Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2000 Week 9 Hansard (7 September) . . Page.. 2963 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
As I said, the Labor Party accepts the proposal that everybody in this place should be subjected to the same reporting requirements, but, rather than reducing the level or lowering the bar, we feel it would be more appropriate to provide that the increased level of scrutiny be imposed on all members. I have some amendments to the Attorney's bill that would achieve that which I will move in due course.
MR QUINLAN (11.03): Mr Speaker, I would like to hear for my own satisfaction why this bill has been brought on at this time. As you have heard from Mr Stanhope, we readily accept the notion of equality in terms of reporting, and hence the amendments that he has foreshadowed. But, as far as I can see, there are no Independents in this house at this moment. We had one member elected to this place under the banner of Independent and he has now become a fully fledged Liberal, I think, Mr Moore. We also have a couple of Independents of convenience over in that corner of the house, but I thought that was more about manipulating-I will not say "rorting"-the staffing rules in this place so that more funds could be applied to each. So, if someone could have the good grace to inform this house as to why we need to do this at this time, I think it would be of great help to the debate and to the resolution.
MR RUGENDYKE (11.04): Firstly, I believe it is important that I put on the record the background to this bill and why the Electoral Commissioner has recommended that the government table these amendments to the Electoral Act. Earlier this year when my own returning officer was given notice that it was time to start preparing my own annual disclosure return, a grey area became apparent. My returning officer contacted the Electoral Commission to seek clarification. The Electoral Commissioner's subsequent investigations revealed an anomaly that they were not aware of and resulted in the following formal response from the Electoral Commissioner, Mr Phillip Green. I quote:
The disclosure provisions of the Electoral Act were introduced to ensure disclosure of receipts, particularly donations, so that they appear on the public record. However, there does not appear to be any public interest in disclosure of personal income of Independent MLAs other than donations.
As the Electoral Act stands only Independent MLAs are required to disclose personal income. Annual returns from parties need not include disclosure of party MLAs personal incomes as they are not received by the party. This situation seems inequitable and outside the intended scope of the legislation. As a result I intend to recommend to the Government that these provisions be amended to ensure that personal incomes of Independent MLAs need not be disclosed.
Mr Speaker, these words are self-explanatory and indicate that the subsequent bill we have before us today is a straightforward way of correcting this anomaly. I make the point again that this is on the recommendation of the Electoral Commissioner.
From my personal point of view, it is already on the record in the register of interests that my only income is from my duties as an MLA. As Mr Green stated in his correspondence, the disclosure provisions of the Electoral Act were introduced to ensure disclosure of donations for the public record. As far as I am aware it was not the intention of the legislation to itemise costs such as postage that are associated with day-to-day duties as an Independent MLA.