Senate debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Bills

Electoral Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020; In Committee

9:31 am

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

I remind those on video that the Senate can see everything that's happening on the screen, so just make sure you are acting in the same way you would as if you were in the chamber.

9:32 am

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] I believe we've got one amendment remaining. It's Australian Greens amendment on sheet 1003. I flag that I won't be moving amendment (1) because it's in conflict with an amendment that passed yesterday, obviously. I move Australian Greens amendment (2) on sheet 1003:

(2) Page 45 (after line 20), at the end of the Bill, add:

Schedule 3—Banning dirty donations

Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

1 Subsection 287(1) (definition of gift )

Repeal the definition, substitute:

   gift has the meaning given by section 287AAA.

2 After section 287

Insert:

287AAA Meaning of gift

(1) A gift includes the following:

  (a) any disposition of property made by a person to another person, being a disposition made without consideration in money or money's worth or with inadequate consideration;

  (b) the provision of a service (other than volunteer labour) for no consideration or for inadequate consideration;

  (c) an amount paid by a person as a contribution, entry fee or other payment to entitle that or any other person to participate in or otherwise obtain any benefit from a fundraising venture or function if the amount forms part of the proceeds of the venture or function;

  (d) an annual or other subscription paid to a registered political party, to a State branch or a division of a State branch of a political party, unless the subscription is for membership of the registered political party and the amount paid is less than $1,000 per year;

  (e) an annual or other subscription paid to an associated entity, unless the subscription is for membership of the associated entity and the amount paid is less than $1,000 per year;

  (f) an annual or other subscription paid to a political campaigner, unless the subscription is for membership of the entity and the amount paid is less than $1,000 per year;

  (g) uncharged interest on a loan to a political entity, being the additional amount that would have been payable by the political entity if:

     (i) the loan had been made on terms requiring the payment of interest at the generally prevailing interest rate for a loan of that kind; and

     (ii) any interest payable had not been waived; and

     (iii) any interest payments were not capitalised.

(2) Each of the following is taken not to be a gift:

  (a) a payment under Division 3;

  (b) any visit, experience or activity provided for the purposes of a political exchange program.

3 After Division 5A of Part XX

Insert:

Division 5B—Prohibited donations

314AH Simplified outline of this Division

This Division sets out the various types of business entities which are prohibited donors. It is unlawful for a prohibited donor to make a political donation. A political donation includes a gift or loan made to or for the benefit of a political entity, a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, an associated entity or a political campaigner.

Unlawful political donations may be recovered by the Commonwealth as a debt due to the Commonwealth.

314AI Definitions

In this Division:

close associate of a corporation means each of the following:

  (a) a director or officer of the corporation or the spouse of such a director or officer;

  (b) a related body corporate of the corporation;

  (c) a person whose voting power in the corporation or a related body corporate of the corporation is greater than 20%, or the spouse of such a person;

  (d) if the corporation or a related body corporate of the corporation is a stapled entity in relation to a stapled security—the other stapled entity in relation to that stapled security;

  (e) if the corporation is a trustee, manager or responsible entity in relation to a trust—a person who holds more than 20% of the units in the trust (in the case of a unit trust) or is a beneficiary of the trust (in the case of a discretionary trust).

defence industry entity means:

  (a) a corporation engaged in a business undertaking that involves the development or provision of goods and services intended for the purposes of defence; or

  (b) a person who is a close associate of a corporation referred to in paragraph (a).

electoral expenditure has the same meaning as in Division 5.

financial institution means:

  (a) an entity which carries on a business that consists of, or includes, the provision of financial services or financial products and which is:

     (i) a bank; or

     (ii) a credit union; or

     (iii) a building society; or

     (iv) any other entity registered under the Australian Financial Institutions Commission Codes as a special service provider; or

  (b) a person who is a close associate of an entity referred to in paragraph (a).

Note:    See section 111AZB of the Corporations Act 2001 for the Australian Financial Institutions Commission Codes.

liquor or gambling industry business entity means:

  (a) a corporation engaged in a business undertaking that involves either or both of the following, but only if it is for the ultimate purpose of making a profit:

     (i) the manufacture or sale of liquor products;

     (ii) wagering, betting or other gambling (including the manufacture of machines used primarily for that purpose); or

  (b) a person who is a close associate of a corporation referred to in paragraph (a).

mineral resources or fossil fuel extraction industry business entity means:

  (a) a corporation engaged in a business undertaking that involves the exploration, prospecting, discovery, development or extraction of mineral resources or fossil fuels; or

  (b) a person who is a close associate of a corporation referred to in paragraph (a).

officer, in relation to a corporation, has the same meaning as in the Corporations Act 2001.

pharmaceutical entity means:

  (a) a corporation engaged in a business undertaking that involves any of the following activities for the ultimate purpose of making a profit:

     (i) research into and testing of pharmaceutical products;

     (ii) manufacture of pharmaceutical products;

     (iii) sale, marketing or distribution of pharmaceutical products; or

  (b) a person who is a close associate of a corporation referred to in paragraph (a).

political donation has the meaning given by section 314AJ.

prohibited donor means:

  (a) a property developer; or

  (b) a financial institution; or

  (c) a tobacco industry business entity; or

  (d) a liquor or gambling industry business entity; or

  (e) a mineral resources or fossil fuel extraction industry business entity; or

  (f) a defence industry entity; or

  (g) a pharmaceutical entity; or

  (h) an industry representative organisation, if the majority of the organisation's members are prohibited donors referred to in any of paragraphs (a) to (g).

property developer means:

  (a) a corporation engaged in a business that involves the making of planning applications (however described) under State or Territory laws, by or on behalf of the corporation, in connection with the residential or commercial development of land, with the ultimate purpose of the sale or lease of the land for profit; or

  (b) a person who is a close associate of a corporation referred to in paragraph (a).

