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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1518 ..

MR SPEAKER (continuing):

I challenge the Liberal and Labor MLAs to look the people of the ACT in the eye and say that donations of almost $5000 need not be publicly disclosed in the affairs of the ACT Assembly, as would be the case if we matched these Commonwealth proposals.

So, Mr Speaker, the attempt to shadow the Commonwealth law seems to be to be doomed, short of an astonishingly brazen combination of Liberal and Labor MLAs.

Accordingly, I want today to invite the whole Assembly to return the law to the much better position it was in prior to 1996. Major party MLAs need not be ashamed to admit an error - I expect that the public would in fact congratulate you on having the capacity to do so.

I turn now to the detail of the Bill.

The central provisions of the bill deals with two financial thresholds.

The first threshold is the total value of transactions which triggers the need for a donor, recipient of creditor to be reported. The Act currently sets that value at $1,500. Thus, donors of up to $1,499 go unreported.

The Commonwealth proposes for their scheme that this threshold be lifted to $5,000. I submit that this amount would be totally inappropriate for the ACT.

I propose that this threshold be returned to the figure it was prior to 1996, namely $500.

The second threshold is the value of individual transactions which must be counted in determining whether the first threshold has been reached. The Act currently sets a general threshold of $500. The effect of this is that all items up to $499 can be disregarded. This makes possible the 'loophole' problem whereby a series of small donations, potentially adding up to a large amount, can go unreported, thus allowing potential evasion of the primary threshold of $1,500.

This current loophole is absurd. I said so at the time in 1996, and it has been criticised by the media, the Pettit Commission report, and even the Electoral Commissioner.

Members, the proper figure for the first threshold is a matter, I concede, upon which reasonable minds can differ. That first threshold defines what the Assembly regards as small donors who are expressing their support with a few dollars, who are not seriously buying political favour for a lobby group or business, and who deserve a little privacy. Personally, I think that $500 is about as far as I can push that concept. I will leave it to others to try to defend the figure of $1,500. The federal figure of $5,000 is simply not acceptable for the ACT.

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