election: Foreign donations
Advisory report on the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017
Second advisory report into the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017
The Australian Government is committed to protecting the Australian political process from foreign interference.
On 10 March 2017, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) tabled a report entitled Second Interim Report on the inquiry into the conduct of the 2016 Federal Election: Foreign donations (the second interim report).
JSCEM found that the current regulatory arrangements are insufficient to assure Australians that their electoral processes are free from undue influence from those without a meaningful connection to Australia. Restricting foreign donations will reduce the extent to which foreign money finances public debate, and will contribute to restoring public trust in Australia's system of representative democracy.
On 7 December 2017, the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017 (the Bill) was introduced into the Senate. The Bill:
(a) formed part of a package of reforms to address foreign interference and covert political influence in Australia; and
(b) addresses the JSCEM's recommendations in its second interim report.
The JSCEM has tabled two advisory reports on the Bill. On 9 April 2018, the Advisory report on the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017 (first advisory report) made 15 recommendations in relation to the Bill.
The Government considered the first interim report in developing Government amendments addressing its recommendations, and on 12 September referred the draft Government amendments to the JSCEM.
On 15 October 2018, the JSCEM issued a second advisory report on the referred amendments, making further recommendations.
On 30 October 2018, the Government circulated revised Government amendments to the Senate. The circulated amendments address the recommendations of the second advisory report.
Additionally, the Government intends to ask the Committee to review the Bill following the next federal election to assess any impact on charitable issue-based advocacy. Given the Committee's extensive and cross-party work on the Bill over the course of this Parliament, it is the Government's view that the Committee is best placed to review the Bill's operation and impact once implementation is complete.
The recommendations of the three reports are addressed in detail below.