Any activity engaged in by a corporation for the dominant purpose of providing commercial premises at which the corporation or a related body corporate of the corporation will carry on business is to be disregarded for the purpose of determining whether the corporation is a property developer, unless that business involves the sale or leasing of a substantial part of the premises.

related body corporate has the same meaning as in the Corporations Act 2001.

spouse of a person includes a de facto partner of that person.

Note: For defactopartner, see section 21 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.

stapled entity means an entity the interests in which are traded along with the interests in another entity as stapled securities and (in the case of a stapled entity that is a trust) includes any trustee, manager or responsible entity in relation to the trust.

State branch includes a division of a State branch.

tobacco industry business entity means:

  (a) a corporation engaged in a business undertaking that involves the manufacture or sale of tobacco or inhaled nicotine products; or

  (b) a person who is a close associate of a corporation referred to in paragraph (a).

voting power has the same meaning as in the Corporations Act 2001.

314AJ Meaning of political donation

(1) For the purposes of this Division, a political donation is:

  (a) a gift made to or for the benefit of a political party or a State branch of a political party; or

  (b) a gift made to or for the benefit of a member of the Commonwealth Parliament; or

  (c) a gift made to or for the benefit of a candidate (including a member of a group); or

  (d) a gift made to or for the benefit of an associated entity of a registered political party; or

  (e) a gift made to or for the benefit of a political campaigner; or

  (f) a gift made to or for the benefit of an entity or other person (not being a party, elected member, group or candidate), the whole or part of which was used or is intended to be used by the entity or person:

     (i) to enable the entity or person to make, directly or indirectly, a political donation or to incur electoral expenditure in relation to an election; or

     (ii) to reimburse the entity or person for making, directly or indirectly, a political donation or incurring electoral expenditure in relation to an election; or

  (g) a loan:

     (i) that, if it had been a gift, would have been a political donation under this section; and

     (ii) that was not made by a financial institution (within the meaning of section 306A).

(2) The following are not political donations:

  (a) a gift to an individual that was made in a private capacity to the individual for his or her personal use and that the individual has not used, and does not intend to use, solely or substantially for a purpose related to an election or to his or her duties as an elected member;

  (b) a payment under Division 3 (election funding).

(3) However, if any part of a gift referred to in paragraph (5)(a) is subsequently used to incur electoral expenditure in relation to an election, that part of the gift is taken to be (and to always have been) a political donation.

314AK Political donations by prohibited donors unlawful

(1) It is unlawful for a prohibited donor to make a political donation.

(2) It is unlawful for a person to make a political donation on behalf of a prohibited donor.

(3) It is unlawful for a person to accept a political donation that was made (wholly or partly) by a prohibited donor or by a person on behalf of a prohibited donor.

(4) It is unlawful for a prohibited donor to solicit another person to make a political donation.

(5) It is unlawful for a person to solicit another person on behalf of a prohibited donor to make a political donation.

(6) If a person receives a gift that, under this section, it is unlawful for the person to receive, an amount equal to the amount or value of the gift is payable by that person to the Commonwealth and may be recovered by the Commonwealth as a debt due to the Commonwealth by action, in a court of competent jurisdiction, against:

  (a) in the case of a gift to or for the benefit of a political party or a State branch of a political party:

     (i) if the party or branch, as the case may be is a body corporate—the party or branch, as the case may be; or

     (ii) in any other case—the agent of the party or branch, as the case may be; or

  (b) in any other case—the candidate or a member of the group or the agent of the candidate or of the group, as the case may be.

314AL Offences—political donations

(1) A person (the defendant) commits an offence if:

  (a) the defendant is a prohibited donor; and

  (b) the defendant makes a gift; and

  (c) the gift is a political donation.

Penalty:   Imprisonment for 2 years or 400 penalty units, or both.

(2) A person (the defendant) commits an offence if:

  (a) the defendant makes a gift on behalf of another person; and

  (b) the gift is a political donation; and

  (c) the other person is a prohibited donor.

Penalty:   Imprisonment for 2 years or 400 penalty units, or both.

(3) A person (the defendant) commits an offence if:

  (a) the defendant accepts a gift; and

  (b) the gift is a political donation; and

  (c) the gift was given (wholly or partly) by, or by a person on behalf of, a prohibited donor.

Penalty:   Imprisonment for 2 years or 400 penalty units, or both.

