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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (15 June) . . Page.. 1901 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

recipients of this funding, are able to afford political campaigns that are far in excess of what can be mounted by small parties and Independents.

This situation significantly distorts the political power of corporations relative to ordinary individuals. The Greens would prefer corporate donations to be significantly restricted or to be put into a common fund for distribution to all parties on a proportional basis, so that the link between the corporation and the party it seeks to influence can be broken. Regardless of whether such a scheme could be implemented-I cannot see the major parties wanting to limit the donations they receive-there needs to be a very strong system for disclosing the identity of the major donors to political parties, so that it is open to anyone to see who is attempting to influence whom.

I am appalled that the two major parties have now done a deal to reverse the good proposals in the government's own bill so that current loopholes in the disclosure laws will be made even bigger. It is quite obvious that the Labor and Liberal parties are happy to work together when it involves protecting their own interests against small parties and Independents.

It is behaviour like this that makes the presence of the Greens and minor parties in the Assembly and in the federal parliament so important. The Greens have never sought donations from big companies, and we apply ethical standards to any donations we are offered. This makes it difficult for us to compete with the political campaigns of major parties because we obviously cannot afford them. We think it is more important that we base our policies and actions on our core principles and not according to who gives us the biggest donations.

It is not enough to say that we should maintain consistency with the reporting provisions in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The government was prepared to break the nexus with the Commonwealth act in the original bill, but now they have done a complete backflip. It is also no argument to say that there are currently no examples of people giving a series of small donations to avoid the disclosure provisions. For a start, we have no way of verifying this unless the major parties are prepared to disclose the details of all their donations. Even so, when establishing laws, we have to take into account what situations may arise at any time in the future. It is always necessary to make comprehensive laws, even though we hope that many of their provisions may hardly ever be used. If there are loopholes in a law, they should be closed, not made bigger.

MR RUGENDYKE (5.45): Well said, Ms Tucker. The major parties have done it this time, haven't they? They have really stooped to the lowest of low. They have really lowered the bar. Normally, we talk about raising the bar on accountability, but this time it is way down low. Hang your heads in shame. And hasn't the community summed it up well? Here we are: the editorial in today's Canberra Times. How often do we get a good editorial?

Mr Stanhope: Is that the community?

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