Published: 11 February 2019

Major parties claim to be open and transparent and that donations received don’t impact on decisions they make. 

Tasmanians want to know who has the ear of Government and be aware of the potential influencers on parties and candidates.  No-one believes significant amounts of money are given by interested persons and groups without an expectation of a return. The current delays in reporting are anachronistic.

Reform of Tasmania’s political donation and funding disclosure laws is long overdue. Major parties agree. The likely change is yet to be disclosed as a government review is currently underway. 

A uniform set of funding disclosure rules is needed and also apply to independent candidates. During my time as an elected Member, I have been offered donations of money but always declined. I welcomed practical assistance with election campaigns. We report our campaign spending to ensure we’ve not breached our spending cap.

What is needed: The threshold for disclosure reduced to $1000. Mandatory real time reporting of donations. Clear unambiguous anti-avoidance measures included to prevent splitting donations between commonly owned businesses or members of a group. Rules apply such that all donations within a stipulated period, e.g. annually, are aggregated to determine whether disclosure is required.  

Conservative parties have expressed concern about activities of organisations such as Get Up so there may also be a need for third parties to report donations under the same set of rules if used to finance election related spending.

The rationale for any change is to enable informed decision-making by voters which is a prerequisite for a healthy democracy 

Claims of ‘unintended consequences’ are often used by those opposing significant reforms and greater transparency to stymie change and create fear of change. This issue was raised by Commissioner Hayne in the Banking Royal Commission. Mr Hayne wrote “Reference will be made to change bringing ‘unintended consequences’. That argument is easily made because it has no content; the ‘consequences’ feared are not identified.”

All major parties claim they currently comply with existing law. 

New laws must be unambiguous, promote timely and full disclosure, whilst ensuring the policy intent is met, rather than just ‘complied with’. 

 The Advocate 11 February 2019

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