(4) A person (the defendant) commits an offence if:

  (a) the defendant is a prohibited donor; and

  (b) the defendant solicits another person to make a gift; and

  (c) the gift is, or would be, a political donation.

Penalty:   Imprisonment for 2 years or 400 penalty units, or both.

(5) A person (the defendant) commits an offence if:

  (a) the defendant solicits another person to make a gift; and

  (b) the defendant does so on behalf of another person (the donor); and

  (c) the donor is a prohibited donor; and

  (d) the gift is, or would be, a political donation.

Penalty:   Imprisonment for 2 years or 400 penalty units, or both.

Fault element

(6) The fault element for the following paragraphs is knowledge by the defendant:

  (a) paragraphs (1)(a) and (c);

  (b) paragraphs (2)(b) and (c);

  (c) paragraphs (3)(b) and (c);

  (d) paragraphs (4)(a) and (c);

  (e) paragraphs (5)(c) and (d).

Civil penalty

(7) A person is liable to a civil penalty in the person contravenes subsections (1) to (5).

Civil penalty:

The higher of the following amounts:

  (a) 200 penalty units;

  (b) if there is sufficient evidence for the court to determine the amount or value, or an estimate of the amount of value, of the gift at the time the gift is made–3 times that amount or value.

314AM Offence—scheme to circumvent prohibitions

(1) A person commits an offence if the person enters into or carries out a scheme (whether alone or with others) for the purpose of circumventing a prohibition or requirement of this Division.

Penalty:   Imprisonment for 2 years.

(2) It does not matter whether the person also enters into or carries out the scheme for other purposes.

(3) In this section:

scheme includes an arrangement, an understanding or a course of conduct.

314AN Electoral Commission may determine that a person is presumed not to be a prohibited donor

(1) The Electoral Commission may determine, in writing, that a person (the donor) is presumed not to be a prohibited donor for the purposes of this Division if:

  (a) a donor or another person (the applicant) applies to the Commission for the determination to be made; and

  (b) the Commission is satisfied that it is more likely than not that the donor is not a prohibited donor.

(2) The Electoral Commission is to decide whether or not to make a determination under subsection (1) solely on the basis of information provided by the applicant.

(3) A determination under subsection (1) remains in force for 12 months after it is made, unless it is revoked earlier.

(4) The Electoral Commission may, by written notice to the applicant, revoke a determination under subsection (1) if the Commission is no longer satisfied of the matter in paragraph (1)(b). Subsection (2) does not apply to a decision of whether or not to revoke a determination under this subsection.

Effect of presumption

(5) If a person is, under a determination made under subsection (1), presumed not to be a prohibited donor, then sections 314AK, 314AL and 314AM do not apply in relation to a gift made by or on behalf of the person.

(6) However, subsection (5) does not apply to a person who knows that information provided to the Electoral Commission in connection with the making of the determination was false or misleading in a material particular.

(7) The onus of proving that a person is not presumed not to be a prohibited donor under a determination made under subsection (1) is born by:

  (a) in proceedings under section 314AK—the Commonwealth; or

  (b) in proceedings for an offence against section 314AL or 314AM—the prosecution.

Register of determinations

(8) The Electoral Commission must maintain, and publish on the Commission's website, a register of determinations made under subsection (1).

Determination is not a legislative instrument

(9) A determination made under subsection (1) is not a legislative instrument.

Division 5C—Capping donations

314AO Simplified outline of this Division

This Division places a cap on political donations of $3,000 within a donation period. Political donations to the same registered political party, member of the Commonwealth Parliament, candidate (including a member of a group), political campaigner or associated entity are aggregated together for the purpose of calculating the donation cap.

Political donations are also attributed to the relevant registered political party for the purpose of aggregating political donations.

It is unlawful for a registered political party, member of the Commonwealth Parliament, candidate, group, associated entity or political campaigner to accept a political donation if the donation would exceed the donation cap individually or when aggregated with other relevant donations.

Unlawful political donations may be recovered by the Commonwealth as a debt due to the Commonwealth.

314AP Definitions

In this Division:

donation cap means $3,000.

donation period: the donation period begins on the day after the polling day for a general election and ends on the polling day of the next general election.

small contribution means an amount less than $50.

State branch includes a division of a State branch.

314AQ Capping of political donations

A political donation made to, or for the benefit of, any of the following:

  (a) a political party or a State branch of a political party;

  (b) a member of the Commonwealth Parliament;

  (b) a candidate (including a member of a group);

  (c) a political campaigner;

  (d) an associated entity;

must not exceed the donation cap for each donation period.

314AR Aggregating political donations

(1) This section applies to the dollar amount mentioned in the definition of donation cap in section 314AP.

Aggregation of donations

(2) A political donation made by a donor of an amount equal to or less than the donation cap is to be treated as a political donation that exceeds the donation cap if that political donation and other separate political donations made by that donor within the donation period to the same:

  (a) registered political party; or

  (b) member of the Commonwealth Parliament; or

  (c) candidate (including a member of a group); or

  (d) political campaigner; or

  (e) associated entity;

would exceed the donation cap if aggregated together.

