Committee's rejection of donation reform a blow for democracy

24 Jul 2020

Posted May 29, 2020

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie says a parliamentary committee's decision to reject her Private Member's Bill seeking to place all political donations of $1,000 or more on the public record is a blow for Australian democracy.

"Political donation reform is what the Australian people want and yet we cannot get politicians to do what is necessary to restore trust in our political institutions," Rebekha said.

"The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Lowering the Donation Disclosure Threshold) Bill 2019 wasn't asking for the world. It was just seeking to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act to lower the political donation disclosure threshold from $13,800 to $1,000, and to remove ongoing indexation of that disclosure threshold.

"A Museum of Australian Democracy report in 2018 clearly showed that trust in democracy is on the decline with satisfaction in democracy more than halved in a decade and trust in key institutions and social leaders eroding.

"As leaders in the political system it is up to the Parliament to address this decline and so I am disappointed that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has recommended that my Bill not be passed.

“I and my Centre Alliance colleagues believed this legislation would have been a step forward towards improving political transparency and accountability.

“Individuals and groups have the right to support political candidates but voters should be able to find out in a timely manner exactly who is funding political candidates and how much.

“I maintain that if you’re donating $10, $100 or $1,000 you’re a supporter. Anything more than $10,000 then a donor leaves themselves open to the suggestion they might want something in return. If political parties have nothing to fear 'open your books!".

Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines, who seconded Rebekha's Private Member's Bill, said she was deeply disappointed with the committee's majority recommendation.

“As an Independent MP, I care more about the risk and burden of corrupt politics than I do the administrative ‘burden’ on politicians, political parties and donors of reporting donations. We need election funding reform in this country with rules which hold everyone to the same standard," Dr Haines said.

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