Thursday, 4 February 2021
Donations to Political Parties
That the Senate—
(a) notes that the total amount of money donated to political parties, as disclosed to the Australian Electoral Commission, tripled between the 2016 election and the 2019 election; and
(i) lowering the disclosure threshold for donations to political parties,
(ii) requiring more timely disclosure of donations to political parties, and
(iii) imposing caps on the amount that donors can donate to political parties.
All Australians—including Graeme Wood and Duncan Turpie, who have made considerable donations to the Australian Greens over a number of years—are entitled to participate in the democratic process by financially supporting candidates and political parties. Australia has an appropriately robust system to regulate the disclosure and the reporting of political donations, overseen by the independent Australian Electoral Commission.
In recent years this government has implemented several reforms to improve the integrity and transparency of the electoral system. This includes banning foreign donations, ensuring political campaigners are subject to reporting and disclosure requirements similar to those for political parties, and funding of the modernisation of the AEC's Transparency Register to make it easier to access information. The government is considering the recommendations made by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, a joint and multipartisan committee that deals with these matters.
Labor will not be supporting this motion, even though there are elements of it that Labor supports, and I have relayed this to Senator Waters. We don't believe that electoral reform will be delivered through moving formal motions in this place. We think it requires substantive debate and is best dealt with through draft legislation. Labor has legislation in the Senate. We look forward to debating that at the next sitting, and we look forward to the Greens support for our bills. We do believe there needs to be electoral reform to protect democracy, and we'll be proceeding with Senator Farrell's bill at the next sitting.
The Jacqui Lambie Network will be supporting this motion because, quite frankly, we just want anything done that's going to do the right thing to make sure these donations are done in real time, whether or not there's a cap and whether or not the threshold is lower—if we could just do something and start making some change to these political donations, because, in our eyes, they are completely out of control. When you're standing up here and it's in your face and you can see what that buys these people and what doors are open because of the amount of money that is paid and how legislation is made, based on how much you get in political donations, it's getting beyond a joke. There is no trust left out there within the Australian community when it comes to political donations, and, quite frankly, it's damning. We want to start being trusted, and the community wants to see people up here earning, instead of buying, their seats, and we have no choice. This needs to stay on the agenda because change needs to happen, and it needs to start straightaway.