(3) For the avoidance of doubt, political donations made to the same person in their capacity as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament or in their capacity as a candidate in an election are to be aggregated for the purpose of calculating the donation cap.

Attribution of donations

(4) A political donation made to:

  (a) a member of the Commonwealth Parliament; or

  (b) a candidate (including a member of a group); or

  (c) a group that is endorsed by a registered political party; or

  (d) a State branch of a political party; or

  (e) an associated entity;

must also be included as a donation to the relevant registered political party for the purpose of aggregating political donations.

(5) A political donation to a candidate or a member of a group must also be included as a donation to the group for the purpose of aggregating political donations.

Excluded donations

(6) For the purpose of aggregating political donations, the following amounts are excluded from the calculation:

  (a) a gift that is accepted by an associated entity or political campaigner for a purpose that does not involve election expenditure;

  (b) any small contribution, unless the small contribution is made in contravention of section 314AM.

314AS Exceeding donation cap unlawful

(1) Except as provided in this section, it is unlawful for a registered political party, member of the Commonwealth Parliament, candidate, group, associated entity or political campaigner to accept a political donation if:

  (a) the political donation; or

  (b) the political donation when aggregated in accordance with section 314AR;

would exceed the donation cap during a donation period.

(2) It is not unlawful for a registered political party, member of the Commonwealth Parliament, candidate, group, associated entity or political campaigner to accept a political donation if:

  (a) the political donation would exceed the donation cap only if aggregated with other political donations from the donor in the donation period; and

  (b) the registered political party, member of the Commonwealth Parliament, candidate, group, associated entity or political campaigner did not know and could not reasonably have known of the other political donation included in the aggregation; and

  (c) an amount equal to the amount by which the aggregated political donation exceeded the donation cap was returned by the recipient of the political donation to the donor within 5 business days of the recipient discovering the donation exceeded the donation cap.

(3) If a person receives a political donation that, under this section, it is unlawful for the person to receive, an amount equal to the amount or value of the political donation is payable by that person to the Commonwealth and may be recovered by the Commonwealth as a debt due to the Commonwealth by action, in a court of competent jurisdiction, against:

  (a) in the case of a political donation to or for the benefit of a political party or a State branch of a political party:

     (i) if the party or branch, as the case may be is a body corporate—the party or branch, as the case may be; or

     (ii) in any other case—the agent of the party or branch, as the case may be; or

  (b) in the case of a political donation to or for the benefit of an associated entity or political campaigner:

     (i) if the associated entity or political campaigner, as the case may be is a body corporate—the associated entity or political campaigner; or

     (ii) in any other case—the agent of the associated entity or political campaigner, as the case may be; or

  (c) in any other case—the candidate or a member of the group or the agent of the candidate or of the group, as the case may be.

4 Subsection 315A(1)

After "or subsection 301(3)", insert "314AK(6) or 314AS(3)".

People will probably be getting a bit sick of the Greens raising the influence of dirty donations on political decision-making, but we're not going to stop raising it until we the influence of dirty money is removed from our politics. We have before us the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020. This bill, which we spent much of yesterday debating, allows donors to continue to donate to federal branches of parties in states that have strong donation laws, which we contend is a back door around those stronger state donations restrictions. Sadly, the bill has bipartisan support. So what we are doing now with this amendment (2) on sheet 1003 is trying to bring in the donations restrictions that we think will restore democracy as a function of the Australian people and ensure that democracy can't be for sale anymore.

There are three elements to this amendment. Firstly, it redefines 'gift' to include party memberships and to include subscriptions to various different party forums. I will come back to that. Essentially, that refers to pay-for-access meetings—the lobster luncheons. It then bans completely donations from a number of industries that have a long history of seeking undue influence in return for political donations. That list is property developers, banks, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, big mining, defence and big pharma. The Greens think that those industries should not be able to donate one cent because they have a sordid history of seeking influence as a result of making those donations. Lastly—and this is perhaps the most important reform—we would like to see donations from everybody else, no matter whether you're an individual, on organisation or a corporation, capped at $1,000 a year or $3,000 for a three-year term, which, obviously, works out to $1,000 a year. That is a constitutional way of ensuring that people can still support causes that they believe in, but it makes sure that you can't buy undue influence and seek to have policies made to address your personal needs or to address and boost your personal corporate profits. We want to see big money out of politics entirely, and this is how you do it. You bring in public funding. You cap spending and, importantly, you cap donations and you stop donations from those industries that have long sought undue influence over decision-makers.

In the time I have available to me, I want to give some statistics. Since 2012, fossil fuel and resources industries have donated over $7½ million to both of the big parties. That industry in return gets $6 billion a year in tax subsidies. We call them 'fossil fuel subsidies', and they are things like accelerated depreciation, cheaper diesel fuel—perks, if you like, that ordinary drivers and other sorts of companies do not get access to. That's a pretty good return on investment. That's about $2,000 in subsidies for every dollar that they donate. Generous donations have also bought them a government that is completely paralysed by the phrase 'climate change' and certainly paralysed by the phrase 'climate emergency', despite the bushfires that this country just experienced being the worst in our long history.

