Parliamentary committee to review donation reform Bill

Parliamentary committee to review donation reform Bill

Federal Parliament has decided to examine in more detail a Private Member’s Bill on political donation reform introduced by the Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie.

The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Real Time Disclosure of Political Donations) Bill 2019, which seeks to introduce real-time reporting of donations, was recently referred to the Electoral Matters Committee for review.

The committee has called for public submissions as part of their investigation.

“I and my Centre Alliance colleagues in the Senate believe electoral reform is essential to rebuilding community trust in their leaders and political institutions,” Rebekha said.

“Having real-time disclosure of who is donating large sums of money to political parties will make our system more transparent so I welcome the Government’s decision to refer my bill to the Electoral Matters Committee.

“My Bill does not change the disclosure threshold for political donations but it does take a step towards a more responsive disclosure scheme.

“If passed by the Parliament, my legislation will require all political donations to be reported no later than five business days after receipt.

“At present, Commonwealth law provides for financial year annual donation disclosures.

“This means some donations, such as former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s $1.75 million dollar donation to the Liberal Party in the lead up to the 2016 election, might not be released for 19 months.

“When significant delays like this occur, it just increases community cynicism about politicians being influenced by big money.

“State Governments around the nation have much more stringent disclosure regimes and the same standard should apply at the Federal level.

"I have written to both the major Parties inviting them to put forward their views in a submission to the inquiry."

The deadline for submissions on Rebekha’s Bill is October 21.

Further information on the inquiry can be obtained from the Committee’s website.

The committee review is running concurrently to a separate Government inquiry into the conduct of the 2019 Federal Election. Public submissions for that inquiry closed at the end of September.

Rebekha has lodged a submission, asking the inquiry to give special consideration to the lack of transparency surrounding total election expenditure by political parties and the related issue of the lack of expenditure caps on political parties and candidates.

“In the recent Federal election, Mr Clive Palmer used only a small fraction of his personal wealth in the United Australia Party’s campaign, but on some estimates still spent more than double that of the major parties combined,” Rebekha said.

“Regardless of a person’s political preferences, it cannot be denied – and it has been widely reported – that this colossal expenditure by but one individual Australian had a significant impact upon electoral outcomes.

“Uncapped spending has great potential to create deleterious effects upon future political equality in Australia and the fairness of our elections.”