MP calls for five-day disclosure of political donations

23 Jul 2020

Posted September 16, 2019

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has today introduced a Private Member’s Bill that will require all political donations to be reported in “real-time” – that is, no later than five business days after receipt.

At present, Commonwealth law provides for financial year annual donation disclosures. This means some donations might not be publicly released for 19 months.

If taken up by the Government, Rebekha’s Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Real Time Disclosure of Political Donations) Bill 2019 will amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 in order to provide a more transparent political donation disclosure regime.

“When public trust in politicians is at an all-time low, political donation reform is one area where politicians themselves can take steps to restore that trust,” Rebekha said.

“My Bill does not change the disclosure threshold for political donations but it does push for a more responsive disclosure scheme to address a concern common to Australians from all generations and backgrounds, the influence of big business on politicians.

“Centre Alliance is firmly of the opinion that donation disclosure should be much lower than the current $13,800 figure but time and time again there has been no support for much-needed reform in this space from both sides of politics.

“When presented with an opportunity to make meaningful reforms as part of the debate around foreign donations last year, both the Government and the opposition turned a blind eye.

“Once again, it is up to the Crossbench to shine a light on the activities of the major parties and restore public trust in our political institutions.”

In South Australia, parties are required to disclose donations every seven days during an election period and every six months outside an election period.

A similar regime exists in New South Wales where donations over $1,000 received during an election period must be disclosed within 21 days or every six months outside of this time.

In Victoria, all donations over $1,000 must be disclosed to the electoral commission within 21 days irrespective of whether an election has been called.

In Queensland, donations over $1,000 must be lodged through an online portal and made public within seven working days.

“But at a Commonwealth level, we do actually have to use our imaginations because we do not have the benefit of real-time disclosure, monthly disclosures or even six-monthly disclosures. Instead, we must wait for at least a year before finding out who sought to influence policy,” Rebekha said.

“The Bill I introduced today provides for political parties to disclose any donation they receive that meets the $13,800 disclosure threshold as soon as reasonably practicable and by no later than five working days after receipt of the donation.

“I believe this is a small and measured step towards improving transparency and accountability.

"My Bill is not a panacea for undue influence. However, it will make it easier for all Australians to see which organisations are donating and who they are donating to. It is time to let the sunlight in.”

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