It won't surprise you that the gas industry donates millions of dollars. So it was of course no surprise that the Prime Minister appointed a whole lot of his gas mates to the national COVID commission who have, unsurprisingly, recommended support for their own projects. So we now have this spurious notion of a 'gas led recovery', when everyone can see that has increased gas prices, leading to a suppression of domestic manufacturing, and, because of the government's laser-like focus on doing favours for their mates, that has escaped the government's notice.

Banking and finance have also been serial offenders. They have donated about $60 million since 2012 to both sides of politics. Boy, didn't they buy them a long reprieve! Finally, after many years of the Greens pushing for it, we got a banking royal commission, but that industry's donations bought them many, many years of getting away with atrocious, unethical, immoral and illegal conduct. Finally, after many years of pushing, the royal commission has exposed that conduct, but one wonders whether $60 million bought them a few years of that continued bad behaviour not being sanction properly by those in charge.

The gambling industry is another huge donor to both state and federal political parties. You can see the evidence of what that donation delivers: strong support for pokies around Australia. ClubsNSW are huge donors to the Liberal Party. In particular, very generous donations now flow from ClubsNSW to the Liberal Party, after some attempt at gambling reform, by the member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, which sadly went nowhere.

They are only the donations that we know about. We know that there are vast amounts of donations—dark money, if you like—that aren't required to be disclosed because our disclosure rules are terribly weak. Part of the intention of these amendments today is to capture some of those lobster lunches, some of those pay-for-access meetings, that seem so routine, even though it is disgusting. We would redefine 'gift' to include party membership fees of over $1,000. At the moment, they are excluded. We would redefine 'gift' to include those pay-for-access functions, those forums, those subscription fees to various party subgroups, which at the moment our electoral laws do not include as disclosable. In fact, even the Electoral Commission recognises some uncertainty in terms of the mark-up on various corporate lunches; that was discussed yesterday. Even the AEC has acknowledged that the drafting there is so unclear that often with those sorts of events you can get away with not disclosing them, and some of the big parties do just that. The Minerals Council—old friends of ours!—donate $25,000 to each major party's such forum, and that entitles them to two boardroom events and two policy briefing sessions. At the minute, there's no restriction on that.

So these amendments seek to redefine that definition of 'gift' to ensure that those things are disclosable. But then, because we cap donations at $1,000, you would not be able to donate those whopping amounts to get that special access that no other ordinary Australian gets. So we would seek to clean up those lobster lunches.

I've talked about the bans we want to see on property developers, banks, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, big mining, defence and big pharma. We know this has routinely been before the courts and has been found to be perfectly lawful. I want to commend some of the state governments for taking steps in this regard. New South Wales, in particular, has been at the front of the pack on donations reform, pushed by our state Greens there, of course, for many years. Even Queensland has come on board, thanks again to political pressure exerted by my party to include a property developer ban under our state laws.

But it's nowhere near enough. We still have massive donations from big oil, big coal and big gas. In a climate crisis, they're still trying to buy the denial of the parties in government or those seeking to be in government. Meanwhile, the rest of the community suffers. We need climate action and we need policies that help people, not boost corporate profits. Part of the reason why we have such poor decision-making out of the federal parliament is that those donors get more influence than they should. Their interests get weighed in policy decisions when in fact we should be progressing the public interest, protecting nature and setting us all up for a prosperous and healthy future.

So this is the amendment the Greens are seeking to move today. It's not the first time we've raised this issue. This has been a longstanding Greens policy. I'm not expecting to get support from the Labor or Liberal parties, who have taken in that $100 million in corporate donations since 2012. They're quite happy with that arrangement, and I'm sure they want to keep seeing the money flowing. They had a chance to vote for lower disclosure thresholds. They didn't do so. They have a chance today to vote to clean up the dirty donations. I'm not expecting them to do so. But the Greens will not give up. We will keep pushing these issues, because democracy belongs to the community. Politicians should not be for sale. I commend this amendment to the chamber.

9:42 am

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

The government oppose this amendment. The Greens amendment would arbitrarily ban eight different specific categories of businesses from participating in the democratic process—eight different specific categories of legal, lawful businesses. Amongst the businesses that the Greens seek to ban are pharmaceutical companies. At the very time when these companies are alleviating suffering and helping to address the strains of a global health pandemic, the Greens want to stigmatise them by labelling them as a 'dirty industry', quite a disgraceful description of an extremely important sector of our economy and an important sector in our community, supporting public health. It's unbelievable that the Greens would come in here and seek to stigmatise such an important sector of our economy in that fashion. To be very clear, this ban which the Greens are proposing would hit companies that conduct pharmaceutical research and testing of medical cures, the sorts of companies that are at the forefront of fighting diseases.

The amendment also raises obvious questions over the constitutionality of such proposals given that the High Court has clearly stated in recent cases that donation bans could fail where they are not reasonably necessary and they impermissibly burden the implied freedom of political communication. The amendment also proposes a donation cap on $3,000. Those capping provisions cover donations for various political actors, including a state branch of a political party. But the amendment overlooks that some parties also have territory organisations. So, even putting policy preferences to one side, this is not a thoroughly thought through and well-drafted amendment and the government will oppose it.

