Page 2104 - Week 07 - Thursday, 29 June 2023

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Electoral and Road Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2023

Mr Steel, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee—Minister for Skills, Minister for Transport and City Services and Special Minister of State) (11.06): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present the Electoral and Road Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 to the Assembly today. This legislation will strengthen the territory’s electoral laws by making voting more accessible, ensuring public confidence in our local elections and improving road safety. This bill delivers on commitments in the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement of the 10th Legislative Assembly and also implements key commitments agreed to by the government in its response to the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety’s Inquiry into the 2020 ACT Election and the Electoral Act, and reflects recent changes made by the commonwealth to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

Mr Deputy Speaker, the importance of ensuring the integrity and public confidence in the ACT’s voting system cannot be overstated. It is core to our democracy and the right of every voter to know how candidates, politicians and political parties are funded and that they are not being influenced by foreign actors. One of the major reforms in the bill is the introduction of new bans on donations from foreign entities. The government recognises that any actual or perceived influence by foreign entities on government decisions across Australia is a concern.

There is strong interest from the public in being certain that there is no risk of elections being unduly influenced by foreign entities. Several other jurisdictions in Australia, including the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, have banned donations from foreign entities over recent years. To ensure the bill does not unnecessarily restrict the ability for individuals, corporations or other entities to make political donations in the ACT, people and organisations who are legitimately living, working or doing business in the ACT, including, for example, on work or study visas, will not be prohibited from making political donations.

Criminal offences are being introduced to make it an offence for a foreign entity to give political donations of $250 or more. If the donation is under $250 in value, this will not be captured by an offence, but the amount of the donation will be payable as a debt to the territory, by both the giver and the receiver. Political entities, including Members of the Legislative Assembly, political parties and candidates for election, will also be prohibited from accepting any donations from foreign entities but the political entities will be required to take reasonable steps to ensure they are not receiving donations from foreign entities.

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