9:44 am

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

The Labor Party will also not be supporting these amendments. There's nothing quite like a Greens political party dripping in hypocrisy. How do I know that? I know that because my very good friend Lee Rhiannon, who is no longer in this House, was so outraged by the hypocrisy of the Greens on these matters that she ghost-wrote a poisoned letter attacking the Greens leadership at the time, so we know that the Greens are hypocritical on this. They tell us today that they want to remove big money from political donations. Well, lovely objective, but let let's talk about Duncan Turpie, a reclusive Queensland mathematician, investor and high-end gambler—high-end gambler! I can't quite remember all of the categories that the Greens want to ban but I do think gambling was one of them. How much big money—

Senator McKim interjecting

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

We're coming to some more. This is not the end of it.

Senator McKim interjecting

Senator McKim, I know you are embarrassed—

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I am not embarrassed.

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

You are embarrassed by this policy. What did this reclusive—

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Farrell, please resume your seat. Senator McKim, on a point of order?

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes. Senator Farrell is personally impugning me. He's wrong: I'm not embarrassed in the slightest. It is contrary to standing orders—

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McKim, that is not a point of order. Resume your seat. If you wish to make a contribution, please seek the call. Thank you, Senator Farrell.

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

We know the Greens don't want to hear what I'm saying They want to remove big money? Well, why didn't they reject Mr Turpie's $500,000 donation? And who are Mr Turpie's mates?

Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Who are they? Do tell me.

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

I will tell you, Senator Bilyk, because you have an interest in this thing. He's a Gold Coast based algorithm specialist and he is a member of the secret punters club gambling group connected with the Museum of Old and New Art founder, David Walsh. I am not sure how much closer you need to get to the gambling industry than the $5,000 that Mr Turpie donated but that's not the end of it. They say they don't want corporate donations; they don't want big money. We found out in the election before last that Prime Minister Turnbull made the biggest donation personally of a private donor in the history of Australian politics. But, up until former Prime Minister Turnbull donated that massive amount of money, who was the biggest single donor in Australian political history? Well, it was the founder of the online travel business Wotif, who donated $1.6 million.

Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

To who?

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

To the Australian Greens. Can you believe it? This party, that wants to cut big money out of politics, accepted the largest donation in the history of Australian politics up until that time—again, a party dripping in hypocrisy. But that's not the end of it; no, there's more.

Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

More?

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

There is more, Senator Bilyk. What about the Western Australian Greens convenor Chilla Bulbeck, who personally donated $600,000 to the Greens at the last election? Now, maybe the Greens don't think $600,000 is big money and maybe they're not people the Greens are hoping to catch in this piece of legislation, but there are just three examples that I know of showing how hypocritical the Greens are on these issues.

We do believe in reform and we believe in practical results. When the Labor Party started campaigning at the last election for the end of foreign political donations, everyone said: 'No, you can't do it. You won't be able to achieve it. You're in opposition; the government will stymie you.' I have to say, we didn't get very much support from the Greens on that issue, but we persisted. We argued and argued, and what did we get? We got a bill that banned political donations before the last election. So for the first time in Australian political history foreign political donations were banned in this country. The former foreign minister couldn't rake in all that money while she was the foreign minister. I'm talking about Ms Bishop. She couldn't rake in all those foreign donations to the Liberal Party as she had done in previous elections. I'm not just picking on the Greens, Senator Waters. I'm equally having a go at the government.

So there's plenty of hypocrisy around on these issues, but the Labor Party has got runs on the board. We've pushed for the issues and we've had the outcome. The offer I make to you, Senator Waters—because I checked again last night; there hadn't been any calls from the Greens about your amendments—is that we're very happy to talk to you about a practical outcome in political reform, because the Labor Party believes in it and, more importantly, the Labor Party has achieved it. If you sit down with us and Senator Patrick, Senator Lambie and Senator Griff then we can get practical results, but this is not the way to do it. Grandstanding—making this the last item on the list, trying to get a bit of cheap publicity—is not the way to do it. You've got to be serious about it. You've got to start at the beginning and, as we've done in the past, you'll get the results.

9:53 am

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] I'll just take the opportunity to respond to some of that. I think Senator Farrell may be a bit disappointed that I didn't telephone him. I'm sorry; I went to the leader of your party in this chamber. I didn't get a reply, unfortunately.

I want to address some of the other issues that were raised. The government is trying to turn this amendment into something that it's not. I thought that was quite a heroic reinterpretation by Senator Cormann of these amendments that would stop big industries seeking to buy influence from political parties. Senator Cormann tried to recast it as restricting the operations of pharmaceutical companies. I'm very happy for them to continue with their work; in fact, they should not have been sold off in the first place. We'd like to see public pharmaceutical production, but I think that's, sadly, a bridge too far for this government, because it loves privatisation. It's not a restriction on their operations; we just don't think that they should be funding your political party. We don't think they should be funding anybody's political party. They should be spending their money on trying to help people. I thought it important to clarify that heroic attempt at a reframe by Senator Cormann.

And then, sadly, we had a bit of an attempt at a patronising lecture on hypocrisy, which didn't really land, from the Labor Party. This is the party that yesterday had a private member's bill for a $1,000 disclosure threshold and then voted against the Greens amendment to do just that in a manner which had exactly the same drafting as their own private member's bill. I think it's rich to be dishing out contentions of hypocrisy when you just voted against your own private member's bill.

Senator Farrell then sought to impugn several individuals who have supported the Greens in the past. I point out that none of those people—not companies but individuals—sought to exert policy influence, nor did they receive any policy influence. The distinction there is that our policies aren't for sale. Yes, we do want to cap big donations like that going forward. Yes, we do think that would be an improvement on democracy, and we're prepared to cop it, just like we think all of you should cop it. So, again, I really didn't feel like the attack from Senator Farrell landed.

Lastly, Senator Farrell championed the ending of foreign donations. He knows as well as I do that there are so many back doors in that legislation that foreign companies can still donate through an Australian subsidiary, a loophole the Greens sought to close with our amendments to that bill. I'll have to check the record, but I'm hazarding a guess that the Labor Party didn't support those amendments either. Again, I think it's a bit rich to get lectures doled out from people who don't have very clean hands in this regard.

With those offences addressed, I again commend these amendments to the chamber.

9:56 am

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to follow up on a couple of questions I asked the minister yesterday. Minister, you might recall that I asked what the burden difference was, or how you justify not supporting disclosure of donations above $1,000 versus above $14,300. That was just to understand what the burden was. You very helpfully—thank you—directed me to section 314AEB of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I had a look at that last night, and it appears to me that the only burden in terms of making a donation above the threshold is simply to fill in this form. This form just requires you to put your name, your address, the political party you're donating to and how much it is. Is that the extent of the burden that you think justifies such a high threshold, or have I missed something?

9:57 am

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

It also obviously comes with compliance risks if you make a mistake. It makes very small entities that are not geared up for this liable to public exposure and potential threats from other actors in this process. Again, I've said consistently for some time now that we believe the current threshold is appropriate. It's an appropriate balance between facilitating participation in a democratic process and ensuring that the public interest of appropriate disclosure is maintained. Senator Lambie quite accurately related a private conversation that I had with her this week. It's just an observation of fact. Small-business people making small donations to our side of politics do feel intimidated by some of the consequences that come, as a result of that donation, from other very passionate and committed actors supporting a different side of politics. We don't believe people who are supporting their team or party of choice at that level should be exposed to that. People who participate at a more significant level, of course, need to be able to justify what they do in a public sense, and there is the appropriate disclosure and transparency requirement there. But we believe that the threshold where it currently is is appropriate.

9:59 am

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Minister. I appreciate that we don't want people threatened, but it is a democracy and the general principle in a democracy is we do have the ability to express our views. I would think that authorities would clamp down pretty hard on someone who acted in a threatening way towards, in my opinion, anyone who simply expressed their political view. So I really question your concern there. In particular, when you talk about making a mistake on this form, it's pretty hard to mess up your name, your address, the political party and the amount. You talk about risk, that risk must be so small that it couldn't in any reasonable circumstance be considered to be a burden in any way, shape or form. I don't want to verbal you in some way. But that's what you got to do, you've just got to fill in the form with some very simple details. Perhaps, Minister, you could tell me how many people have been brought to a court, or to a tribunal, on the basis that they didn't fill the form in right?

Photo of Claire ChandlerClaire Chandler (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I will call the minister, but I'll also flag that I can see Senator Hanson is seeking the call. So I will call the minister to respond to Senator Patrick's question and then call Senator Hanson.

10:01 am

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd take that question on notice. I obviously don't have that sort of information to hand. I'll have to inquire with the Electoral Commission. But I think I've answered it in all of the other questions. I think that Senator Patrick and I, on behalf of the government, will just have to agree to disagree. We have a different view. We believe that we need to appropriately balance people's rights to participate in the democratic process, including by supporting financially the political party or the candidates that they would like to see elected at an election, and it is important to have appropriate transparency and disclosure arrangements in place. We believe the current arrangements work well and appropriately balance these two objectives.

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] With regard to this bill, we're talking about donations under $14,000. One Nation is not going to change whether this bill gets passed or not, because it has been agreed upon by both Liberal and Labor. It will be passed. We're talking about donations under $14,000.

In reference to what Senator Rex Patrick has said, I, unlike the majority of people in the chamber, run my own political party and have done since 1997. The fact is that over the years One Nation has been tagged as a racist party, with policies that mean people possibly don't want to be associated with the party, but they support the party, and this happens in all political parties. When you put in a donation over $14,000 you have to list your name and your address. A lot of people these days support political parties. That's their privacy. If they donate $1,000 or $2,000 they can donate that and it means that they don't have to disclose their name or address. A lot of people may work for organisations, even government departments, where if it is seen that they have donated to a political party they're in fear of losing their jobs. There is a lot of concern from these people. It is a privacy matter. It's like when they go to vote, no-one knows how they vote. But it is disclosed if they donate to a political party. So it is a privacy matter and it does concern a lot of people.

Most of the donations that we get for One Nation are not big donations at all. It's the mums and dads. I thank those people who do support my policies for their donations. They have a right to privacy. If you reduce that amount to under $14,000 these people will not be donating. In some small way it enables us to do the job that we do to give them that representation in parliament by getting people elected to parliament.

Do I agree with big donations from some of these companies, organisations and banks to the major political parties? No, I don't. I don't agree to foreign donations to the Greens, because I then question why international donations would be coming to the Greens in Australia other than to control the way they vote in this country.

So a lot of corruption has happened over the years. I think that the disclosure of over $14,000 is at the right place. That's why I do not support the Greens amendment to reduce the disclosure to $1,000. I do question why the Greens say in their amendment that they have no intention of saying that people should show identification at polling booths. That's all I have to say on the matter. That's my reasoning behind why I don't support disclosure.

10:05 am

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

I have a short set of questions before I conclude, just as a follow-up from yesterday, but very directly related to the Greens' amendment now. Yesterday I was talking about dinner functions that are held by major parties where people are invited to attend a dinner with a member of the party present. They pay substantial amounts of money for the opportunity to do that, several thousand dollars in most instances. Yesterday I was discussing the arrangements in place for these things, and I just want to go back to the point I was making. Again, I'm not directing this at Senator Cormann because I think he's a lone fish in this pond; it's simply that he has knowledge of his own circumstances. There surely must be a concern if you invite people to attend a dinner that will be attended by the minister, as opposed to the senator, as, in some sense, you are drawing people into a room on the basis that you are a member of the executive, in order to benefit the political party that sits behind that minister. I know you understand the line that I'm drawing, Minister. Again, what are the policies in relation to that sort of conduct? And have you ever been at a dinner where the promotion of that dinner mentioned the fact that the attendees of the dinner would be meeting or dining with Minister Cormann or the Minister for Finance?

10:07 am

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

With the greatest of respect, I think we're going around in circles now, because I directly answered that question yesterday. This will be my final contribution on this point because I've well and truly addressed it. I confirmed yesterday on the record, and I confirm again, that in all of my capacities as a backbench senator, a shadow minister and now as a minister, I have attended wide range of functions, including campaign related fundraising events. That is part of our job. Clearly, in those circumstances, what guides all of us is that everything has to be lawful and, as a minister, everything has to be consistent with the requirements in the Statement of Ministerial Standards. I can, indeed, confirm that at all times any activity that I've been involved in has been compliant with those requirements.

10:08 am

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Minister, for directing me to the Statement of Ministerial Standards. I will go and have a look at them and I reserve my right, at some future stage, to raise this issue again.

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] Don't hold your breath on the ministerial standards, Senator Patrick. As we know, they're not independently enforced. They're completely at the whim of the Prime Minister. I digress.

On the issue that Minister Cormann yesterday attempted to allay concerns about, I think the issue remains: when it comes to the mark-up on a function above the cost of the actual meal, it is actually a grey area under our existing electoral laws, which is precisely why our amendment seeks to clarify that a gift includes such events. It's not just us who think it's a grey area. The Electoral Commission, when I previously asked them in estimates, said:

The classic example we have is when a person attends a dinner where members of a political party or government may be present. Quite often the person who attended might regard it as a donation while the recipient might regard it as 'other'. That is one of the areas where the act is not clear, and it has been a longstanding issue. Again, it is something we attempt to address in the various guidelines that we publish on our website. But it is an issue. It is one of the reasons it is impossible to accurately match a particular donation with a particular receipt because quite often there is not a meeting of minds between the person who is making the payment and the recipient of the payment.

This is exactly why lobster lunches and pay-for-access meetings keep occurring and they're not transparently disclosed.

We need to clarify the rules on when you've got to tell the public how much someone paid to go out to lunch, dinner or whatever it is with you and what exactly they get for their money. I reference a few contributions that the Minerals Council makes. They get two boardroom events and policy briefing sessions for their contribution of $25,000 to each of the larger political parties. So this is exactly why we need an amendment, such as the Greens one that's before us right now, to properly define 'gift' not only to include party membership fees of over $1,000—they're not included at the minute either; it's another convenient backdoor way of making extra donations—but to ensure that any of those subscriptions are disclosed. So I don't accept that Senator Cormann's view that this is already addressed by the electoral laws to be a correct representation. It is not clear. We have a chance to put it beyond doubt. I hope that addresses any of the questions that Senator Patrick might have about the dissatisfactory status of the current law.

I neglected to confirm in response to Senator Hanson that the Greens have not received foreign donations. I wanted to make sure the record was corrected there, because Senator Hanson got that wrong. I also note her comments about lowering the disclosure threshold. That was yesterday's amendment. As folk would know, the amendment that we're addressing at the minute is to cap donations to $1,000, to ban donations from those industries that have sought to exert undue influence and to clarify that definition of 'gift' so we can't have these shady pay-for-access occurrences continue. Just so everybody is clear, that's what we're voting on now. The disclosure threshold, which is Labor's policy that they voted against, happened yesterday.

Photo of Claire ChandlerClaire Chandler (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the amendment be agreed to.